Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Match-ups You've Got to See in 2009-10

Today's OHL Top 10 is aimed at both the casual and obsessed OHL fan. I've outlined 10 match-ups you've truly got to circle on your calendar for the 2009-10 season. Whether it be catching the game on the OHL Action Pack, streamed live on the OHL's website, or heading down to the arena to watch live, I think these games are worth watching.

Obviously it's hard to pick just 10 games to watch this season, partly because the season hasn't even started yet and we don't know the divisional and playoff races yet. However, we can still assume these games should be highly competitive and a treat for the fans.

This list should also give you some hints as to where I see the teams falling in the standings this year. That will be unveiled sometime this week, when I post my season preview and predictions.

For now, enjoy and get out your calendar to circle these dates (in order of date occurring, not perceived entertainment value)!

October 1 - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors at Niagara IceDogs
This is the first time of the season that these bitter division rivals will meet. Not only have they been consistent division rivals, but they share a history. Of course, Niagara used to be the Mississauga IceDogs and played out of the Hershey Center in Mississauga. After moving to Niagara, the Hershey Center became occupied by the Majors who moved from downtown Toronto, to Mississauga. Every time these two teams clash, the competition is fierce. Fights are commonplace. If you like good physical, in your face hockey, this match-up is for you. This one is also played in the small ice in Niagara, which only seems to amplify the aggressive nature of the game.

October 8 - London Knights at Windsor Spitfires
This will be the second time these teams meet in the season, however the first one will occur while many of the players on both sides will still be at NHL training camps. This match-up on the 8th will mark the first "true" meeting of these two teams, who battled it out for the Western Conference title last season. This game is also being played in Windsor where many of the returning Knight players should have bad memories of their season ending last year in OT of game five of the Conference Finals.

October 9 - Owen Sound Attack at Kitchener Rangers
With the likes of Jeremy Morin, John Moore, and Brandon Maxwell guaranteed to be back from NHL training camp (unless they make the NHL), the games at the beginning of October mark the true assembly of the 'new and improved' Kitchener Rangers. I, for one, am very curious as to how the team looks this season with all the new players they've brought in (Moore, Morin, Maxwell, Landeskog, Andersson, Murphy). I chose this game on the 9th because it's against a hard working division rival in Owen Sound, and it's at the Aud in Kitchener. A home game against a rival should get the Rangers fired up enough to give us a true taste of what they are capable of this season.

November 1 - Kingston Frontenacs at Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
This marks the battle of the two worst teams in the OHL last season, both of whom I feel should make the playoffs this season. It's the second time they play each other, however the first comes at the very beginning of the season when players are likely to still be at NHL training camps. This game should be a good test for both teams, as both will likely to try and show the other how much they've improved. Obviously this match up also marks the match-up of the first and second overall picks in the 2009 OHL Priority Draft, Daniel Catenacci and Alan Quine.

December 16 - Brampton Battalion at Belleville Bulls
While it won't be the first time these teams have a re-match of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, it has the potential to be the most entertaining. Firstly, around this time of December, the OHL action can tend to downgrade as the league's best players try to make the Canadian World Junior team. Neither of these teams is likely to have more than one player missing (Clark for Brampton and Lalonde for Belleville, if they are still playing for their current OHL teams), meaning we should get to see a true roster match-up. Secondly, by mid December, we should have a pretty good idea of where these two teams stand in the Eastern Conference. Due to rebuilds, the potential is there for these two to be sitting at the bottom of the East when this match-up occurs. And since nobody likes being last, it could be a fierce game.

January 14 - Barrie Colts at Windsor Spitfires
On paper, this match up marks the battle between the two best offenses in the OHL. The Colts and Spits are stacked at forward, meaning this game could feature some serious high octane offense. Potentially, this match up could also mark the confrontation of the top teams in the Ontario Hockey League. I expect the Colts to finish near the top of the Eastern Conference, while the Spits should once again be tops in the West. Could this be a preview of the 2010 Ontario Hockey League Final?

February 5 - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at Sudbury Wolves
The last time these two teams meet for the year (barring an all dog OHL final) should be a good one to watch. While the Hounds and Wolves meet several times earlier in the year, I felt this one could be the best at highlighting the reason for my choosing this match-up. This game will mark the face off of the two previous Jack Ferguson Award winners (aka, the two previous first overall picks in the OHL Priority Draft). They are, of course, John McFarland and Daniel Catenacci. By February 5, Catenacci should be feeling more comfortable in the league and playing his best hockey, while McFarland should be showing improvement from the previous season. Both of these teams should also be in the hunt for home ice advantage in their respective conferences, making it a meaningful game for other reasons.

February 11 -Kitchener Rangers at Windsor Spitfires
If all goes according to plan, February 11 could mark the final match up of the regular season between the Division leaders in the Western Conference. At this point, who knows how good the Rangers will be, however if they have improved, this late season match up in Windsor will surely be quite the test. This match-up should also be quite the lure for American hockey fans. Former U.S. Development team members Jeremy Morin, Brandon Maxwell and Cam Fowler will face-off against each other, while other strong U.S. born talent will also be featured like Austin Watson, John Moore, Alex Aleardi, Josh Unice, and Dan Kelly.

February 13 - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors at Barrie Colts
While two days prior, the top two teams in the West could meet (see above, Kitchener at Windsor), this date could mark the meeting of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. The only difference being that these two teams are also in the same Division and February 13 could be a big date in the battle for the Central Division. This is especially true because this is the last meeting of the regular season between the Majors and Colts. These two teams have the potential to be so close this season, that one win could separate first in the East from third. That one win could be this game, which means it has to be a must watch for any OHL fan.

March 7 - Kitchener Rangers at Guelph Storm
Much like the February 13th battle between the Majors and Colts, this one on March 7th could have serious Divisional repercussions. The 4th last game of the regular season for both teams, this one could be absolutely huge. I highly anticipate these two teams to be among the cream of the crop in the Midwest Division and on March 7, the division could still be up for grabs. Did I mention that these two cities are separated by just over 16 miles and are consistently bitter rivals regardless of the standings?

That's, those are my 10 games to watch. Any predictions on the outcomes of these games? Any match-ups you feel I've left off? Also, apologies to the teams I didn't name. But you can watch them every other day of the year!


Anonymous said...

Sorry for the late response as I got here via the Spits/Knights game post.

The IceDogs/Majors rivalry is fizzing out. I believe there's only 3 IceDogs left who played for Mississauga in the chocolate factory: Petro (who is not back yet), DeSousa and MacEachern.

It is true that this was a very strong rivalry even before the move. Although it's being replaced with the Battalion/Majors. The Majors turfed out Brampton 2 years in a row in the 2nd round in '02 & '03, which also added to the "2nd round curse" that Brampton finally broke last year.

This animosity has been elevated with the proximity due to the move, and last season's 6 game Brampton playoff win.

This year's first match-up in Brampton was ineventful outside of Gaunce introducing himself to Goodrow. However the 2nd game, the Majors' home opener, was a barn burner ending in a shoot-out with numerous fisticuffs from players not known for dropping gloves: Perreira, Flemming, Mayer, Cizikas.

It looks like the battles of Peel will indeed be an event not to be missed!

Brock Otten said...

Interesting comments, and nothing I really disagree with.

I do agree that the Dogs/Majors rivalry is beginning to fizzle out. The physicality and hostility between the two teams seems to have died with the players who've since graduated.

If I could do it over again, I would definitely include a Battle of Peel, over a Dogs/Majors match up.