OHL notebook: Highlights, lowlights

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:36 PM ET

TORONTO - The Ontario Hockey League’s week-long Christmas hiatus, the unofficial midway point of the season, is always a good time for Santa to double check his list for who’s been naughty and nice.

Some will get a bow-tied gift left under the tree. Those deemed to be naughty will get Nickelback CDs, since there is a shortage of coal this year and, well, a lump of the black stuff does nothing for the environment.

Let’s start with the Brampton Battalion, as good a group of boys as the OHL has seen this season. The Central Division-leading Battalion, made up largely of plumbers and muckers with a sprinkle of young talent thrown in, headed home for the holidays one point out of the Eastern Conference lead thanks to a six-game winning streak.

Brampton’s surprising success — nobody had Brampton contending for the conference title this season — is a testament to Stan Butler’s coaching, as well as the goaltending of import Matej Machovsky and 19-year-old backup Keegan Wilson, who was playing junior C hockey at this time last year.

Barrie Colts forward Tanner Pearson can also expect to find something nice under his tree, whenever he gets to unwrap it. A little thing called the world junior championship is going to delay his family holiday celebration.

But if there’s been a better story in junior hockey than Pearson this season, I haven’t seen it.

Hockey Canada wouldn’t have known Tanner Pearson from Lester Pearson before this season but they sure do now. The 19-year-old from Kitchener, twice overlooked in the NHL draft, leads the OHL in scoring and, incredibly, made Team Canada. He might even play on the top line.

Fans who support teams in the Eastern Conference should also check under their trees come Christmas morning.

Sure, parity might not be a big-ticket gift like a new 60-inch flat-screen TV but, believe it or not, it’s a win-win situation for everyone. With so much on the line every night — back-to-back losses can drop a team from fifth to eight, it seems — the intensity of the hockey is sure to be ramped up. It’s almost like the playoffs have come early.

But not everyone’s on Santa’s “nice” list.

Anyone who’s been suspended 10 games or more this season — the list is far too long for me to include everyone; you know who you are — should get the entire Nickelback catalogue, fer crying out loud. And a little Justin Bieber to add to the torment.

The Oshawa Generals, the whole lot of ‘em, are on the naughty list, too. Despite being front-loaded with talent, the Gens have been the picture of inconsistency and are currently out of a playoff spot with a 13-18-1-3 record. Of course, if GM Chris DePiero finds a couple of stud defencemen and maybe a goalie under the tree, the season could be saved in the ‘Shwa.

Compared to the Erie Otters, though ... hey, maybe things aren’t that bad after all.

NOT AGAIN ...

Another in the seemingly never-ending list of suspension announcements issued by the league came across my desk Monday.

This time it is Kingston Frontenacs forward Connor Stokes getting a 10-game ban, the result of a hit to the head on Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors rookie forward Brett Foy on Friday. It’s the umpteenth time the OHL has handed out 10 games or more for an illegal hit this season and, frankly, it’s getting a little sickening.

Not the suspensions, the head shots.

Clearly the players aren’t getting the message, even though the league has upped the ante and started getting more punitive about the whole process. I’m hopeful it will eventually sink in that the head is completely out of bounds — maybe glowing helmets would help — but until it does, Dave Branch has to keep whacking the players with the big bans.

DEUTSCH NO DUDS

Five players from the OHL helped Germany win gold at the 2012 IIHF U-20 Division I Group A world championship on home soil.

Barrie Colts goaltender Mathias Niederberger was named the tourney’s top goaltender after going 5-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average while forward Tobias Rieder of the Kitchener Rangers, a fourth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers last summer, led all scorers with five goals and eight assists. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward David Elsner, Sarnia Sting centre Nickolas Latta and Oshawa Generals forward Sebastien Uvira also played on the German team.

By winning the lower division, Germany has been promoted to the 2013 world junior tournament in Ufa, Russia.

Norwegian Maple Leafs prospect Sondre Olden of the Erie Otters was named the tournament’s top forward.

EASTERN DOMINATION

Niagara IceDogs forward Andrew Agozzino continued the Eastern Conference’s domination of the OHL player of the week award Monday.

Agozzino won the award for the week ending Sunday, the ninth time in 13 weeks that a player from the Eastern Conference has been named the league’s best. The IceDogs’ overager had two goals and five assists in a pair of games.

Philip Lane (Brampton), Christian Thomas (Oshawa), Brendan Gaunce (Belleville), Tanner Pearson (Barrie; twice), Ryan Spooner (Kingston), Matt Puempel (Peterborough) and Shane Prince (Ottawa) have been previous winners.


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