Tuesday, March 18, 2008

He Won Even Though His Team Lost

In hockey perhaps the most exciting game to be a part of is the seventh game of a playoff series. Win and it can be a highlight of a career, lose then can be one of most heartbreaking experiences as well.

Game 7s can make your hockey career or they can break it. For Greg Beller even though his Vernon Vipers dropped their Game 7 of their series with the Pentiction Vees, we believe his career has been reborn.

We can use all the corny cliches about hockey being a game of inches or about how one play can change momentum of a game. In the case of tonight's game 7 between Beller's Vernon Vipers and the Penticton Vees it was both.

In the second period with his Vernon Vipers trailing 2-1, Beller fired a shot that appeared to have been a goal which would have tied the game up at 2-2. The goal light went on but the ref who was in the proper position ruled that the puck first hit the post then the crossbar and did not go in. Had it gone in then this game 7 changes and becomes a brand new ballgame.

But it did not go in and seconds later the Vees scored to make it 3-1, they added another goal before the end of the period to go up 4-1. The Vipers never recovered and the game along with the series ended with a final score of 5-2.

For the Vipers who had rallied in the series from down 3 game to 1 to force this game 7it appeared that they simply had run out of gas. We had thought the Vipers were going to be eliminated in game 5 but they proved us wrong and they have nothing to be ashamed of.

Greg Beller in our eyes actually got better as the series went on, his play in key situations actually lived up to his original scouting report which said that "Beller is a big sized player with smaller player skills". For a player who basically had disappeared off the prospect map, this was a very nice re-introduction on his part.

No Ranger prospect has had the kind of bad luck like Beller had. In his draft year (2005), Beller broke his collarbone missing the first half of his season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. When he got healthy and returned to the lineup Beller broke the same collarbone and wound up missing the rest of his season.

Beller signed a letter of intent to attend Yale but when he got to the Ivy League school, Yale had changed coaches to someone who had not recruited Beller and knew nothing about him.

While Beller played his freshman season at Yale after missing the previous season you could see the rust in his game. Young players need ice time and in the case of Beller not only was he trying to come back from a season long injury but he was making the jump to Division 1 Hockey which is not an easy task.

As a sophomore, Beller found himself only playing 2 game for the Yale Bulldogs before finding himself being a healthy scratch until the holiday break. Yale never told us why Beller was not getting to play. The only thing that Yale would even say was that Beller had left Yale and that was it.

In our eyes Beller made the right move as if he was going to have any hope of restarting his career then he had to leave Yale and judging from his play with the Vernon Vipers it was a move that we think was the smartest move Beller could make.

For those who do not know about the BCHL, the league is classified as a "Junior A" which means players can keep their amateur status if the goal is to attend either a US or Canadian college. It
is a league that has produced in their time over 200 NHL players.

For Beller this gave him a chance to play as he got in 23 regular season games for the Vipers going 10-10-20 and then added 3 goals (2 goals were game winners in back to back games) and an assist in 10 playoff games. To us what will always stand out was 2 plays during Game 5 of this series.

The first was scoring a very clutch goal when his team was blowing a 5-2 lead holding on to a one goal lead at 5-4. All the momentum had swun go the Vees until Beller made a move that undressed the Penticton goalie to score what turned out to be the game winning goalie with 40 seconds remaining in the period.

The second happened mere moments after scoring the goal as Beller was on defense and one of the Vees was had made a move that left him with a wide open net to shot at but Beller dove and blocked the shot and laid on the puck as the horn sounded ending the period.

It was those 2 key plays that allowed the Vipers to rally to win game 5, then it was Beller who scored the game winner in game 6 to bring us to what happened on this Tuesday evening. Beller's team lost the game and the series but Beller won something; he won his hockey career back.

The Rangers have told us that they continue to hold Beller's draft rights until the season of his original graduating class which would be the 2010 season. Now we understand why they have not given up on Greg Beller.

When we find out what path Greg Beller takes next we will pass it along to you but we know that we very much will be watching him develop.

(Greg Beller picture courtesy of Yale)

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