Games To Watch:
Thursday, Dec. 1
Kitchener at Brampton: Despite playing without arguably the best offensive defenseman in the country in Ryan Murphy, the Kitchener Rangers have been one of the league’s hottest teams of late. On a current three-game win streak and winners of eight of their last 10 games, the Rangers travel to Brampton to take on the Central-leading Battalion.
A team that has thrived on offense the past few seasons is surprisingly having much of their success credited to defense. The Rangers have allowed just 70 goals in 25 games; a total that is tied for second in the league. The likes of Julian Melchiori (6’4, 210) Cody Sol (6’5, 240) and Max Iafrate (6-2, 220) have been rock solid in front of goaltender John Gibson and they will all need to be at their best if they hope to come out on top agaisnt an equally stingy Brampton club.
Saturday, Dec. 3
Barrie at Niagara: Two division rivals seperated by just a single point will do battle Saturday in St. Catherines in a matchup of two of the OHL’s most talented offensive hockey clubs.
The up and down IceDogs are starting to look more and more like the top team they were expected to be coming into the season and currently sit in second place in the Central division. One point behind them are the Barrie Colts who continue to get incredible production from the OHL’s leading scorer Tanner Pearson.
The two teams have split the two games played against each other this year with Niagara winning the first by a score of 4-2 and the Colts taking the last meeting in a 8-6 shoot-out.
Sunday, Dec. 4
Niagara at Brampton: Once again the Eastern Conference’s Central division will be in the spotlight as first-place Brampton welcomes second-place Niagara to close out a busy week within the OHL’s most competitive division.
This game will be a battle between Niagara’s high-octane offense against Brampton’s lights-out defense. Niagara has scored 27 more goals than the Battalion but have allowed 19 more at the same time. Something has to give in this important matchup where the division lead may very well be on the line.
Players To Watch:
Tanner Pearson (Barrie) The impressive season for the unheralded Pearson continues to roll on. The undrafted 19-year-old center has pulled away in the OHL scoring race racking up points at close to a two-points per-game clip.
Having been passed up in his first two chances at being drafted by an NHL club, Pearson has made it impossible for that to happen a third time. The Kitchener native earned an invite to Team Canada’s Selection Camp for the World Junior Championships and has clearly given himself a good chance to crack the squad; something absolutely no one would have predicted before the season.
Tobias Rieder (Kitchener): While the strength of the Rangers this year has been their defense, Rieder has been the club’s best offensive performer all year long. The diminutive German forward ranks second in the league with 20 goals after scoring 23 in 65 games as a rookie last year.
At 5’10 and only 165 pounds, Rieder slipped in last year’s draft all the way to the fouth-round into the welcoming arms of the Edmonton Oilers. The 18-year-old’s stature was the biggest reason for his fall and he is thus far proving the notion that he is too small to be very wrong.
Gemel Smith (Owen Sound): The draft-eligible Smith is another undersized forward who is proving that good things can come in small packages. The 17-year-old has averaged a point-per-game in his second OHL season with 12 goals and 29 points in 28 games played. Playing alongside the likes of veterans Daniel Catenacci and Mike Halmo as well as fellow draft prospect Jarrod Maidens, Smith has been a consistent performer for the defending OHL champs.
A small but feisty player with good speed and a smart playmaking ability, Smith came into the year off the radar but has shot up the rankings and is currently the 12th ranked OHL skater according to Central Scouting.