Friday, April 4, 2008

Mixed Results

One of the things we always like to see is how a prospect plays in the days after he has signed his first contract as they tend to go in one of two directions. The first direction which is the one we hate seeing is when the prospect thinks he has it made and coasts for a few games.

Then there is the kind of effort that we like to see which is what Ryan Hillier gave us on Friday night. Hillier played as if he was still fighting to earn his contract by playing a physical game, getting himself involved and even tossing in a goal for good measure.

It was good enough to earn Hillier the Game's Third Star as Hillier's Halifax Mooseheads took Game One of their QMJHL Quarterfinal series with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 4-2.

Hillier's 5th goal of the playoffs got the Mooseheads going as Hillier scored at 6:11 of the first period to give the Herd a 1-0 lead en route to a 4-2 Game One win and 1-0 series lead over the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. It was part of a 5 shot night where the Game's Third Star, Hillier could have had a couple more goals if not for the Eagle's goalie Olivier Roy.

But as we said it was a total involvement by Hillier as he was hitting, playing defense and giving us a good look at perhaps what might be a future Top 6 forward. As we said yesterday, the further Hillier gets to play into the QMJHL playoffs the more we believe Hillier will learn from his experience.

In it's own way this QMJHL Quarterfinal series between Hillier's Halifax Mooseheads and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles is being called "The Battle Of Nova Scotia" and it is shaping up to be just that. In it's own way this is the QMJHL's version of the Rangers/Islander's rivalry and we expect a lot more fireworks as this series progresses.

The Mooseheads are already upset over reading about how the Screaming Eagle's tireless work ethic was going to come into their own building and outwork the Mooseheads. Game one's message was Not In Our House.

One stat that is standing out for us about Ryan Hillier is that in all 5 of the Halifax playoff win this year, Hillier has at least one point in each win as in 7 games overall Hillier is 5-5-10, +5, 12 PIMs, 2 PPG and 2 game winners which is tied for the QMJHL playoff lead.

Game 2 will be on Saturday evening and you can watch the game for free via the internet by following the links at the QMJHL Welcome page located here.

33 seconds is a long time in a hockey game and for David Skokan's Rimouski Oceanic it led to the difference between stealing Game One on Rouyn-Noranda's home ice and a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss.

The Oceanic were hanging on to a 3-2 leading going into the game's final minute when Rouyn-Noranda pulled their goalie for the extra attacker. It is a story we have witnessed over and over where a team fails to clear the zone and pays for it by giving up a goal.

The Oceanic for most of Game One actually had the edge, Skokan was playing pretty well but the longer the game went it started to wear on the Ranger's 7th round pick who finished as scoreless but also a -2, 14-14 on his faceoffs but no shots on goal or any good hits.

If the Oceanic are going to have a chance at a second straight playoff series upset then Skokan is going to have to be factor at both ends of the ice.

We have to give Danny Hobbs and his Ohio Junior Bluejackets some serious kudos for not packing it in after being eliminated from the USHL playoff race.

Hobbs and his teammates have only one last goal left and that is to finish with a 500 record which they are one game away from accomplishing after defeating the Chicago Steel 4-2.

Maybe it was also a bit of revenge as it was the Steel who a week ago had eliminated the Junior Bluejackets from the playoff race but it does not matter why just that the Junior Bluejackets won.

Hobbs had an assist in the game on Ohio's 2nd goal of the evening to bring his numbers on the season to 15-16-31.

For Danny Hobbs, his USHL career will come to an end on Saturday against the Indiana Ice so we hope he ends it with a smile and a realization that while one door is closing the next one which is UMass/Amherst is getting ready to open.

(Pictures: Hillier/Halifax Mooseheads, Skokan/Rimouski Oceanic, Hobbs/USHL)

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