King: Spitfires lead way on CHL hot list

September 13, 2009, 10:01 PM

The Windsor Spitfires continued their hot streak as second-year forward Taylor Hall continues to amaze. Meanwhile, the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL are quickly erasing the memories of last season’s rebuild as the team appears ready to add their name as one of the Canadian Hockey League’s elite.

Ontario Hockey League
Hot team: Windsor Spitfires
Although still early, the Windsor Spitfires appear to be pulling away for the regular-season title this season. The young Spitfires grew by leaps and bounds last season and have carried over their success. Windsor is riding a nine-game winning streak while they have lost just once this season.

Hot player: Taylor Hall, Windsor Spitfires
Hall could be earning his way towards an invite to Hockey Canada’s selection camp in Ottawa in December for a shot at playing on Canada’s world junior team. The sophomore sensation scored four goals and five assists for nine points in three games, including one-game winner and two insurance goals. Hall leads the OHL in scoring, two points ahead of Oshawa’s John Tavares with 28 points.

Cold team: Barrie Colts
The banged-up Colts caught some bad breaks that spilled over into the loss column last week. Barrie dropped all three games, which now brings their losing streak to four consecutive. The Colts dressed just 10 forwards in their third game in three nights in Oshawa as a few late penalties killed any chance of pulling out the victory.

Cold player: Tyler Toffoli, Ottawa 67′s
Ottawa’s rookie star had his first rough week on the score sheet as he failed to record a point through three contests. Toffoli, the seventh overall pick in the 2008 priority selection, was still creating on offence despite his stat line. The 67′s, however, won two of three games last week.

This week’s key match-up: London Knights vs. Windsor Spitfires, Thursday
It doesn’t get any bigger than this. The top two teams in the league will meet for their second of six meetings this season with the Spitfires holding the edge so far with a 4-2 win on Sept. 26. Both teams are unbeaten in regulation in their last nine outings and have scored in bunches this season. The slight edge should go to Windsor who has been better defensively. The Windsor Arena will be rocking in what could be the final meeting between these two teams in this rink.

Western Hockey League
Hot team: Vancouver Giants
It was business as usual for the Giants on their eastern road swing. Vancouver won all three games through central Alberta to remain unbeaten in regulation during this season. Vancouver’s only losses have come by way of shootouts as the team’s hot start vaults them into top spot in the Western Conference with a 10-0-0-3 record.

Hot player: Jamie Benn, Kelowna Rockets
Benn took his time in making the decision to play in the WHL but he certainly has not disappointed since joining the Rockets last season. The sniper who plays an in-your-face gritty style scored five goals and four assists in three games including two insurance goals. Benn will need to continue to lead the way if the Rockets are going to contend for the championship this season.

Cold team: Chilliwack Bruins
The young Bruins offence dried up last week as the team continues dropping games. Chilliwack lost their sixth consecutive game as they were shutout in a home and home against the Kelowna Rockets before losing 5-2 to Kamloops. The Bruins could use the offensive abilities of European sniper Oscar Moller who remains with the Los Angeles Kings.

Cold player: Kevin Armstrong, Prince George Cougars
The overage goaltender did not enjoy a very successful road swing with the Cougars. Prince George just concluded a two-week road trip where the team managed to win just once in nine games. Armstrong allowed 16 goals on 101 shots for a 0.842 save percentage in three losing starts.

This week’s key match-up: Brandon Wheat Kings vs. Vancouver Giants, Saturday
The 2008 Memorial Cup host Wheat Kings will head to the site of the last WHL club to host the Memorial Cup. Brandon head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon cited Vancouver and Kelowna as examples of strong previous Memorial Cup hosts when his team was announced as the winner. The Wheat Kings can’t afford to drop too many games on their road trip as they currently sit in fifth place in the strong East Division. The last time the Wheat Kings were in Vancouver they pulled out a stunning overtime victory as Brayden Schenn tied the game with four seconds left in the third period in a game televised on Sportsnet.

Québec Major Junior Hockey League
Hot team: Moncton Wildcats
What a difference a season can make. After finishing with the second-worst record in the league and landing the first overall pick last season, the Moncton Wildcats have surged into contention this season. The Wildcats have won their last seven games and have yet to lose a game in regulation so far this season as their record stands at 14-0-2-0.

Hot player: Nicola Riopel, Moncton Wildcats
The Moncton Wildcats are off to one of the quickest starts this season and the play of goaltender Riopel is a big reason why. Riopel allowed just three goals on 102 shots through three starts for a 0.971 save percentage. Moncton tied a league record for most road wins to start a season with eight.

Cold team: Gatineau Olympiques
Much like the league’s hot team this week, the Gatineau Olympiques have seen a reversal of fortune this season. After winning the league title in May, the Olympiques have gone through a rough patch. Although Gatineau’s losing streak now stands at seven games the Olympiques aren’t falling too far behind as Montreal and Rouyn-Noranda both only lead by six points in the Telus Western Divison.

Cold player: Marco Cousineau, Baie-Comeau Drakkar
The second-year starting goaltender had an uncharacteristically poor showing last week where he allowed nine goals on 32 shots for a 0.719 save percentage. Cousineau was pulled in both games he played while backup Marek Benda didn’t fare too well in relief. Baie-Comeau is now just a point ahead of Chicoutimi in the Telus Eastern Division standings.

This week’s key match-up: Saint John Sea Dogs vs. Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, Saturday
Games between the Sea Dogs and Screaming Eagles are always interesting given both teams’ success in recent years. Saint John has had a slower start compared to a year ago while Cape Breton appears to always find ways to avoid rebuilding. The Sea Dogs have struggled a tad of late as star forward Christopher DiDomenico has had a slow start to the season. Meanwhile, the Screaming Eagles have received solid goaltending from sophomore Olivier Roy. Although both teams trail the Moncton Wildcats by a fair margin in the Atlantic Division standings this game will have great importance in possibly determining a tiebreak down the road.

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