By PATRICK KING
There was no change at the top as the Saskatoon Blades, Saint John Sea Dogs and Barrie Colts remain the hottest team in each league. Meanwhile, some highly-touted snipers and former first-overall picks struggled offensively last week.
Western Hockey League
Hot team: Saskatoon Blades
The Bridge City bunch had just one game on their schedule but kept their 12-game regulation unbeaten streak alive with a 4-1 victory in Moose Jaw. Saskatoon won for the fourth consecutive time, maintaining its healthy lead over Brandon in the East Division. The Blades will host Lethbridge and Calgary this weekend.
Hot player: Jordan Weal, Regina Pats
The sharpshooting sophomore forward may have had something to prove after being ranked 10th on Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings of WHL skaters for the draft. Weal scored two goals and five assists for seven points and was a plus-3 in three games. The diminutive forward is fourth in league scoring with 39 points in 27 games.
Cold team: Lethbridge Hurricanes
The Hurricanes were unable to snap their losing skid while hosting Kootenay and Prince Albert. Lethbridge has not won since beating arch-rival Calgary 3-2 on Nov. 10. The Hurricanes are in last place in the Eastern Conference standings but could soon have overage-goaltender Linden Rowat back in the lineup. Rowat has been sidelined with a foot injury since October.
Cold player: Quinton Howden, Moose Jaw Warriors
The second-year forward and former first-overall bantam pick struggled with the loss of injured forward Jason Bast last week. In three games, Howden was held pointless with an even plus-minus. Howden’s draft stock could significantly raise or drop given how he performs during Bast’s absence. Bast is listed as week to week with a facial fracture.
Game of the week: Calgary Hitmen vs. Saskatoon Blades, Saturday
The Blades will host the Hitmen in the second of four meetings this season. Saskatoon won the first game 5-1 in Calgary on Oct. 17. Both teams lead their divisions while Saskatoon holds the Eastern Conference’s top spot with three more points than Calgary and two games in hand. The season series a year ago was tied at two wins apiece, as the Blades are one of the few teams able to figure the Hitmen out. A win for Calgary would help legitimize its chance at making a run for the title this season.
Québec Major Junior Hockey League
Hot team: Saint John Sea Dogs
The Sea Dogs passed another big test this week with a shootout win over the league’s second-best team, and defending champion, Drummondville Voltigeurs. Saint John’s winning streak is an impressive 15 games as the team has now won 23 of the first 28 games of the season. The winning streak is tied for seventh best in league history with the record being 25 consecutive wins by the 1973-74 Sorel Éperviers.
Hot player: Nicolas Deschamps, Chicoutimi Saguenéens
The 19-year-old forward continues making a case for an invitation to Canada’s world junior selection camp. Deschamps scored three times and added four assists for seven points in three games last week. Although the Anaheim Ducks prospect was hot, it wasn’t enough to get his team in the win column, further proving his value might best be served in a trade.
Cold team: Lewiston MAINEiacs
The MAINEiacs haven’t been able to maintain their quick start and are now the league’s coldest team, having lost the last six consecutive games. Lewiston lost 7-4 to the red-hot Sea Dogs Sunday, their only game of the week. Lewiston’s last win came on Nov. 4 in a 5-4 triumph over the Montreal Juniors.
Cold player: Louis Domingue, Moncton Wildcats
Domingue, the top-rated goaltender from the QMJHL for the draft, was beat on seven of 30 shots through two games for a .767 save percentage. Although his numbers weren’t impressive, he was able to secure a win in his first start and it must be noted the Wildcats lineup is ravaged by the flu bug.
Game of the week: Drummondville Voltigeurs vs. Saint John Sea Dogs, Friday
The Sea Dogs will host the Voltigeurs in the back end of a home-and-home. Saint John defeated Drummondville in last week’s game of the week to keep its impressive winning streak alive. The Voltigeurs will be at a disadvantage as they play in Moncton Thursday before heading to Saint John Friday. Drummondville outshot the visiting Sea Dogs 39-27 but lost the shootout from the stick of former Voltigeurs Mike Hoffman.
Ontario Hockey League
Hot team: Barrie Colts
Barrie extended their winning streak to a current league-best 11 games with wins over Peterborough, Brampton and Saginaw. Overage forward Luke Pither continued producing offensively for the surging Colts with six points in three games. Barrie’s winning-streak, however, wasn’t enough to overtake the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors for first in the Central Division standings as Mississauga remains a point ahead.
Hot player: Robin Lehner, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Lehner redeemed himself in a big way after being named last week’s cold player. The Swedish goaltender, whom some suggest is the best goaltender in the league, won all three contests, picking up two shutouts along the way. The Ottawa Senators prospect was beat just twice on 76 shots for a sparkling .974 save percentage.
Cold team: Sarnia Sting
The young Sting saw their losing streak continue with losses to Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie last week, bringing the total to five games without a win. Sarnia has been on the wrong side of some one-sided games of late after opening the season with some surprising wins over league contenders Windsor, Barrie and Kitchener.
Cold player: John McFarland, Sudbury Wolves
The former first-overall priority selection pick is experiencing an eye-opening slump. McFarland was held without a point in three games and was a minus-1. He is now without a point in his last six consecutive games, the longest scoreless streak of his OHL career. He was ranked sixth in Central Scouting’s list of OHL skaters for this summer’s draft.
Game of the week: Barrie Colts vs. Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, Friday
It’s only the second meeting of the season between the Central Division’s top teams when the Majors host the Colts. Mississauga won the first of six meetings, 6-2, on Oct. 4. Barrie is riding an 11-game winning streak while the Majors are unbeaten in regulation in their last 10 outings. Mississauga holds a one-point lead on Barrie heading into the week but the Colts hold a game in hand. The Eastern Conference will most likely be determined between these two teams making head-to-head match-ups of great importance.