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Halifax Mooseheads top BTN Dynamic Dozen for the first time this season

Luca Ciampini is putting up a point per game in his third season with Halifax (The Canadian Press)

The Halifax Mooseheads, while battered and bruised, have pushed the Portland Winterhawks off their pedestal for this latest Dynamic Dozen.

No one could claim with a straight face that Halifax is the same team whether a certain No. 22 is in the lineup. The Mooseheads, save for the nationally televised loss to the Moncton Wildcats where Nathan MacKinnon suffered a leg injury, have taken on and beaten many of the Quebec League's toughest teams over the past few weeks. The injuries they sustained most recently are a concern, but in the interim, they are the new No. 1 after the Portland Winterhawks had an off-week by their standards.

1. Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL (.575 RPI, 1.8 SRS, +2) — Shutdown defenceman Trey Lewis sustained an injury in a big win over the Moncton Wildcats. Lewis could be out of the picture for a good week or two.

Other than that... Halifax had a great week, winning four games, three over quality opponents, by an aggregate 23-7. The big take-home from that payback victory over Moncton was how Halifax dug out of a two-goal hole by sticking with its attacking style. Jonathan Drouin shook free to set up two goals after initially being stymied by the 'Cats checking, but other members of the ensemble such as Darcy Ashley, Matthew Boudreau and Luca Ciampini were integral in the win.

2. Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL (.573 RPI, 1.6 SRS, —) — The big potential WHL final remach between the Oil Kings and Winterhawks is only seven days away. Edmonton will be in the penultimate leg of its eight-day, five-game U.S. road trip when that matchup goes down. Meantime, draft prospect Curtis Lazar, with 13 goals in 14 games, is putting the days when he was asked about not scoring in his rearview mirror.

One off-shoot of Edmonton's strong second half is that it has the Dub's best power play (28.1 per cent) and penalty kill (90.7%).

3. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.568 RPI, 1.8 SRS, -2) — When a team plays a skill game like Portland and it does not execute, results such as a 6-2 loss to Tri-City can happen. That contributed to the end of the Winterhawks' four-week reign atop the Double-D, but it recovered well and has a very good chance to make a full recovery on Wednesday against streaking Kamloops.

One difference between these Winterhawks and the 2011-12 crew is the current one isn't as dominant on the power play, being fifth in the Dub compared to last season's eye-popping 29.4 per cent. They will need injured defenceman Derrick Pouliot back on all eight cylinders by the playoffs. It gets harder to control the 5-on-5 play in the post-season.

4. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.553 RPI, 1.3 SRS, —) — Better for Kelowna to hit a dip now than in a month or six weeks when the playoffs commence. Western League coach-of-the-year candidate Ryan Huska's team has a five-day breather this week to gather itself as it tries to hold off Kamloops for the 2 seed in their conference.

Rockets wing Carter Rigby, a 20-goal scorer last season, is set for season-ending shoulder surgery. That is one less depth player for a team who seems to count on balance.

5. London Knights, OHL (.548 RPI, 1.0 SRS, +1) — The Knights took the body with more gusto during their final two games of the holiday weekend while dispatching Erie and Niagara by a combined 13-2 count. Friday's game against Sault Ste. Marie, who has a few behemoths up front and on the back end, should be a truer test of whether they can be a little more lunch-bucket and a little less ivory back scratcher.

London has only four home games remaining. Getting road-tested before going into the playoffs with home-ice advantage assured might not be the worst thing.

6. Kamloops Blazers, WHL (.548 RPI, 0.8 SRS, +4) — Along with the visit from Portland, Kamloops still has three matchups remaining with Kelowna, which it is chasing for a division title. Either Guy Charron's team will pull it off or it will at least enter the playoffs as a team which had no excuse to ease off the throttle.

Kamloops' theme of last week was probably how its elders took some ownership on the ice. That ties a bow around 19-year-old St. Louis Blues-drafted Joel Edmundson jumping in on rushes, overage Brendan Ranford getting five points in the series vs. Kelowna as he moves up the franchise all-time scoring list and goalie Cole Cheveldave being redoubtable between the pipes.

7. Calgary Hitmen, WHL (.547 RPI, 0.8 SRS, —) — Along with the Edmonton-Portland showdown, Feb. 27 also includes the Hitmen hosting a rematch against MasterCard Memorial Cup-host Saskatoon. The Blades crushed Calgary 6-0 earlier this month for the third consecutive win of its currrent 12-game roll. Picture the Hitmen having to resist looking ahead a week. One shouldn't also look ahead and predict the Blades' streak will still be extant, especially since Saskatoon plays Mathew Dumba, Patrik Bartosak and the grim-minded Red Deer Rebels one night earlier.

Carolina Hurricanes prospect Victor Rask has 11 points in the last six Hitmen games. The matchup with the Blades is well-timed for Calgary, which has a lot of practice time over the next week.

8. Rimouski Océanic, QMJHL (.547 RPI, 1.0 SRS, -3) — Do the Océanic thrive on being busy? They should hope so heading into a week with three games in four days, including two against contenders Blainville-Boisbriand and Baie-Comeau. Rimouski played only twice last week and lost both in extra time. On the injury front, 17-year-old goalie Philippe Desrosiers appears to be close to a return. Veteran 'tender Robin Gusse is probably due for the break.

9. Owen Sound Attack, OHL (.543 RPI, 0.6 SRS, -1) — The Attack are 5-3-0-0 in February despite having put four goals past opposing goals only once for the month (against the London Knights, no less). That is no great cause for alarm; Ottawa Senators first-rounder Cody Ceci is showing more comfort with his new team and goalie Jordan Binnington is playing at an all-star level. The St. Louis Blues prospect's only off-nights since returning from the world junior championship have come against top teams, Guelph and Plymouth.

10. Plymouth Whalers, OHL (.542 RPI, 1.0 SRS, +6) — Speaking of which, here is Plymouth. Coach-GM Mike Vellucci's Whalers are riding a six-game win streak and have averaged 5.7 goals across their past 13 games. That came despite having 19-year-old centre Stefan Noesen mired in a point drought and having Anaheim Ducks prospect Rickard Rakell spend much of it sitting in press boxes while up with the NHL club.

Plymouth has a clear path to the No. 2 playoff seed in the Western Conference. It does not face a single team that is higher than sixth in its conference, bearing in mind that the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Saginaw Spirit can play with anybody. Depending on how much Vellucci plays his top-end forwards, Vincent Trocheck will have a chance to stat-pad and go after Sault Ste. Marie's Nick Cousins for the OHL scoring title.

11. Guelph Storm, OHL (.537 RPI, 0.5 SRS, +1) — The upside of the Storm's Tough Mudder of a February schedule is that it won on the home ice of each of its potential first-round opponents, Kitchener and Owen Sound, without captain Matt Finn's services. The five-point gap behind the Rangers will be difficult to make up over Guelph's final dozen games, but it appears that coach Scott Walker has imparted a playoff mentality.

12. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL (.533 RPI, 0.5 SRS, +2) — For the first time this season, the surging Greyhounds are in the rankings. Which means there's an opportunity to start touting Ryan Sproul for OHL defenceman of the year. The 'Hounds were 7-11-1-0 when their lanky linchpin was out of the lineup and are 24-11-1-2 when the Detroit Red Wings prospect plays.

Plymouth's cushy closing stretch gives the 'Hounds little margin for error in their pursuit of the West Division. They were perhaps lucky to get away with a sloppy effort in a ragged 10-7 game against Kingston last weekend, but at least it provided coach Sheldon Keefe with a teachable moment.

The not as dynamic but still very distinguished dozen — 13. Kitchener Rangers, OHL (.532, —); 14. Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL (.530, -5); 15. Belleville Bulls, OHL (.527, +9); 16. Tri-City Americans, WHL (.527, +1); 17. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, QMJHL (.526, -6); 18. Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL (.523, +2); 19. Saskatoon Blades, WHL (.523, +3); 20. Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL (.521, -5); 21. Sarnia Sting, OHL (.521, -3); 22. P.E.I. Rocket, QMJHL (.520, -3); 23. Oshawa Generals, OHL (.519, +2); 24. Drummondville Voltigeurs, QMJHL (.517, -3).

Hot team — Kingston Frontenacs, up 11 (56th to 45th).

Cold team — Windsor Spitfires, down 8 (32nd to 40th).

Nowhere to go but up — Ottawa 67's (.426).

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.

(All rankings through play on Monday.)

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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