Battalion storms up in the ranks

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Now here's a topic many Ontario Hockey League prognosticators weren't discussing before the regular season began in September: Brampton Battalion, conference leaders.

A perch atop the Eastern Conference is where the Battalion sits at the quarter-mark after capping a perfect weekend with a 4-1 victory against the Plymouth Whalers yesterday at the Brampton Sports Centre.

"I think early season ratings are out the window now," captain Ryan Oulahen said. "It's totally different. We're at the top and every team is going to gun for us. It's harder to stay there than to get there."

Brampton's win was its third in less than 48 hours, following triumphs at St. Michael's on Friday night and in Windsor on Saturday afternoon. The Battalion, which had lost three in a row entering the weekend, is 10-5-2, good for 22 points. Three clubs in the conference - Mississauga, Belleville and Peterborough - have 19 points each. Only the unstoppable London Knights, at 14-0-1 and 29 points, are ahead of the Battalion.

Oulahen scored a short-handed goal for the winner and Colorado Avalanche first-rounder Wojtek Wolski also scored, but it was a group of unsung players who spearheaded the win before only 1,590.

The line of sophomore John Seymour and rookies J.F. Houle and Graham McNabb, the latter in his first OHL game, produced a pair of goals by Houle and was Brampton's best trio from start to finish.

Coach Stan Butler tries to roll four lines when others would use three and yesterday was rewarded for that.

"I thought it went pretty good, better than I thought it would, actually," McNabb, who had an assist, said of his debut. "I'm really hoping to get in more often. It was huge for my confidence."

Winger Luch Aquino, who has 18 points to share the Battalion scoring lead with Oulahen, was carried off the ice on a stretcher late in the third period after sliding into the boards head-first.

Aquino was walking under his own power after the game but will be monitored for concussion symptoms this week. And Brampton's top defenceman, Phil Oreskovic, was forced out after he stepped on a meat hook in his garage on Saturday night.

Oreskovic suffered three puncture wounds on the bottom of his left foot but he is expected to play in the Battalion's next game, on Friday in Kingston versus the Frontenacs.


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