Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Best Time of the Year.

The New York Rangers may still have 17 games left in their season but for the prospects it is playoff time as the march towards championships begin. Already we have one elimination, one sudden death survival and one message sent about a prospect.

Tonight's Star: Derek Stepan

The Rangers 2008 second round pick had an impressive game as his Wisconsin Badgers wrapped up their 2008 WCHA regular season. Stepan had 2 goals including the game winner as his Badgers ended their regular season with a 4-1 win over North Dakota.

What made those goals even more impressive as they were back to back shorthanded marker 2 minutes apart for the freshman out of Hastings Minnesota. It was just the third time in Badger's history that a Badger had scored 2 shorthanded goals in a period and the first time since 1978.

Someone forgot to tell Stepan that he was supposed to be just a one way player who would struggle under the defensive minded Badger coach Mike Eaves. Stepan for the second straight game was the Badger's first line center which also is quite the accomplishment for a freshman.

Stepan got his night going in the second period as he took a pass from teammate Andy Bohmbach, skated in on a 2 on 1, fired a beauty of a shot from the mid circle that beat Brad Eidsness at 9:30 of the second period for Stepan's 7th goal of the season, a 2-1 Badger lead and the game winner.

At 11:12 on the same North Dakota power play, Stepan and Bohmbach teamed up again for another 2 on 1 that this time Stepan scored from the hash marks for his 8th goal of the season and a 3-1 Badger lead.

Stepan finishes his freshman season 8-22-30 and now gets ready for the WCHA playoffs as the Badgers will be hosting Minnesota State in the best of 3 series for the right to play in one of the most unique tournaments in college hockey; "The Final Five".

The Rest of the Prospects

We have our first season ender as Greg Beller and his Manitoba Bisons lost to the Regina Cougar 1-0 and were swept out of their Canada West series 2 games to none. Beller missed the series for the typical reasons playoff series unknown reason. Beller finishes his first season with the Bison 1-2-3 in 9 games.

Staying alive though thanks to a thrilling double overtime win was Max Campbell and his Western Michigan Broncos as they tied their series at 1-1 with a 4-3 win over Lake Superior State. Campbell had an assist on the Bronco's second goal and had several good scoring chances during this game.

Now Campbell and his teammates face a third and deciding game on Sunday at 7:30 EDT, we are waiting for word on broadcast info and will update it when we get it.

Tysen Dowzak and his Kelowna Rockets spotted the Vancouver Giants a 2-0 lead then rallied for an exciting 3-2 overtime win. The Rockets won their 4th straight game, are 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 and are heading to the WHL playoffs on a roll.

Dowzak was scoreless and a -1 for the game but was key in keeping the Giant's leaders Evander Kane and Casey Pierro-Zabotel off the scoresheet. Rockets now have won 3 straight against the Giants which might become important should the 2 teams meet in the playoffs.

Tomas Kundratek and his Medicine Hat Tigers though have been heading in the opposite direction as they lost to the Kootenay Ice 4-1 as Kundratek's scoreless streak has now reached 7 games.

The Tigers have lost 2 in a row but are 5-5 in their last 10 games.

Mitch Gaulton got to play for his Erie Otters but might have been better off staying on the bench as he was a -2 as the Otters lost to the Kitchener Rangers 4-2. Gaulton has been in Robbie Ftorek's doghouse for not being in game shape but to his credit Gaulton acknowledges that it is his fault.

Danny Hobbs went from starting right wing to healthy scratch as his UMass Minutemen whipped on Merrimack 6-1 to finish their Hockey East season at 15-18-3. The Minutemen now wait to see who they face in the Hockey East quarterfinals next weekend.

(Derek Stepan courtesy of the Wisconsin Badgers)

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