OHL Roundup: Erie more than one-man show
By Mackenzie Liddell, Contributing Editor
Toronto, Canada (Sports Network) - Having won crucial contests against red-hot Owen Sound, Guelph and Eastern conference powerhouse Niagara, the Erie Otters are making a statement heading into the final push of the season.
They have now won five in a row and a franchise-tying eight straight at home and sit one point back of Windsor for fourth place, albeit having played two more games.
Even more importantly, leading scorer Greg McKegg snapped out of a season-high seven-game goal drought and did it with an exclamation point: burning the Attack for four goals in a 6-2 rout Wednesday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect finished the week with eight points and now has 76 (38-38) on the season.
While McKegg is the Otters' most dynamic offensive weapon, Phil Varone and Brett Thompson, who were both acquired via trade this season, round out Erie's arsenal.
Varone, an over-ager acquired from London in October, is a prudent two-way center who has been a revelation of late, racking up seven goals and 24 points in his past 10 games.
Thompson was snagged from the floundering Soo Greyhounds at the deadline and has added some serious punch to the league's fifth-best offence, registering 15 goals in his first 17 games with his new team.
Erie also got a boost this past week when 6-foot-3 forward Andrew Yogan made his season debut after undergoing shoulder surgery in September. He scored 25 goals last year.
Yogan's return and the current red-hot play of the Otters' talented trio should help Erie's odds at snagging home-ice advantage, which is paramount in the top-heavy, home-happy Western Conference.
BATTLE AT THE BOTTOM
With only one month remaining in the regular season and sitting dead even with 36 points apiece, the Belleville Bulls and Peterborough Petes are set to battle it out for the final playoff spot in the East.
As a reward, one of these moribund teams will be handed the menacing Mississauga Majors in the first round - no easy task.
Not to say they can't take on the role of ultimate underdog and prevail - well, actually, it's pretty doubtful.
At their pace, Belleville, the current eight-seed (holding a game in hand), will emerge as the most futile playoff-bound club since the league expanded to a 16-team format in 1998-99.
Having only won two of their past 10 games, the Bulls are on schedule to finish with 20 wins and 45 points.
To put that in context, the eighth-place team has needed an average of 62 points to punch their playoff ticket since 1998-99. The lowest point total of a post-season team to date is North Bay's 49 in 2001-02.
Fortunately for the Bulls, the Petes have been in a similar slump of late and haven't been able to jump past them in the standings despite owning one more win.
Nonetheless, it will be an entertaining race to keep an eye on down the stretch.
At times you get the feeling Windsor D-man Ryan Ellis is too good to play in the Ontario League. The Spitfires are sure glad that he does.
After another outstanding week (nine points in three games), the Freelton, Ont., native is up to 19 goals and 79 points on the season, which places him seventh in the league. Oh, and he's put up those ridiculous totals in only 46 games.
That's a 1.72 point-per-game pace for those wondering. Only forwards Joey Hishon and Jason Akeson can lay claim to such a gaudy feat this year.
If he stays healthy and continues at his current clip, he will finish the season just shy of the century mark in points, roughly 10 more than his career-high 89 set in 2008-09.
And with 19 points in February and four games remaining, Ellis also has the chance to make this month the best of his junior career and surpass the 25- point October he had in '08.
The diminutive rearguard with a bomb from the point is also in the territory of becoming one of the highest-scoring defensemen in recent memory.
The last blueliner to notch 90-plus points in a season was Kingston's Chris Allen in 1997-98 and you have to go back to 1993-94 to find one who managed more than 100 (Jamie Rivers, Sudbury, 121).
With all due respect to the magical campaign put together by 17-year-old Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy (23-50-73), Ellis stands alone as the most dominating point-producing D-man this league has seen in a long while.
Owen Sound star Joey Hishon was slapped with a six-game suspension following his gloved punch to the face of unsuspecting Niagara center Ryan Strome.
Hishon was not penalized on the play, but IceDogs coach Marty Williamson was given a two-minute bench minor for tearing into the official and was subsequently suspended five games.
Oh, and Strome is now out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Where's the justice?
02/21 14:04:52 ET