|Acadie-Bathurst Titan||Baie-Comeau Drakkar|
|Blainville-Boisbriand Armada||Cape Breton Screaming Eagles|
|Chicoutimi Sagueneens||Drummondville Voltigeurs|
|Gatineau Olympiques||Halifax Mooseheads|
|Moncton Wildcats||PEI Rocket|
|Quebec Remparts||Rimouski Oceanic|
|Rouyn-Noranda Huskies||Saint John Sea Dogs|
|Shawinigan Cataractes||Sherbrooke Phoenix|
|Val-d'Or Foreurs||Victoriaville Tigres|
|Brandon Wheat Kings|
|Edmonton Oil Kings|
|Medicine Hat Tigers|
|Moose Jaw Warriors|
|Prince Albert Raiders|
|Red Deer Rebels|
|Swift Current Broncos|
|Prince George Cougars|
BRAMPTON, Ont. – The Brampton Battalion figures to have its hands full when it hosts the high-scoring Plymouth Whalers at 7 p.m. Thursday. But then, as the Ontario Hockey League’s stingiest defensive squad, the Troops may prove well suited to the task.
The Battalion, which faces Plymouth for the first time this season, boasts a won-lost-extended record of 24-11-8 for 56 points, one ahead of the Niagara IceDogs in the Central Division and one behind the Ottawa 67’s in the Eastern Conference.
Plymouth, which lost 5-4 to the host Owen Sound Attack on Wednesday night, is 30-11-3 for 63 points atop the Midwest Division, two points behind the London Knights in the Western Conference.
The Battalion has allowed 2.51 goals a game, lowest in the OHL, while coach Michael Vellucci’s Whalers have scored 4.07 goals a game, second only to London’s 4.24. Plymouth, however, ranks third defensively at 2.70 goals against per game, while the Battalion has scored 3.09 goals a game, 16th in the league.
Stefan Noesen has scored 19 goals and earned 31 assists for 50 points in 39 games to lead Plymouth’s points production, while Alex Aleardi has 25 goals and 18 assists for 43 points in 44 games and Rickard Rakell 20 goals and 23 assists for 43 points in 37 games.
Andy Bathgate has contributed 14 goals and 27 assists for 41 points in 44 games, while fellow Brampton resident Scott Wedgewood may get the start in goal after partner Matt Mahalak tended the crease at Owen Sound.
“They’re one of the top teams in the West,” Battalion defenceman Zach Bell said of the Whalers.
“They have a lot of offensive power over there, and they’re a well coached team. They’re going to be a tough team, and it should be a good test for us. Everyone is going to be going for that game, and I’m really excited for the boys going in.”
Brampton resident Bell plays a prominent role on the back end as part of a shutdown tandem with Cameron Wind.
“It’s pretty rare to find me without Wind, both on and off the ice,” allowed Bell. “We’ve grown a strong friendship over a couple of years and become really close, so it’s really helped us know how to read each other on the ice.”
Said Battalion coach Stan Butler: “I think they work well together. They have a difficult role, but they cherish their role and do what they can with it.”
Said Bell: “The biggest thing with this team is our chemistry. Our team has really been gelling together. For the core of this team, this is the third year together, so we know each other really well. We know how to play together, and everyone is buying into the system.”
A fourth-round pick in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection, Bell has three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 37 games, exactly matching his equivalent totals last season in 63 games.
“It’s just keeping everything simple. Before this year I can’t remember the last time I’ve been part of a team that put wins like this together, so it’s been a special year.”
Three-year veteran Bell, who turns 19 on Feb. 13, credits the success of the defence corps to its chemistry.
“This is the second year the defence group has been together, and it’s been great. We know how to play together, we play hard every game and we’re there to help each other out when we need and give each other a pat on the back when we need it too.”
Butler, while pleased with the Troops’ performance, a showing that has defied preseason predictions, pointed to further progress.
“We’re still trying to improve. We have two months before playoffs, and we want to continue to improve every day at practice and with every game.”
Noted Butler: “We play well as a unit. The sum is better than the parts in the way that the strength of our team is our team.”