Even with a 15-game winning streak through December and January, a stretch that makes up for almost a quarter of the OHL regular season, the best the Owen Sound Attack have been able to do is climb up to fourth in the Western Conference.
It’s really goes to show just how strong the West is this year.
As teams embark on the last lap of the regular season, the Erie Otters are in first place in the conference with a slim six-point lead over the London Knights.
Sandwiched between them are the West Division-leading Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds while the Attack and Memorial Cup hosting Windsor Spitfires are still in the mix of teams who could occupy one of the top two spots by season’s end.
They’ve all clinched playoff spots with a month left to go in the season.
The Otters and Knights are the most likely candidates to meet in a rematch of last year’s conference final, and their moves at the trade deadline suggest they’re clearly all in on a title chase.
As Memorial Cup hosts, the same can be said for the Spitfires, who also loaded up with talent knowing their spot in the Memorial Cup has been secured.
Meanwhile, Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie are still in the mix despite only making some minor upgrades before the deadline.
The Attack have gotten a lot out of their biggest acquisition, former Barrie Colts captain Cordell James, who’s averaging more than a point per game now in his new jersey.
As for their Greyhounds, their defensive depth has been bolstered by Carolina Hurricanes prospect Noah Carrol, who had a plus-2 rating on a Guelph Storm team that has given up 60 more goals than they’ve scored this season.
With a 12-point advantage between fifth and sixth place in the West, it’s likely that no one else will sneak into the top five in time for the playoffs.
That will set up a very challenging first-round playoff series between the fourth and fifth place teams, spots that are currently occupied by the Attack and Spitfires, teams that have arguably the best two goalies in the league in Michael McNiven and Michael DiPietro.
By no means is that meant to suggest that they will end up playing each other, but it would be one of the most marquee first-round matchups in recent memory.
It could pose a real threat to Windsor’s playoff hopes as no team hosting the Memorial Cup wants to fall short in their league final, let alone the opening round.
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