This week has not been the best for those who cover prospect hockey but 2 Ranger prospects reminded us of exactly why prospect hockey can be at times even more exciting than the NHL brand by putting one heck of a show for us.
Tomas Zaborsky and his Saginaw Spirit hostied Bobby Sanguinetti and his Brampton Battalion in a key OHL match up for both teams. The 2 teams played this game with playoff like intensity as the Spirit edged the Battalion 4-3.
This was the only time during the regular season that both prospects were going to face each other. Sanguinetti had missed the previous meeting of the 2 teams as he was playing for Team USA at the time.
For us this was a hard game to root for because we liked everyone involved with the game from the players to the media relations guys who have been such a great help by making sure you folks got to hear news about the players or even sending us these action shots that we are using here.
Both Ranger prospects played well tonight but the edge in play had to go to Zaborsky as he had a goal and 2 assists along with a +3 to earn the game's 2nd Star of the Night honors. That is not to say that Sanguinetti did nothing either as he was just as much a factor in his own right.
Sanguinetti had a goal and an assist but was even in the plus/minus for the evening. It was just special to see this effort from both players as between the 2 they had an hand in the first 5 goals of the game.
Zaborsky got the evening going when he set up teammate Brad Smith for his 3rd goal of the season to give the Spirit a 1-0 lead at 9:38 of the first period. The Spirit took that 1-0 lead into the 1st intermission
In the 2nd period, Zaborsky added his 2nd assist of the evening when he started the play that led to Jordan Szwarz scoring his 10th goal of the season at 12:26. 32 seconds later Sanguinetti got his Battalion team right back into the game by setting up teammate John Hughes for his 28th goal of the season to cut the Spirit lead to 2-1 at 12:58. The Spirit took that 1 goal lead into the 2nd intermission.
In the 3rd period Sanguinetti took matters into his own hands as he scored his 22nd goal of the season to tie the game at 2-2 at 7:10. Zaborsky then broke the tie to give the Spirit a 3-2 with his 27th goal of the season close to 90 seconds later at 8:37.
The Battalion tied the game at 3-3 at 14:45 but the Spirit then scored what proved to be the game winner 20 seconds later at 15:05. This performance here was the best by a combination of Ranger prospects in all the time we have been covering them.
Both Zaborsky and Sanguinetti deserve high praise for their efforts in this game and one has to wonder how exciting it will be when both are teammates instead of opponents.
For those of you who want all the numbers we will start with Zaborsky as his 3 point night brings him to 27-32-57 along with a +7 for the season.
Bobby Sanguinetti's 1-1-2 for the evening allows him to reclaim the prospect scoring lead passing Ryan Hillier as Sanguinetti is now 22-37-59 also a +7 on the season. The race for the prospect scoring title is going to go down to the wire as 3 players are 57,58, and 59 for the year which is yet another Ranger prospect first.
However all was not nice for the 3rd member of the prospect scoring leaders as Ryan Hillier's Halifax Mooseheads continued their Rangerish up and down play dropping a 5-1 home decision to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. For Hillier himself he is doing his own imitation of Jarmoir Jagr as he has now gone 6 games without a point and just 1-2-3 in his last 13 games.
Hillier found himself dropped down to the 3rd line this evening as he is simply not getting any kind of breaks as while he had 2 shots on goal, his best chance was robbed by the Cape Breton goalie.
Just like Jagr it is not because Hillier is not trying but it seems that the harder he works to break out of his slump then the more frustrating it gets for him. Our advice to Ryan is simple, just keep throwing the puck on net and one garbage goal will get your scoring back on track.
The Winterhawks Tell Their Side
Jason Vondersmith of the Portland Tribune in their Friday editions got the Portland Winterhawk management to address all the recent rumors and reports surrounding the team in a well written report here.
In that report, the team President Jack Donovan acknowledges that the team has been in fact behind in their bills almost to the tune of $250,000. For being behind the team has drawn a rebuke from the WHL offices but the Winterhawks claim bills will be paid but "they are slow".
I even can accept and understand their explanation as to why players are in fact being sent to Canada for surgery but the tone and explanation does make me wonder about their sincerity.
When you put the health of teenage kids into dollars then you do not look good.
These families trust the Winterhawks with their child's life and you should choose your words more carefully. The meaning makes sense but the wording really looks bad.
However I am not going to feel sorry for the current ownership group when they complain about the lease situation they say they are in. For supposedly smart businessmen didn't any of them do any homework before purchasing the team 2 years ago?
Hello you guys did have lawyers, accountants and consultants look over every aspect of the franchise before you purchased the team didn't you? If you did not then can I interest you in the 42nd Street Bridge in Manhattan (one owner is from New York City) at a reasonable price?
What bothers me is that the WHL is saying all those same things that tend to be the beginning of a franchise leaving town. WHL commissioner Ron Robison is quoted as saying “In the U.S., the Portland market is our anchor location. We need Portland to work,” he says. “We don’t have any interest in leaving Portland.”
Then 2 paragraphs later he also says “It’s the No. 1 priority in the league,” Robison says, of the Winter Hawks’ fortunes. He calls the team’s lease the worst of the WHL’s 22 clubs."
However if I was the WHL commissioner, I would be encouraging the current ownership to sell because just like the Dolans have alienated the sports fans of New York so have this group with the Winterhawks. As long as the current group remains it is going to be near impossible to mend fences with the fan base especially after all that has happened.
When you have the team president Jack Donovan saying “We’re the new fools. But we’re moving in a direction now. Before (the ownership change), there wasn’t much of a future.” Then you have people wondering if they can believe them when they speak,
These owners came to Oregon full of promises and tons of talk but here is what has happened:
A legendary announcer Dean Vrooman resigned under circumstances that most fans think suggest he was forced out.
The team has had back to bad last place finishes with the second one getting worse than the first one was.
Last Monday the team played with just 14 skaters and one has to wonder why even with injuries.
Perhaps the poorest of moves has to be one owner Jim Goldsmith naming himself Director Of Hockey Operations, a role for which he has no hockey background for. Toss in that the team did not even have a director of player personnel until well after the season started and this is a bad mix of everything.
Ranger fans will understand this part as when you go to any Winterhawk message board you see angry and frustrated fans who do not believe the team is doing anything to "right the ship".
As someone who covers the prospect world I repeat what I said yesterday as I would not allow my 15-16 year old to come play for the Winterhawks but now it is because I do not believe the current ownership has any idea as how to operate a hockey franchise.
To fix the Winterhawks the first thing the team must do is put a hockey person in charge of hockey operations. Let the owners work on the business side but to rebuild you need to have real hockey people not a businessman as your public face.
Hiring a hockey person also shows your fan base that you are serious about fixing the team, you want to increase attendance then give me a reason why to believe you. The Winterhawk fans keep hearing in 2 years the team will be a winner, as someone who covers junior hockey I would have to say I disagree.
See I see those very young players (the 15,16,17 year olds) who Portland believes is part of their future as seeing all the problems this franchise is having and are not going to be very confident about placing their hockey future in the current ownership's hands. Parents who are reading all these reports are going to be very suspect about placing their children in the care of the Winterhawks unless they see major improvements by the franchise.
If parents have to worry about the food their kids are being fed (a rumor that was false), about having to supply them with their own sticks (when the team is supposed to) and questions about their medical care then would you put your child in that situation?
The best option if they are not going to sell the team would be for the ownership to reduce their public profile and put a real hockey person in charge of the franchise. As long as they remain so public then fan confidence is not going to be easy to rebuild.
Big Game Friday
We were informed that CSTV is going to be changing their name to CBS College Sports Network in March. Given how for the 4th straight Friday evening they will be showing Carl Hagelin and his top ranked Michigan Wolverines we thought they were going to simply call themselves Blue TV.
Seriously once again Hagelin's Wolverines are going to be featured on Friday night hockey, this week going up against in-state rival Michigan State. The game will start at 8PM EDT/5 PM PDT.
A Huge Thank You
One of our readers did what pictures on milk cartons, stick drawings and search dogs could not do and that was locate the whereabouts of 2005 6th round draft pick Greg Beller. Beller who when we last saw him had left Yale to parts unknown until Nick posted asking if it was normal for someone to be playing at Yale and then in the BCHL.
Well Nick the answer is no it is not normal but what happened with Beller was not normal, at the time the sophomore had only appeared in 2 counting games for Yale when the holiday break came along and it did not appear that he was going to get back into the starting lineup so he left Yale.
Thanks to Nick we have located Beller playing for the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL which while it means that his days as Ranger prospect are about to end his ability to play for another college will remain intact.
We hope to talk to the Vipers tomorrow and find out how Beller has been doing other that a 9-7-16 in 21 games.
(Picture credits: Zaborsky/Saginaw Spirit (OHL), Sanguinetti/Brampton Battalion (OHL))
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