While Thursday night prospect hockey did not have the down to the last second excitement of Wednesday night; the games that were played on Thursday involving New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects were about making every single point count.
The WHL and most of the QMJHL were off on Thursday, but for the teams that were playing in the OHL and QMJHL each game mattered. In the OHL there are 20 teams in the league and of those 20 teams, 18 are very much in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Go on a two-game winning or losing streak. and you could find yourself going from having home ice advantage to not having a playoff spot. It may be the end of January, but there's a lot of people doing a lot of scoreboard watching.
We start in Niagara where the IceDogs are fighting for both the Central division title and the OHL's Eastern conference first seed. They are having to do that without New York Islander prospect Ryan Strome (2011, 1st) who's out with facial injuries as well as their defenseman Dougie Hamilton who is serving a 10 game suspension.
That's leaving the IceDogs having to count on Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011, 7th) to step up his game in the absence of those missing. Theoret is strictly a role player who, while he tries to best he is not going make up what is missing.
The IceDogs were hosting the Belleville Bulls, who came into tonight's game on a five-game losing streak. Make it a six-game losing streak as Niagara with three goals in the first, and then three more in the third shutout the Bulls 6-0.
Theoret scored his 10th goal of the season at 1:38 of the third period, giving the IceDogs a 4-0 lead as they broke the game open. It is a new career-high in goals for Theoret as well as ending a seven-game pointless streak.
The win allowed the IceDogs to take over the lead in the OHL's Central division from the idle Brampton Battalion. Both teams have 61 points on the season but Niagara has 29 wins to Brampton's 26.
The win also pulls Niagara to within two points of Eastern conference leader Ottawa, who also had the night off.
JT Miller (NYR 2011, 1st) and his Plymouth Whalers have held a pretty healthy lead over the rest of the teams in the OHL's West division but they have been chasing OHL Western Conference leader the London Knights.
The Knights having lost on Wednesday gave the Whalers a chance on Thursday to pull within four points of first-place if they could beat the Barrie Colts. Miller set up Plymouth's first goal of the game at 5:56 of the first period as the Whalers led from wire to wire for a 4-1 win.
It was Miller's 29th assist and 44th point of the season as the Whalers won their second straight game
Peter Ceresnak (NYR 2011, 6th) broke a 12 game scoreless streak with a secondary assist on what turned out to be the game-winning goal as his Peterborough Petes had little trouble defeating the Kingston Frontenacs 5-1. It was Ceresnak first point since scoring a goal against Ottawa on December 3rd.
For Ceresnak it was his seventh assist on season bringing his overall point total to 4-7-11. Teammate Andrew Yogan (NYR 2010, 3rd) was scoreless for the third straight game, as well as a -1.
In the QMJHL, Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011, 5th) remains out an undisclosed upper body injury as his Baie-Comeau saw their four-game win streak end after a 3-1 loss to the Halifax Mooseheads. Noreau has now missed four straight games with no timetable for return.
The Drakkar are currently 10th overall in the QMJHL where 16 out of the 17 teams in the league make the playoffs.
(All images from Aaron Bell and Terry Wilson of OHL Images)
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