Minor League Hockey
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OHL Roundup: Ottawa, Oshawa set for battle to the end

By Mackenzie Liddell, Contributing Editor

Toronto, Canada (Sports Network) - As Oshawa rode the hot shooting of superstar Christian Thomas to a perfect 3-0 week, the East Division leading Ottawa 67's failed to capitalize in close games, finishing 1-0-2 and relinquishing the opportunity to bury their rivals.

The Generals are now only three points back of the 67's with three games remaining and one in hand, including a showdown in Ottawa next Friday with home ice advantage potentially on the line.

Although it won't matter much in the first round, as the bottom four seeds pose little threat to their top-four counterparts, locking down home ice for when the competition amps up could be a major factor in moving forward.

Ottawa is among the best teams in its own barn, having lost only five times in regulation all year.

Oshawa, meanwhile, would benefit greatly from sneaking past Ottawa to take home ice away from the Niagara IceDogs (3rd in East) in the second round, if both teams survive the quarterfinal. The IceDogs are the league's most dominant team at home, having gone 25-3-4 on the season.

Considering the home team has won 80 percent of playoff series in the past three years, both teams have plenty to play for in the final week of the season.

PETERBOROUGH FALTERS DOWN THE STRETCH

The final spot in the Eastern conference is the only one still up for grabs heading into the final week of regular season play, but with Belleville holding a three-point buffer and the Petes winless in their past six, the abysmal race at the bottom looks to be all but over.

Although Peterborough is only three points back of Belleville for the elusive eighth seed, it faces the daunting task of having to climb an already steep hill while taking on Niagara and Oshawa in two of their remaining three games, after facing the Generals and Majors this past week.

Belleville has had a much more manageable stretch to close out the season: games against Sudbury, Barrie and Oshawa last week with Kingston, Sudbury and Brampton on tap this week.

While anything can happen, despite the grueling schedule, it appears the Petes will miss the post-season for the first time since 2006-07.

COACHES POLL REVEALS WEST'S FINEST

Although the OHL coaches poll is a light-hearted look into the minds of the men behind the bench, it reveals quite a bit about the intangibles of players that don't often show up in stats categories.

The following were some of the West's biggest winners and brightest stars in the eyes of the 10 Western Conference coaches:

Tyler Carroll

The 21-year-old Guelph forward was among the most unusual suspects in the 16- category poll.

Despite never putting up big numbers in his OHL career, the Storm captain was recognized for the subtle aspects of his game when he was named the most underrated player, beating out Saginaw's Jordan Szwarz, Kitchener's Michael Catenacci and London's Stephen Sanza.

He also took home best defensive forward honors by a large margin.

Nail Yakupov

The only rookie to receive votes, Yakupov won best shot, finished second for hardest shot and edged out Erie captain Greg McKegg as the most dangerous player in the goal area.

Joey Hishon

The shifty Colorado Avalanche prospect is clearly considered one of the conference's most dangerous and explosive forwards. Besides being recognized as the best stick handler for the second time in his career, Hishon was named the best playmaker and finished third as the smartest player.

Ryan Ellis

It's really no surprise to see Ellis' name among the league's best in multiple categories.

Voted the smartest player for the second time in his career, Ellis was deemed to have the hardest shot, was named the best offensive defenseman and was the runner-up as the best playmaker and finished third for best penalty killer.

Ryan Murphy

The other Ryan didn't fare too poorly in the coaches' eyes this season, either: best skater by a landslide and a runner up to Ellis as the West's smartest player and best offensive defenseman.

Other winners include Erie's David Shields (best defensive defenseman), Plymouth's Tyler Brown (best penalty killer), Saginaw's Anthony Camara (best body checker), Guelph's Michael Latta (best faceoff specialist), Owen Sound's Garrett Wilson (hardest worker) and Kitchener's Jason Akeson (most improved).

NOTES

With a hat trick against Kingston on Friday, Oshawa forward Thomas took over the goal-scoring race and became the OHL's second player to break 50 this season.

The New York Rangers prospect also set a new, unique record, as he and his father Steve Thomas became the only father-son duo in league history to reach the distinguished mark. Steve scored 51 goals with the Toronto Marlboros in 1983-84.

Following in the footsteps of teammate Tyler Brown, who recently signed an entry-level deal with the Flyers, Whalers' winger James Livingston was inked to a three-year deal by the San Jose Sharks.

03/16 13:58:37 ET