Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tying One or Two On

Tonight's Star

Got to hand it to the folks in the OHL as when they take pictures as you can see to your left that they do some great work. The picture you are looking at is of the hottest Ranger prospect; 2008 3rd Round Pick Evgeny Grachev of the Brampton Battalion.

Grachev extended his point scoring streak to 6 games as the Battalion extended their winning streak to 5 games with a 4-2 win over the Barrie Colts on Friday evening.

What more can be said of Grachev that we have not already been saying over the last 3 weeks about his improved play? At now 3-4-7, Grachev is showing that his adjustment to the North American game is coming along much faster than expected.

The win also vaulted the Battalion into first place over Barrie in the OHL's Central Division as the Troop are now over the 500 mark with a 7-6 record.

School Dazed

The Ranger college prospect report might wind up looking rather confusing so we are glad that nobody has to take any exams to explain how things wound up. 3 college prospects played, 2 wound up in ties and the 3rd got to play in their school's first shoot out.

Danny Hobb's UMASS Minutemen traveled to New Hampshire to face the 3rd ranked Wildcats in Hockey East action. The Minutemen were able to take one of college hockey's best teams to the limit and come away with a 1-1 tie.

We called this one a win for UMASS because the young Minutemen stood up and fought the Wildcats in what was a penalty dominated game. Hobbs looked strong in this came as Hobbs (2007 7th) and his linemates almost stole the game for UMASS in the 3rd period with some solid scoring chances.

The Minutemen are 2-1-1 on the season and will finally get a chance to play a home game on Halloween against Providence.

When your opposition out shoots you 40-19 but you can walk away with a 2-1 shoot out win then someone really has to call it a lucky win. That much was the case as Max Campbell's Western Michigan Broncos won their first win in school history via the shoot out over Ferris State.

For Campbell it was a return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch last Saturday and his efforts showed that Campbell needs to work more on his game. Campbell went 7-7 on his face offs and only got off 2 shots but the improvement in the effort was there so there is more hope for Campbell.

Now comes the confusing part as even though Western Michigan won in the shoot out, the game goes into the CCHA standings as a tie so WMU is 1-3-1. Why bother with a shoot out if you do not earn a win from it? The better question is how can WMU call it a win if the standings call it a tie?

Then when you look at a team's record of 0-4-1 then the first reaction is to think that a team with that kind of record has to be bad. That is so not the case with Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) and his Wisconsin Badgers who wound up with a 2-2 overtime tie with 6th ranked Minnesota on Friday evening.

The Badgers have to be the best 0-4-1 team in college hockey as using the current poll positions, the Badgers have lost to 2nd ranked Denver (twice), 3rd ranked New Hampshire, 4th ranked Boston College as well as this game against the Golden Gophers.

The Badgers can blame themselves for the tie as they did give up a 2-0 lead in this game before settling for the tie. Derek Stepan still is in search of his first NCAA goal was moved to right wing for this game on the second line.

Stepan looked more comfortable on the wing than he has at center but it does look like Stepan is still adjusting to the speed of Division One hockey but he is very close to breaking out. The confidence level is getting there so all we see Stepan as needing to do is not try to make everything happen all at once.

In the Canadian Juniors

In the QMJHL, Chris Doyle (2008 5th) was back as the second line center recording an assist as well as going 13-6 on his face offs as his Prince Edward Island Rocket earned a 5-3 road win over the Val-d'Or Foreurs in a game that was closer than the score indicates.

Doyle set up teammate Matthew Lachaine's 3rd goal of the season on the power play in the 2nd period as the Rocket scored 3 goals in the period and then hung on for the win.Doyle remains the leading scorer among Ranger prospects but now is also the Rocket's leading scorer as well at 5-12-17.

In the OHL, Michael Del Zotto had a frustrating evening as the Rangers 2008 1st round pick was held scoreless but was a -3 as his Oshawa Generals were edged on the road 5-4 to the Kingston Frontenacs.

As has been the case for this season, when Del Zotto does not score then the chances of the General's winning goes down. The Generals may have John Tavares (the OHL's leading scorer) but without help from Del Zotto and others then the Generals will struggle to find ways to win.

Just How Lucky Was Tom Renney?

We know this will fall on deaf ears at the NHL level as looking pretty tends to out weigh someone's safety BUT we will say this anyway. Will we need to wait for a coach, trainer or anyone else to get hurt or killed before helmets are required in the bench area or during practice?

We know this is hockey and you will say this was a fluke that Renney got hit in the face by a stick. But honestly folks how many of you who was watching what happened and saw the way Renney looked that it did not make you think of that video of Alexi Cherepanov.

Requiring people to wear helmets on the bench is something that nobody at the NHL is will to talk about but those of us who follow hockey at the lower levels have already seen two tragic incidents involving coaches this season alone.

Last year a minor league first base coach died after being struck by a line drive, a hockey puck in our eyes is harder and comes at you with more force. To watch what happened to Tom Renney was enough for us to bring this subject up in the hopes of stirring a debate on the matter.

And this is not about being tough it is about being smart, safe and protecting the health of people.

That alone is always worth talking about.

(Grachev picture courtesy of the OHL/Brampton Battalion)

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