Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reality Checks In

This was supposed to be about the head to head matchup between 2 of the top Ranger 2008 draft picks Michael Del Zotto (London) and Evgeny Grachev (Brampton). However the talk was more about the bus accident involving the Albany River Rats of the AHL.

If you did not know, early Thursday the bus that the River Rats (a Carolina farm team) were riding on flipped over onto it's side while traveling on I-90 in western Massachusetts. The accident sent the entire team and staff to local hospitals where most were treated and released

Thankfully nobody was killed but 4 were seriously injured including former Rangers 2004 8th round pick Jonathan Paiement who remains at the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield with serious but non-life threatening injuries.

Also on the bus with a Rangers connection were Dwight Helminen (Hartford 2004-07) and Jakub Petruzalek (2004 9th) but both escaped serious injury. Still it seems everyone knew one guy or another as the hockey world got even smaller.

Unlike the NHL where players get to fly everywhere on chartered jets; life in the leagues below the NHL level is just one giant bus ride. At the junior level, it at times can be even worse as you just about live on the buses but this time people were lucky.

Riding these buses is the price anyone chasing the dream of making it up to the next level has to pay in order to move up. It does not matter if you are a player, coach, broadcaster or even prospect writer as it is the part of hockey (and other pro sports) that almost never gets mentioned in public except in cases like this one when something bad happens.

When you combine bad weather and long distance it is a miracle that more of these kinds of accidents do not happen more often. For now it is with great thanks that the Rivers Rats will get to play again.


Round One to Godzilla

In Brampton, 2008 3rd round pick Evgeny Grachev had a goal and an assist to earn the game's second star as his Brampton Battalion had little trouble with 2008 1st round pick Micheal Del Zotto's London Knights winning 5-1.

Grachev's goal which was his 34th on the season was a shorthanded goal that sealed the game in the 3rd period. This one was not even close as Grachev was a force at both ends of the ice for the entire game while Del Zotto was held in check by a pressure defense from the Battalion.

Grachev got his night going but helping to set up what we thought was the game winning goal just 3:31 into the first period. That goal by Scott Tanski set the tone and pace for the game and London never got untracked.

Del Zotto wound a -2 as the Battalion simply did not allow him the space to get going as they made sure that neither Del Zotto or teammate John Tavares got their game going. It was an excellent performance by the Battalion who in our book made a huge statement about their being OHL championship contenders.

Del Zotto also saw his 7 game scoring streak stopped as he went 1-9-10 during this streak.

Grachev is now starting to pull away from Chris Doyle in the prospect scoring race at 34-30-64 +36 in just 49 games. His next goal will tie him for the Brampton single season record for goals by a rookie.


Mitch Gaulton and his Erie Otters were badly whipped by the Windsor Spitfires 8-2 in the only other game involving Ranger prospects. The Otters never had a chance from the moment they left Erie as Windsor was marking the one year anniversary of former captain Mickey Renaud's death.

Renaud who passed away like Alexi Cherepanov did of a heart condition was a very popular player for the Spitfires and that made what was an already large mismatch even larger.

Gaulton had a quiet night as the Spitfires scored 5 goals in the 3rd period to blow out the Otters.

(Paiement's picture courtesy of Getty Images)


Amos said...

derek stepan and the badgers are on nhl network tonight at 8pm, directly following their profiling of kenny albert. just a heads up.

Jess Rubenstein said...

Thanks Amos as Carl Hagelin and his Michigan Wolverines will be on the Big Ten Network as 7 PM

Amos said...

yeah i see a lot of their games being televised on that network, as well as on ESPNU or a few other odd networks, unfortunately i have none of them haha.