After three straight fourth place finishes in arguably the toughest division in the CHL, the Owen Sound Attack are getting people’s attention following a franchise record 15-game winning streak that spanned much of December and January.
Competing in the Midwest Division alongside perennial contenders in London and Erie as well as the often competitive Kitchener Rangers and 2014 OHL Champion Guelph Storm, easy points are often hard to come by for the Attack, but this reality hasn’t stopped them.
Backed by one of the OHL’s best netminders in Montreal Canadiens prospect Michael McNiven, an underrated defence corps and a committee of forwards on the rise, the Attack have quietly become a pillar of consistency in the Western Conference.
“This is probably the best team I’ve ever been a part of,” said overage captain Santino Centorame who was recently named the OHL’s Defenceman of the Month for January. “We’re a hard team to play against and we take a lot of pride in that. There’s a focus on physical play and team defence and that has led to success.”
Head coach Ryan McGill, who led the Kootenay Ice to a Mastercard Memorial Cup title in 2002, has brought a physical WHL brand to the Sound, one that hasn’t compromised the club’s discipline as they remain one of the least penalized teams in the OHL.
“We play on the edge,” Centorame continued, “but we know that with our schedule we have to stay out of the box. As you get into the playoffs special teams often decide games and you give yourself a better chance of winning when you aren’t taking penalties. We don’t want to be taking more than three in a game.”
The Attack have surrendered an OHL-low 127 goals and boast the league’s third ranked power play (23.6%) and sixth ranked penalty kill (83.7%).
While McNiven and company have kept pucks out, a group of up-and-coming forwards has worked together to power the team offensively. Led by Finnish flash Petrus Palmu and third-year draft eligible winger Jonah Gadjovich, sophomores Nick Suzuki and Kevin Hancock have also recorded over a point-per-game while trade deadline acquisition Cordell James has seamlessly stepped into his new role.
“With those young guys like Suzuki and Hancock it’s been nice to see them grow as players and as people since coming into the league,” Centorame noted. “Those young players, as well as guys like Markus Phillips and Maksim Sushko just seem to be getting better and better.”
After going 8-7-0-0 throught their first 15 games of the season, the Attack turned things around midway through November and haven’t looked back, defeating some of the league’s best teams in the process.
“We had a stretch where we didn’t play our best hockey, but we pulled together and fixed some mistakes,” said Centorame. “I think we’ve worked hard to improve in many areas and we’ve come together as a team through that process.”
Following a 5-2 win in Hamilton on Wednesday, the Attack sit third in the Midwest Division behind high-powered London and Erie, boasting a 34-14-1-1 record with wins in eight of their last 10 games. They hit the road on Saturday and Sunday with games in Ottawa and Kingston.
READ MORE CHL TOP-10 SPOTLIGHT FEATURES:
- Sept. 21: London Knights
- Sept. 28: Saint John Sea Dogs
- Oct. 6: Prince George Cougars
- Oct. 12: Hamilton Bulldogs
- Oct. 19: Shawinigan Cataractes
- Oct. 26: Regina Pats
- Nov. 2: Erie Otters
- Nov. 10: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
- Nov. 17: Everett Silvertips
- Nov. 23: Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
- Nov. 30: Medicine Hat Tigers
- Dec. 7: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
- Dec. 14: Windsor Spitfires