Since Connor McDavid came along in 2012, they’ve built a solid foundation and they continue to produce some of junior hockey’s biggest stars two years after McDavid moved on to the Edmonton Oilers.
This year alone, Alex DeBrincat has tied the OHL record for consecutive games with at least a goal with 19 and his 62 goals are tied for the most that anyone has scored in the last 10 years.
And let’s not forget the remarkable output from teammates Taylor and Darren Raddysh and Dylan Strome.
In comparison to Erie’s exploits, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have flown under the radar, but here we are entering the final week of the regular season and they’re only three points behind the Otters in the race for the Hamilton Spectator Trophy.
It’s a tough task to take on, but the Soo have three games to make up the difference and spoil Erie’s hopes of finishing with the league’s best record for the second straight year.
The Soo have back-to-back games against the Saginaw Spirit coming up, followed by their season finale against the London Knights while Erie has dates with London, Kitchener and Guelph to finish the season.
Like the Otters, the Greyhounds boast a potent offence, the second best in the league behind, you guessed it, Erie.
Soo’s leading scorer Bobby MacIntyre is also the league’s top point producing overager, Zachary Senyshyn has put together a second straight 40-plus goal season and Boris Katchouk has quietly recorded 61 points.
Meanwhile, captain Blake Speers might just be scratching the surface since he missed more than half of the season due to a wrist injury and time spent with the New Jersey Devils and Canada’s World Junior team.
As of late, they’ve turned to rookie Matthew Villalta in goal while Joseph Raaymakers has struggled.
He has 24 wins, a 2.47 goals against average and .915 save percentage in 31 games and has helped the Hounds earn 17 out of a possible 18 points in their last nine games.
Like last year, the Soo is one of the league’s least penalized teams. On the odd chance that they’re shorthanded, they have the league’s second best penalty kill to bail them out.
That should bode well in the playoffs, where they’re likely to at least advance past the first round for the fourth straight year.
Each time however, the Otters have eliminated them. Time will tell if they can avoid that fate again.
Erie (48-14-2-1): Three straight wins, midweek match against visiting London Tuesday, visit Kitchener Friday, host Guelph Saturday. 29-1-1-1 at home. League’s best powerplay. Erie has taken third least penalty minutes in the league.
Soo (46-15-3-1): 17 out of a possible 18 points in last nine games. Second best penalty kill. Soo have taken fourth least penalty minutes in the league. Matthew Villalta is 24-2 with a 2.47 GAA and .915 save percentage over 31 games. Raaymakers has struggled as of late.
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