Sunday, April 6, 2008

This is Why We Love Hockey

You want to know why we love hockey? Easy because no other sport will give you 91:57 of playoff action that even though the team you are wanting to win loses that you still say what a game it was.

Hockey is a sport where a supposedly huge underdog can take the top seeded team to the extreme limits and know that they have as a good a chance at winning as anyone.

That was the fate of David Skokan and his Rimouski Oceanic as they played Game Two of their quarterfinal series against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on the Huskie's home ice. This was one heck of a game going into the second overtime before the Huskies scored a power play goal to earn a 2-1 win and a 2-0 series lead.

When the Huskies left their arena on Saturday evening they also knew just how close they have come to trailing in this series 2-0 as the Oceanic are giving them more of a fight than anyone could dream of.

The teams went back and forth all evening as the Oceanic fired 57 shots at the Huskie goalie Maxim Gougeon (all 5'9 of him and yes he is a UFA) but only were able to get one 2nd period goal past him. It was a magnificent effort by Gougeon who showed why the Huskies are a legit threat to win both the QMJHL Championship but the Memorial Cup as well.

As for David Skokan, while we would have loved to have seen more than the 2 shots on goal, it is hard to find fault when his defensive play is a good reason why the Huskies were held to just 33 shots in this game. Skokan went 16-12 on his faceoffs, a -1 and the already mentioned 2 shots on goal.

Now one question facing the Oceanic as the series shifts to their home ice for games 3 and 4 is will they take the knowledge that they could just as easy be up 2-0 in this series help them or will the heartbreak of losing back to back overtime games damage their confidence.

For us now we want to see David Skokan step up his game to help get the Oceanic back into this series. We know that he has not played badly but at the same time, Skokan has been a big game player and these next 2 games are huge. We will learn more about Skokan over the next 2 games.

OK let us get the other stuff out of the way, Ryan Hillier had an assist as his Halifax Mooseheads took a 2-0 series lead after they escaped with a 5-4 win over the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

For Hillier it was his 6th assist and 11th point of the playoffs. The Mooseheads are now 6-0 when Hillier has at least one point in the QMJHL playoff games.

Just on the scoresheet,m Hillier looks very good as in addition to the 1 assist, Hillier was a +3 and was credited with 4 excellent scoring chances. There is however one stat that we are very disappointed in which is the 6 PIMs that Hillier took.

We really like Ryan Hillier and have made no secret of it here but when one of our prospects plays like Hillier did in Game 2 we are also going to let him know about it.

The first penalty was a hooking call with the Mooseheads up 2-0 and of course the Screaming Eagles cashed in on their power play to get back into a game that was bordering on becoming a blowout. Taking the penalty was bad enough but as Hillier was leaving the penalty box after the goal, Hillier opened his mouth and earned an unsportsmanlike conduct to put him right back in the box.

And of course the Screaming Eagles cashed in on that power play to tie the game at 2-2. A totally undisciplined penalty for Hillier to take and correctly Hillier was benched for the rest of the period.

In the second period, Hillier was given a second chance but takes another penalty just 4 minutes later which is going to again cost him some ice time. Hillier simply did not use his head in this game one night after playing with a solid effort and IF he does this at the next level he will find himself spending time in the press box and not on the ice.

Hillier owes his teammates huge here and we will be watching to see how he comes out to play in Game 3 on Tuesday. In the last series, Hillier was invisible for games 3 and 4 (he got benched in game 4) so now he really must respond with a disciplined effort.

This year was our first dealing with the folks of the USHL and before we go any further we must tell people how much we greatly appreciated the help we got from some of the great people in this league.

Jon Garver who is the Director of Media and Public Relations for the USHL. He has kept us in the loop with all the news about his league and was always so very helpful in explaining how the USHL operated. We really look forward to working with him again.

J. Ryan Mulcrone does double duty as he not only does media relations for the Ohio Junior Bluejackets but is also the Multimedia Manager for the Columbus Bluejackets who run the Ohio Junior Bluejackets. Ryan helped us do our profile on Danny Hobbs and got us access that we normally would not have had.

We are glad that the Bluejackets are in the Western Conference because folks like Ryan and also Michael Schwartz who we really think should have the "intern" label removed from his title because Michael was no intern in our book. When Hobbs was injured, Michael kept us in the loop.

As for Danny Hobbs, the next time we see him it will be as a member of UMass/Amherst Minutemen as he will not like how his USHL career ended. Hobbs and his Ohio Junior Bluejackets got blown out by the Indiana Ice 7-0.

We will leave it at that and instead just cover that Hobbs finished the season 15-16-31 in 54 games. Hobbs was also a -5 (after going a -28 last season) with 22 PIMs, 4 PPG, 7 PPA, 1 SHG and 3 Game Winners.

For his career Hobbs in 114 USHL games was 25-27-52, -33, 58 PIMs. We will be watching Danny over the next 4 years.

Tomorrow we want to bring you a report from our friends at the International Ice Hockey Federation on a visit that the Rangers had this past week to Europe as part of getting ready for the Victoria Cup next fall.

We are bringing this up NOW because Ranger fans should realize that to the Europeans taking on the Rangers is going to be a very big thing for them.

(Pictures Skokan/Rimouski Oceanic, Hillier/Halifax Mooseheads. Danny Hobbs/Ohio Junior Bluejackets (USHL))

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