By Aaron Bell
The Barrie Colts arent wasting any time in letting the rest of the league know that they are for real this season.
The Colts are in first place in the OHL with eight wins and have won seven in a row after opening the season with a 1-2 record.
They play an up-tempo game - especially with their speedy group of forwards - that has given their opponents fits this season.
”We have a really good team here and I think if we play a full 60 (minutes) there isnt a team in this league that can take us,” said forward Andreas Athanasiou. ”That’s the most important thing right now we have to come and play a full 60 and not let a shift off.”
The Colts have enjoyed terrific production from some familiar faces and some new ones as well. Returnees Mark Scheifele, who leads the team with 13 points, and Zach Hall have been joined at the top of the Colts statistics leaders by Anthony Camara and Athanasiou. Hall, Camara and Athanasiou all have 12 points so far this season.
Camara came to the Colts from the Saginaw Spirit at the trade deadline last year, while Athanasiou came from the London Knights this summer.
Athanasiou scored 33 goals in his first two OHL seasons with the Knights and looks like hes primed for a break-out season this year. He already has six goals this season - with all of them coming in the past five games.
“We have a lot of power in our forward and we carry a lot of speed,” Athanasiou said. ”That’s one of our biggest assets.”
Athanasiou has been playing with Hall and rookie Tyson Fawcett lately. They scored on their first shift in Thursday’s win against the Spirit to set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
“Our line has been really clicking,” Athanasiou said. When you get one on your first shift like that, it definitely sets things straight for the team and gets the team rolling. That’s the most important thing.”
Athanasiou enjoyed his first hat trick with the Colts last Thursday against the Spirit. He is leaving opposing goalies shaking their heads in awe of his offensive flair.
He scored the game-winner on Saturday night against the Wolves with another terrific individual effort.
“He’s always good for a highlight reel goal,” sophomore defenceman Jonathan Laser said. ”He’s got so much skill and it’s nice to see him put the puck in the back of the net.”
Sophomore Josh MacDonald has already surpassed his rookie season totals with four goals and 10 points this season. Second year centre Erik Bradford has five goals already this season and said that the team has been focused on taking advantage of their offensive chances.
“Quality chances are the biggest thing,” said Bradford, who scored five goals in 56 games as a rookie last season. ”You could have 40 shots a game but they could just be from the outside. The fact that we’re getting the quality chances is good for us because it gives us a chance to score every shot.”
Second year netminder Mathias Niederberger has carried the bulk of the load so far this season, picking up seven of their eight wins to date.
“We’ve been playing well in our own end but we’ve also been able to create some offence and score goals,” Niederberger said. ”That’s important to win games.”
Niederberger backstopped the Colts to three wins in three nights last weekend against Saginaw, Oshawa Generals and Sudbury Wolves.
“I like to help the team and that’s what Im here for,” Niederberger said. “I want to help the guys and I don’t care (about the workload) I want to play every game.”
Despite their early-season success, the Colts understand that its still early and they will have some work to do to keep ahead of the rest of the Eastern Conference the rest of the way.
“It’s always good to get the wins,” Laser said. I think we can still play better - we’re not quite where we want to be. It’s good that we’ve been getting the wins and that’s all that we can ask for.”