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  • Nathan MacKinnon (right) and Jonathan Drouin (The Canadian Press)Last season it was the Shawinigan Cataractes and Saint John Sea Dogs who fought for the top spot in the Dynamic Dozen week-to-week. Neither of the two teams in contention for the top CHL club this season is constructed like either team. The Cataractes were built as a Memorial Cup host with lots of 19- and 20-year-old additions, while the Sea Dogs had a deep team centred around a top NHL prospect in Jonathan Huberdeau.

    Halifax and Portland have built their teams from within, and while the Mooseheads have two top prospects, there's a debate as to which one is the feature. The Portland Winterhawks seem to keep replacing the talent that leaves for the pros with even more. Two seasons ago the team won the WHL Western Conference with Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen. This season they've made do with Oliver Bjorkstränd and Ty Rattie filling those spots. The team is built to protect even more prospects like Seth Jones and Nic Petan, who can both expect to go in the first round this June. While "Jones vs. MacKinnon" was the marquee headline for the CHL coming into this season, it's proved that both the Mooseheads and the Winterhawks are both composed of a little more than that. Halifax holds onto the top spot this week.

    There's some competition out West however. The Saskatoon Blades are eking their way into contender status after an 18-game win streak (although one that was snapped on the weekend) and a familiar foe for the Winterhawks could once again greet them in the WHL championship series should they make it that far.

    1. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.579 RPI, 1.9 SRS, —) — The Mooseheads went 3-for-3 this week to maintain their standing on top of the Dynamic Dozen, leading the nation in both RPI and SRS. Having won ten straight and with Jonathan Drouin showing no sign of slowing down, the only thing that could hurt the Mooseheads come the playoffs is health. Nathan MacKinnon could be back before the playoffs now that he's skating with the team, a scary thought for Sherbrooke or Saint John who are the two likely teams to match up against Halifax in Round One of the 'Q' playoffs later this month.

    2. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.564 RPI, 1.7 SRS, —) — The Winterhawks in contrast to the Mooseheads lost some ground this week after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Vet in Portland last week. On Saturday, Portland lost again in Everett. That said, there aren't any pressing concerns for the Winterhawks as they prepare for the playoffs. They'll face either Seattle or Everett, and the team has lost just four times in 23 tries against those two teams this season.

    Read More »from Halifax holds onto top Dynamic Dozen spot as regular season nears close
  • blazers PP

    JC Lipon had two first-period goals in Kamloops' win over Kelowna Sunday night. His third was a little unconventional. With Rockets centre Colton Sissons already in the box for interference, Damon Severson took a two-minute elbowing minor giving the Blazers a 1:15-long two-man advantage and a chance to ice the contest.

    What followed was a power-play formation that flew in the face of hockey wisdom. A standard setup for a team with a two-man advantage will be to have two point men, two players near the goal mouth and a big body in front of the net. The purpose is to get the puck into the slot and create rebounds and screens.

    [Highlights of the game (including the goal at 1:55) can be found at the Blazers' website. The above image is a screenshot from the highlight package]

    "I saw an NHL game, a power play in Florida with Pittsburgh, and they nearly killed off a five-on-three. The extra guy was clogging the slot," said Guy Charron post-game about what led him to his new formation. Watching the Penguins kill off over a minute of the 5-on-3 without leaving their zone or giving up any scoring chances led Charron to think about ways he could improve his own power-play formations.

    Read More »from Kamloops scores a goal with an unconventional power-play formation
  • Sutter coached Canada to the world junior gold medal in 2006 (The Canadian Press)When a member of Canada's most famous hockey family says parents have their children playing too much hockey, perhaps people should listen.

    Red Deer Rebels coach and owner Brent Sutter is probably as establishment as it gets in the sport, but he's lent his voice to the criticism that playing the sport year-round from an early age doesn't churn out better hockey players, it just causes burnout. (The general term is developmental compression.) One should have doubts over whether this makes any parents change their minds about registering children for the Wild West that is spring hockey, but it ties back to a recent post here about the perils of playing too much at an early age. It just isn't efficient, plus you get into the whole robbing someone of an adolescene thing.

    From Jason Gregor (@Jason Gregor):

    “You just don’t have as many players today that are as good athletes as they used to be,” Sutter said recently. “Too much today, especially in young players, is focused on hockey 12 months a year. They don’t play soccer, they don’t play baseball or tennis or the other things that people used to do.”

    ... “It is so noticeable on a hockey team that the kids who have played other sports and experienced different things are always the smarter players on your team, and they are able to handle adversity better,” Sutter said. “They deal with adversity better because they are thrown into different environments and they trust their skills that they may have learned elsewhere to get them through certain things.”

    And that’s leading Sutter to change the way his WHL team evaluates and scouts young players.

    Read More »from Red Deer Rebels’ Brent Sutter joins the ‘too much hockey’ chorus
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    When Brent Sutter thinks childen play too much hockey, maybe people should start listening. (Edmonton Journal)

    Alec Baer, the 15-year-old Minnesotan whom the Vancouver Giants recently signed, was on the ice for an overtime winner in his first game. (Vancouver Province)

    Visit Lethbridge Hurricanes play-by-play announcer Pat Siedlicki's Twitter page to see how bad the snow and wind was in southern Alberta. There was a lot of risk involved in not postponing league games last weekend. (Taking Note)

    The Calgary Hitmen are likely to score on more than 4 per cent of their shoots very soon. Their next few opponents should take note. (Calgary Herald)

    Overage Brendan Ranford has set the Kamloops Blazers' games played record, but Gregg Drinnan points out he could have been moved before his final season. (Kamloops Daily News)

    OHL

    Charlie Sarault, the Sarnia Sting's 100-point man, has signed with the

    Read More »from OHL top scorer Sarault lands Ducks deal: Monday’s coast-to-coast
  • As Petes captain, Mathers has helped his team push for a playoff berth (OHL Images)

    Perhaps surprisingly, it took until the third-last weekend of the regular season for a player to step across the Ontario Hockey League's fight threshold.

    The league passed the rule before the season with an eye to eliminating "needless fighting." Sunday, Peterborough Petes captain and Philadelphia Flyers sixth-rounder Derek Mathers became the first player to incur a suspension for having more than 10 fights, which the OHL confirms will keep him out of four of the Petes' last five games since he took the instigator penalty.

    Mathers and burly signed Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick David Broll tussled at the end of the first period in the Petes-Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds contest. The 11th fight is supposed to meant at least a two-game ban. It's doubled due to the instigator, as per league rules. That leaves the Petes without a team leader until the last regular-season game on March 17.

    Read More »from Flyers pick Derek Mathers to be first OHLer suspended for breaking 10-fight limit, won’t return until season finale
  • Here's a Dictionary.com-worthy video definition for "donnybrook." Midway through the third period of a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League game on Saturday, the Melfort Mustangs' Bryden Serafini and Battlefords North Stars' Ben Greenaway squared off for a fight in the neutral zone.

    Tabling the debate over fighting for the moment, this was a dandy scrap, as the two Junior A players threw right hands rapidly until they collapsed to the ice in exhaustion. Melfort play-by-play man Branden Crowe getting caught up in the moment — "They're just throwing absolute haymakers! Look at the hair on Serafini!" — just adds to it. Throwing to a commercial with, "They are both exhausted and bleeding, we'll clean up the mess in Aisle 2" was also pretty smooth, if a little cavalier since both players were injured. Apparently both players were hurt.

    Read More »from Bryden Serafini, Ben Greenaway have epic fight in Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (VIDEO)
  • Brayden Point has 51 points as a 16-year-old rookie (The Canadian Press)

    No. 1 star: Brayden Point, Moose Jaw Warriors (OHL)

    What was that? The Warriors salved their disappointment over being mathematically eliminated one night earlier by scoring five unanswered goals to win 5-4 and snap the Saskatoon Blades' 18-game win streak.

    Point (2G-2A, +2) had two goals and an assist in a span of just more than 5½ minutes in the third period when the Warriors treated a crowd the local Times-Herald described as "the 1,200-or-so fans that braved the blizzard" to a treat by tying the game. The 16-year-old Calgarian, who turned heads when he joined Moose Jaw for their playoff run last spring, deked out a defenceman to set up Jordan Messier for the 4-2 goal 6:55 into the third period. Point, who has 51 points in 61 games as a rookie on a team which does not score much, then potted a rebound goal to shave the Blades' lead to one. Then he tied the game, going down 1-on-1 and wiring a shot between the legs of Colorado Avalanche-drafted defenceman Duncan Siemens and by two-time Russia world junior goalie Andrey Makarov.

    Point wrapped up the night with an assist on Tanner Eberle's overtime winner.

    Read More »from Brayden Point part of a Moose Jaw miracle: Sunday’s 3 Stars
  • Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Morgan Rielly had the overtime assist for Moose Jaw on Sunday (The Canadian Press)

    If the Saskatoon Blades had not lost the way they did, then Bridge City's most famous fabulist, Yann Martel, would have had to cook up the plot.

    Generally speaking, a MasterCard Memorial Cup host team should not blow a four-goal third-period lead and lose 5-4 in overtime to the out-of-contention Moose Jaw Warriors, even though the Warriors do boast Morgan Rielly. It's not exactly a show of killer instinct; in fact, Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele said in a post-game interview that the unravelling really started in the second period, when Saskatoon began to miss the mark with its passes and thus failed to bury the Warriors.

    Point being, though, maybe it's just a bunch of stuff that happened. Saskatoon, who by dint of the loser point moved ahead of the Calgary Hitmen for the second-best record in the WHL's Eastern Conference, probably had some puck luck during their streak, along with favourable schedule. It probably just evened out on Sunday, because the events that helped Moose Jaw come back to win were as far-fetched as the plot of Life of Pi.

    Read More »from Saskatoon Blades’ 18-game win streak ends on a series of strange plays on a snowy night
  • Patrik Bartosak set a WHL season high for saves in a shutout SaturdayNo. 1 star: Patrik Bartosak, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)

    The Red Deer Rebels might be the WHL's quietest success story, and if Bartosak keeps playing like he did between the pipes on Saturday, the Rebels could be a nightmare to deal with in the postseason.

    Bartosak stopped all 52 shots he faced in a 3-0 win over the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday night, and set the WHL's season high in shots faced in a shutout. The 19-year-old Czech netminder now leads the league with a .935 save percentage in 50 games, and has posted at least .930 in every month this season other than September (during which he only played three games).

    Bartosak's fourth clean sheet of the season was his crown jewel, as he stood tall in the third period as the Broncos fired 24 shots his way. With the win, the Rebels moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Eastern Conference as Prince Albert lost at home to last-place Brandon.

    No. 2 star: Reid Boucher, Sarnia Sting (OHL)

    Boucher became the first CHLer to hit 60 goals with a hat trick in a wild 8-7 win at Saginaw in an important battle for playoff seeding. In the process, he erased the single-season franchise record previously held by Steven Stamkos.

    Stamkos defenders will probably note that he compiled his 58 goals for Sarnia in 61 games in 2007-08, while Boucher took 63 games to break the record. But Boucher's run has been impressive in its own right, considering the New Jersey Devils prospect only scored 28 times last season and leads the CHL goal-scoring race by 13 this season.

    By beating the eighth-place Spirit on Saturday, the Sting moved eight points ahead in the race to avoid the league-leading London Knights in the first round of the playoffs.

    Boucher scored all three of his goals in a bizarre second period in which the Sting scored six times on nine shots. Two of Sarnia's goals came in the last 30 seconds of the period, and Boucher's 60th at the 19:52 mark but the Sting up 8-5 and chased Saginaw goalie Jake Paterson from the game. Paterson only faced 17 shots in 40 minutes and allowed all eight goals.

    The Spirit rallied with two goals in the third on 19 shots, but couldn't pull even.

    No. 3 star: Tyrell Goulbourne, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

    Though he's just 5-foot-11, Goulbourne is well-known for his willingness to go toe-to-toe physically with anyone in the WHL. What he's not well-known for is scoring goals.

    In fact, the 18-year-old from Edmonton never had a multiple-goal effort in 148 previous WHL games until he lit the lamp four times Saturday in a 7-1 rout of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

    Goulbourne scored once in the first period, then twice more in the first 5:48 of the second to wrap up the hat trick. He got one more in the third to cap off a night he'll never forget.

    The Rockets remained five points clear of the Kamloops Blazers for the B.C. Division lead heading into their meeting Sunday in Kamloops.

    Read More »from Bartosak repels 52 shots as Rebels blank Broncos: Saturday’s 3 Stars
  • The Moncton Wildcats were debating what to do about Ross Johnston's 15 game suspension and they finally acted Friday.

    The team announced they will appeal Johnston's suspension in an effort to get him back in the lineup sooner. Johnston has sat the last four games, and, if the suspension is upheld, he will sit until the third game of the QMJHL playoffs.

    Normally, league rules state that the appeal must be announced three days after the announcement of the suspension, in this case Feb. 24. Johnston's suspension was announced Feb. 21.

    Johnston was suspended after breaking the jaw of Halifax's Brian Lovell with a stick swing in a game last month. No penalty was called on the play, but an isolated video of the play that the Mooseheads posted to YouTube went viral.

    Read More »from Moncton Wildcats appeal Johnston’s 15-game suspension

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