Stoney Point - February 21, 2019 - Classy kid that Michael DiPietro is. This weekend, I read with interest on Twitter that Paige Morton and her family drove 561 kilometres from Paris, Ontario to Ottawa to see DiPietro play. Sadly, it wasn’t a game that DiPietro was scheduled to play in. He saw the sign that Paige had made and reached out. Mikey organized a tour of the 67’s dressing room, got her a signed stick and then invited her to skate on the Rideau Canal with the team on Saturday. They raced and she won.
The family returned on Sunday to see Mikey backstop the 67’s to a 6-3 victory over the visiting Kitchener Rangers. This generosity is something that Spits fans have seen many times before from the popular goaltender. You are a class act Mikey!
The Lakeshore Canadiens swept the Wheatley Sharks 4-0 in the first round of the Provincial Junior Hockey League playoffs. Their second round opponent is the Dresden Kings. Dresden took game one of the series 3-0 in Lakeshore. The Habs bounced back with a 4-1 win last night in Dresden to even the series at one game apiece. Game three goes Friday at the Atlas Tube Centre with game four set for Sunday night. The Canadiens have home ice advantage in the series.
Bracco on Fire
Spits Alumnus Jeremy Bracco is having a good season in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies. Bracco has registered 15 goals and 54 points in 53 games so far this season. He currently sits in third place in league scoring and his 39 assists is the highest in the league. Bracco is currently on a three game scoring streak having registered two goals and three assists in that time. The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday and it can also be impactful for AHL players as well. It will be interesting to see if any potential trades give Bracco a shot to finish the year in the NHL. Time will tell.
Gardiner supports Special Olympics
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics movement, the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational Youth Games will bring together 2,000 student-athletes from around the world to Toronto, May 14th to 17th, 2019. Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner is a big supporter of the event. His wife’s brother is a special athlete in Minnesota.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, Gardiner and Women of Influence Co-CEO Stephania Varalli came together to officially launch the Draft an Athlete campaign, calling upon businesses, communities, schools and Canadians coast to coast to rally behind the effort. An estimated $2M will be required to successfully draft upwards of 2,000 athletes from across Canada, the US and the globe who are hoping to attend the games. Gardiner said this event hits home for him and he was happy to sponsor five athletes.
If the NHL playoffs began today, there would be some interesting playoff matches. In this list, the second team will have home ice advantage. In the Eastern Conference, it would be the Columbus Blue Jackets vs the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs vs the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens vs the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on the Washington Capitals.
In the Western Conference, it would be the Colorado Avalanche vs the Calgary Flames, the Vegas Golden Knights vs the San Jose Sharks, the Dallas Stars vs the Winnipeg Jets and the St. Louis Blues taking on the Nashville Predators.
A lot can still change. In the West, all nine non-playoff teams today are only 9 points out of a playoff spot with 21-23 games remaining. In the West there are five non-playoff team within 9 points of the playoffs. Interestingly, the Maple Leafs currently are the third seed in the Atlantic Division but would be the top seed in the Metropolitan. I know that the NHL was trying to get some divisional rivalries going with this format, but there seems to be a growing appetite for a 1-8/2-7/3-6/4-5 Conference format.
Quickly that would result in the following match-ups. CBJ vs TB, MTL vs BOS, PIT vs TOR, and WSH vs NYI in the east. Over in the west, it would be COL vs CAL, SJ vs DAL, VGK vs WPG, and STL vs NSH.
Speaking of playoffs, the Windsor Spitfires are in a battle for the final OHL Western Conference playoff spot. The Spits have 10 games remaining and sit five points ahead of the Erie Otters for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Otters have two games in hand on the Spits. Interestingly, the Spits are only five points back of the Owen Sound Attack for the fifth seed. Some meaningful games lie ahead.