OHL Roundup: D'Amigo shines in Rangers debut
By Mackenzie Liddell, Contributing Editor
Toronto, Canada (Sports Network) - The Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers got a major boost to their Memorial Cup aspirations this past week when the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League loaned winger Jerry D'Amigo to the team for the remainder of the season.
After an impressive freshman campaign at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, D'Amigo, 19, packed his bags for Toronto to begin his pro career.
Although Kitchener owns his junior rights, there was speculation in the summer that it would be Toronto or bust for D'Amigo and that he had no interest rounding out his game in the OHL.
While struggling at times to adapt to the pro game, D'Amigo showed signs of progression in the new year, registering three points in five games before being sent to the OHL. In 41 games with the Marlies, he had five goals and 14 points.
It didn't take D'Amigo long to find instant chemistry playing on a line with top-rated draft prospect Gabriel Landeskog, who returned from injury Friday, as the Binghamton, N.Y., native notched two goals and four points in his first two games in a Rangers uniform.
Having lost offensive dynamos Jeff Skinner and Jeremy Morin to the pro ranks at the onset of the season, it's sweet justice for the Rangers to add a pro to the mix for the final stretch of the regular season and then the playoffs.
LONDON WINNING WHILE REBUILDING
At this time of the year, the London Knights are usually cruising to another 100-point season while sitting firmly atop the Midwest Division.
But for the first time since 2007-08, the Knights look like they will fall well short of the century mark and relinquish the division crown.
What the Knights have done since the early part of the decade is unbelievable. They've won the division six of the past seven years and surpassed 100 points in each of those years while making it to or past the semifinal six times.
On pace for only 78 points, the Knights are in the midst of their worst season since 2002-03. Still, the situation could be much worse in the Forest City.
Aside from entering the 2010-11 campaign without the services of - or a replacement for - last year's leading scorer Nazem Kadri, general manager Mark Hunter unloaded seven regulars by the trade deadline. Yet the Knights still find themselves in playoff contention and playing great hockey recently.
Despite going 1-1-1 on the week, the Knights have won six of their past 10 games and sit three points back of fifth-place Windsor.
While expectations remain low in London, the Hunters have once again managed to put their team in playoff contention while setting the table for the future with a formidable crop of 16- to 18-year-olds and an abundance of draft picks.
Some things never change.
VISENTIN TOP DOG IN NIAGARA
Since the devastating collapse against the Russians at the World Junior Championship, Team Canada and Niagara IceDogs netminder Mark Visentin has been literally unbeatable.
The 18-year-old backstop has gone 7-0-2 since returning from Buffalo, N.Y., with a 2.35 goals-against average and .924 save percentage with two shutouts.
On top of his recent run, Visentin hasn't lost in regulation since Nov. 16 against Mississauga and has only four regulation defeats all season.
Visentin was in fine form again this past week, as he led the IceDogs to victory over Sault Ste. Marie and Brampton, including a lights-out 37-save shutout of the Battalion Saturday.
Niagara is second in the East behind the bullet-proof Majors and tied for second in the OHL with 72 points. With Visentin between the pipes and a breadth of top-end talent throughout the lineup, the IceDogs are a legitimate threat for OHL supremacy.
It was only a matter of time before heads rolled in Sarnia, and Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Plymouth Whalers while being outshot 60-27 was coach and GM Dave MacQueen's last meal.
Having gone 3-11-1-1 since Dec. 31 and sitting near the bottom of Western Conference, the Sting parted ways with MacQueen, who has been with the team since 2006-07, and replaced him with first-year assistant Trevor Letowski on an interim basis.
Sting president Larry Cicciarelli and vice president of operations Bill Abercrombie will assume GM duties, while head scout Jim Debenham will oversee the draft.
Spitfires coach Bob Jones had some harsh words for Erie's staff after Brett Thompson paced the Otters to an 8-2 victory with a club-record-tying four goals and six points.
"I have nothing but respect for (Otters managing partner/GM) Sherry Bassin and (coach) Robbie Ftorek, but I've lost all of it," Jones told the Windsor Star. "It's a 6-1 game and you've got your No. 1 unit out on the power play with a guy (Brett Thompson) that already has a hat trick. It was classless and it will not be forgotten. It's on from now on."
The teams will not face each other again in the regular season, although a playoff battle would undoubtedly make for some fiery storylines.
Meanwhile, the OHL announced its top performers for the month January.
Niagara's Ryan Strome took home Player of the Month honors after leading the OHL in January scoring with four goals and 26 points.
Sarnia's Nail Yakupov unsurprisingly claimed the Rookie of the Month award with 19 points in 12 games, while Ryan Ellis was named the league's best defenseman for the second time this season following a 20-point month.
Mississauga netminder J.P. Anderson, meanwhile, was named the league's best goalie after posting a 6-0-0-1 record combined with a league-best 1.30 goals- against average and .941 save percentage.
02/07 14:23:31 ET