By Paul Krotz / CHL
With a little more than four weeks remaining in the 2012-13 Canadian Hockey League regular season schedule, it may be too early to start predicting first round playoff matchups however teams across all three leagues have clinched spots in the post-season.
The CHL’s top-ranked team the Portland Winterhawks lead the way in the WHL’s Western Conference with 95 points, separating themselves over second place Kelowna after two road wins against the Rockets last weekend. The Kamloops Blazers have also locked up a post-season berth in the West along with the Edmonton Oil Kings who sit in first place in the Eastern Conference Standings.
In the QMJHL, Division leaders the Halifax Mooseheads, Rimouski Oceanic, and Blainville-Boisbriand Armada currently sit atop the standings while six other playoff spots have been secured by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, the Moncton Wildcats, Quebec Remparts, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, PEI Rocket, and the Drummondville Voltigeurs, with the Val-d’Or Foreurs just one point shy of clinching.
The London Knights are the only team to officially clinch a playoff berth in the OHL heading into action this week as they lead the Western Conference Standings however the Barrie Colts who lead the Eastern Conference are just one point away from accomplishing the same.
The race for the CHL’s Top Scorer award might be confined to the WHL as Winterhawks teammates Brendan Leipsic and Nicolas Petan became the first players to hit the century mark in points last week with 101 and 100 respectively and lead the nearest competition by a dozen.
Colin Smith of the Blazers sits in third with 88 points just slightly ahead of the Oceanic’s Peter Trainor and the Winterhawks’ Ty Rattie who each have 86 points, followed by Charles Sarault of the Sarnia Sting with 85 points.
The Sting’s Reid Boucher may be fifth in OHL scoring with 74 points but he leads the entire CHL with 49 goals in just 54 games. He is set to become the first CHL player to hit 50 goals this season, something accomplished by just six players across the three leagues last season including Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers who netted an impressive 61 goals.
The 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup host Saskatoon Blades are currently the hottest team in the CHL riding a nine-game winning streak.
Josh Nicholls was the hero in the Blades’ most recent victory netting the game-tying goal with less than 30 seconds in regulation before scoring the lone goal of the shootout to edge the Swift Current Broncos 5-4 on Tuesday night.
“He can score goals,” said Blades head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken told the Saskatoon Star Phoenix. “And it was a big, big goal for us.”
2013 NHL Draft Top Prospect Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads kept his QMJHL-high 17-game point streak alive on Tuesday night with a hat-trick as part of a 7-0 win over the PEI Rocket.
Perhaps most impressive about Drouin’s efforts was he did it without fellow Top Prospect Nathan MacKinnon who is currently sidelined by injury.
“He’s pretty incredible to watch,” Halifax defenceman Trey Lewis told the Chronicle Herald of Drouin. “I know Nate (MacKinnon) is out for a couple of weeks with a lower body injury but Jo definitely stepped up tonight and showed us what he’s made of.”
Special Night for Petes:
The Hockey Day in Canada spotlight was on Peterborough on Saturday and the hometown Petes didn’t disappoint with a 3-2 win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds before the likes of Don Cherry and Ron MacLean in attendance.
“Hockey Day in Canada and Pink in the Rink at the same time and you couldn’t have asked for a better result,” Head Coach Jody Hull told the Peterborough Examiner. “There wasn’t one guy on the team who couldn’t look at the guy beside him and say he didn’t give it his all tonight.”
While the Petes were wearing special jerseys as part of Pink in the Rink night for women’s cancer research, special attention was also given to Cystic Fibrosis Canada with a feature during the broadcast on Petes’ goaltender and 2012 OHL Humanitarian of the Year award winner Andrew D’Agostini who has continued to help raise awareness and funds to combat the disease.
D’Agostini made 40 saves on Saturday and was named the game’s first star.