The Kamloops Blazers likely should have lost the first time they faced the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings.
On Oct. 17, it took a JC Lipon and Colin Smith collaboration for short-handed goal in the penultimate minute to allow the Blazers to get out of town with a shootout victory over Edmonton. It is rare for a team that is on the power play, up a goal in the final two minutes, to contrive to lose. Now the two teams many believe will meet in the league final in about six months' time have a rematch this week. Edmonton did not crack this week's Dynamic Dozen, but Derek Laxdal's charges did make a big move into into the next-highest level on the pantheon of junior puck.
Coach Guy Charron's Blazers have had their lead whittled down by the Kelowna Rockets and Portland Winterhawks, along with one team that's actually from east of the Rocky Mountains, the Halifax Mooseheads.
1. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.637 RPI, 1.8 SRS, —) — Kamloops, now a mere 17-1-0-1, has carted its weary bones on home. Let's face it, their streak was on borrowed time. One bad tiding is that heart-and-soul forward Dylan Willick has been diagnosed with a broken ankle and it likely wouldn't be worth it to rush back for the final weekend before this season's relatively early December holiday break. Motivation should not be an issue for Kamloops against Edmonton, which is the hometown of three key Blazers (veteran forwards Colin Smith and Brendan Ranford and defenceman Ryan Rehill). Plus late bloomer Cole Cheveldave can go save-for-save with the more heralded goalie, Edmonton's Laurent Brossoit.
2. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.595 RPI, 1.3 SRS, up four spots from last week) — Their win-win week included ending Kamloops' club-record 14-game win streak and finding out that 17-year-old Jackson Whistle is a reliable alternative to Jordon Cooke, who had an injury last week. Kelowna has found a good balance between grit, goaltending and the modicum of offence they beat from the likes of Myles Bell and Colton Sissons, their lone point-a-game performers. They also get to face Edmonton the night after it faces Kamloops.
3. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.590 RPI, 1.9 SRS, —) — The 'Hawks need to get their 18th-ranked power play functioning, since it shouldn't be that low with the steady hands they have at the point such as Derrick Pouliot and Seth Jones. Those two, among others, are TCBing in the defensive zone and Ty Rattie is on a 10-game point streak. Life is good there, for the most part.
4. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.580 RPI. 1.8 SRS, +1) — They reminded us their success is still relatively newfound by giving up a four-goal lead and having their win streak snapped by Rimouski last Sunday. All it amounted to was a point lost and a lesson learned the hard way. Hey, remember last season when this forum wondered about Sportsnet showing a one-sided Saint John playoff game instead of showcasting Nathan MacKinnon in Halifax? Thanks to the Super Series and Friday Night Hockey, MacKinnon is on national TV three times this week. You're welcome.
5. Spokane Chiefs, WHL (.571 RPI, 0.9 SRS, -2) — Starting goalie Eric Williams, put on your game-stealing gloves, the ones that make it impossible to dust for fingerprints. The Chiefs will be missing five regulars for the tailend of their six-game home stretch, which includes visits from higher-ranked Kamloops and Portland on Friday and Saturday respectively.
6. Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL (.564 RPI, 0.1 SRS, -4) — The T-Birds' Prairie trip has gone swimmingly for 120 out of 125 minutes of play. Seattle would have all four points if Winnipeg Jets pick Adam Lowry had not gone Adam Lowry all over them last Friday by factoring into three Swift Current Broncos goals in the first 4½ minutes of the third period, including two short-handers during the same power play. Seattle and No. 11 Victoria's rankings mostly stems from their strength of schedule. That advantage diminishes over time.
7. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.561 RPI, 0.6 SRS, +5) — The Rangers' 2-1 week including something that looked like an offensive breakout with a five-goal, 48-shot performance against Windsor last Friday. Promising 17-year-old Justin Bailey is growing acclimatized to the league at an impressive rate, which should give Steve Spott and Co. another offensive option.
8. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.558 RPI, 1.4 SRS, -1) — Overage defenceman Nathan Chairlitti, AKA The Guy The CHLPA Thinks Was Traded For Supporting A Union, shares the plus/minus lead with Ryan Strome at +22. Chairlitti was not on for an even-strength goal against the Attack until last week. The fact there is relatively little 5-on-5 time in the rough-and-ready Attack's games (they are one of two teams which has already faced at least 100 penalty kills) isn't enough to put an asterisk on that feat.
Beating rebuilding Erie twice and 'tying' Kitchener wasn't enough for the Attack to move up. They have a chance for a six-point week ahead, hosting slumping Guelph and Sault Ste. Marie while facing the Zombie Battalion.
9. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.553 RP1, 1.2 SRS, —) — Send your good karma out to the Drakkar, who have the unenviable task of resuming their season with a 3-in-3 northern Quebec trip to Rouyn-Noranda and Val-d'Or (the latter's a two-game series). Batting .500 on that trip would be a pretty nice score. Defencemen Julien Lepage and Samuel Noreau, the New York Rangers prospect, will be out to stymie six of the league's top 20 scorers. It's not so hard. They only have to face three apiece on all three nights.
10. Quebec Remparts, QMJHL (.551 RPI, 1.2 SRS, -2) — Tampa Bay Lightning pick Nikita Kucherov has seven points in four games and Mikhail Grigorenko has seven in three since they were reunited in La Belle Province. Quebec has been a lull for the past couple weeks, suggesting maybe this is not a Memorial Cup challenger unless Patrick Roy pulls off a couple trades.
11. Victoria Royals, WHL (.549 RPI, -0.4 SRS, -1) — Paraphrasing Jerry Seinfeld, they knew how to take the lead against Portland. But they didn't know how to hold the lead and really, that's the most important part. Victoria's status in this in club hinges on its Southern Alberta swing to Lethbridge, Calgary and Medicine Hat. All three are in a playoff position, which is a statement one hasn't been able to make much in prior seasons.
12. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.547 RPI, 0.9 SRS, -1) — The Quebec League has not announced any discipline to Armada blueline linchpin Xavier Ouellet, who was solid in Game 1 of the Subway Super Series, for a dirty check in a game last Friday against the P.E.I. Rocket. It would be unbelievable if it wasn't typically. The Armada ended up losing 2-of-3 on their Maritimes road swing, including a pair of three-goal losses. They allowed six on Sunday, when Ouellet was sitting out to rest up for playing Russia.
Both recently relocated franchises are ranked. Does this augur auspiciously for the transplanted Troops, the Brampton/North Bay Battalion?
The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Barrie Colts, OHL (.546, +6); 14. Plymouth Whalers, OHL (.541, -1); 15. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.540, +8); 16. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.539, -2); 17. Mississauga Steelheads, OHL (.535, —); 18. Sarnia Sting, OHL (.532, —), .533; 19. Windsor Spitfires, OHL (.521, +1); 20. Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL (.518, -5); 21. Guelph Storm , OHL (.514, -5); 22. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.514, +7); 23. Niagara IceDogs, OHL, (.512, +12), 24. London Knights, OHL (.510, +2).
Nowhere to go but up — Kootenay Ice (WHL), .391. The Ice have a 25 percentage-point lead over the Regina Pats.
An explanation on rankings — Buzzing The Net uses Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) with a recency factor. RPI combines a team's record with the strength of its opponents to produce an overall rating. Our method also gives more weight to recently played games. Shootout wins and losses are classified as ties, for philosophical and practical reasons. Simple Ranking System (SRS), an equation which uses goal differential and strength of schedule, is used as a complement. All three CHL leagues are considered equivalent in quality.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.