Saturday was a new day with some much better results for the most part from the New York Ranger prospects. We say the most part because in the case of a couple of them; we wonder if something is wrong with them from a health standpoint the way they are playing.
Tonight's First Star Roman Horak
It has been a rough go for Roman Horak (2009 5th) and his Chilliwack Bruins as of late going with just one win in their last 5 games prior to playing the Prince George Cougars. Horak also has been struggling as well with just one goal in that same period but that was after going 4 straight games without any points.
Against Prince George, Horak was the Bruin's best player scoring his 13th goal of the season as well as adding an assist (his 16th) and going a +3 to help the Bruins to a 5-2 win. Horak's goal was an unassisted shorthanded goal (his 2nd of the season) that turned out to be the game winner.
Horak who was named the game's First Star for his efforts has been the best 2 way prospect in the first half of the season. Forget his 13-16-29 as his work on the defensive end including his work on the faceoffs is making this 5th round pick look more and more like a huge steal.
Second Star Ethan Werek
Ethan Werek (2009 2nd) and his Kingston Frontenacs put a damper on the Owen Sound Attack's Teddy Bear Toss" with a 7-2 whipping thanks to Werek's goal and 2 assists. Werek's 16th goal of the season broke a 8 game goal scoring drought for him.
Werek's goal came in the 2nd period as he scored off a feed from Zach Hamden for Kingston's 5th goal of the game. Werek had the primary assist on Kingston's first goal of the game (and game winner) as he set up Hamden for a power play goal just 5:31 into the game.
Werek also received a secondary assist on Kingston's 7th goal of the game which was also on the power play. In all Werek improved his numbers to 16-18-34 +9.
The difference between Werek and Horak has to be that Horak has been overall more consistent but already the Rangers supposed "secondary picks" from the 2009 draft have out played the bigger names.
Third Star (Tie) Craig Cunningham
People wonder why we keep including Craig Cunningham (Traverse City) even though by all rights he is not an actual Ranger prospect. The answer is simple; his performance along with the other 2 (Luke Walker and Luke Pither) that we track is our show of respect for the Ranger scouts.
We know that Ranger fans are ticked off at Ranger ownership and management with excellent reasoning behind such feelings. However we know from firsthand experience that the Ranger scouts bust their tails to find talent even if the Rangers can not figure out how to get the most out said talent.
Cunningham had his 2nd straight 3 point night as his Vancouver Giants earned a hard fought 5-4 shootout win over the Kamloop's Blazers. Just as he did on Friday night against the same Blazers, Cunningham scored a key goal as well as earning 2 more assists.
It was Cunningham's 19th goal of the season which gave the Giants a 2-1 lead at 8:16 of the second period. It followed Cunningham's 34th assist also on the power play on the Giant's 1st goal of the evening.
Cunningham also had a secondary assist on Vancouver's 4th goal which game them a 4-3 lead. That one was also on the power play and lifted Cunningham's numbers to 19-35-54.
Cunningham also earned the game's second star from the home Kamloops media. Cunningham did however miss on his shootout attempt.
Third Star (Tie) Derek Stepan
Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) is known as a one-way player to many but not to us as we wish the NHL Network had shown the second game of the Wisconsin/North Dakota series as well. The scoresheet says that Stepan had 2 assists but it was a play that only those who were at the game knows as a game changer.
Stepan and the Badgers edged North Dakota 4-3 in a game that reminded us more of a Rangers/Islander clash from the 1980's with plenty of bad blood between the 2 teams.
North Dakota had been dominating play for the first half of the first period (up 1-0 and no shots for Wisconsin) when Stepan stopped a North Dakota clearing attempt. Stepan just missed out on an assist but the play led directly to a Wisconsin goal.
In the second period with North Dakota up 2-1, Stepan earned his 16th assist of the season when he fed Michael Davies for a breakaway goal and a 2-2.
In the 3rd period Stepan earned a secondary assist on what turned out to be the game winning goal. It was Stepan's 17th assist on the season and 22nd point of the season.
The Rest of the Ranger Prospects
Sam Klassen (2009 UFA) had 2 assists, a +2 and was named the "Hardest Working Player" by Saskatoon Blade's announcer Les Lazaruk (thanks to Mike Kieluk for the tip) as the Blades came back to earn a 4-3 win over the Red Deer Rebels to end a 2 game losing streak.
Klassen is now 3-13-16 +19 on the year.
Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) helped to lead a 4 goal third period comeback as his Medicine Hat Tigers came back from down 3-0 to earn a 6-5 shoot out win over the Calgary Hitmen. Kundratek got the comeback going in the 3rd period when he set up Bretton Cameron just 1:36 of the period.
Kundratek was also a +3 as he is now 1-19-20, +3 on the season. And write this name down Emerson Etem as this 17 year old from Long Beach California is one of the most exciting young talents out there.
Etem had a hat trick as part of the comeback and has 24 goals in just 36 games for the Tigers. Mark this down here is a Top 10 pick for sure in the 2010 draft.
Scott Stajcer (2009 5th) had his 2nd straight bad outing as he and his Owen Sound Attack "didn't show up" and took the whipping from Ethan Werek's Frontenacs. Stajcer got the yank again as he gave up 5 goals on just 16 shots.
This one was so bad (on Teddy Bear Night) that fans started tossing their bears after Kingston goals. Kudos to the Attack fans for bringing 1100 Bears to help children in need despite the jokes that they should have tossed them for the players.
Still we have to wonder if Stajcer might be nursing some sort of injury as his backup comes in gives up goals and Stajcer is sent right back in when he does not look or play right. A concern to keep an eye on as Stajcer has appeared in 29 out of 36 games already.
Another player we are wondering about is Ryan Bourque (2009 3rd) as for the 2nd straight game the young forward was basically invisible. No shots or any stats other than 1 hit as his Quebec Remparts edged the Chicoutimi Sagueneens 4-3.
2 straight games with next to no kind of offensive attack for Bourque is very suspect and in today's hockey world one has a better chance of stealing classified material than getting straight stories on injuries from teams in any league.
Chris Doyle (2008 5th) had an assist to go along with 7 shots, 5-2 on faceoffs and 2 "good" hits as his Prince Edward Island Rocket defeated the Halifax Moosehead 6-5. Doyle improves his numbers to 14-16-30.
Chris Kreider (2009 1st) did not score but his 10th ranked Boston College Eagles continue to win, this time 3-1 over the Providence Friars to improve to 10-3-2. Please if you are going to call Kreider a bust at least take the time to watch him play first.
If Kreider was that bad he would not be the starting left wing for the 10th best team in the NCAAs need one say more?
Max Campbell (2007 5th) had an assist for just his 7th point of the season as his Western Michigan Broncos lost to Ferris State 4-3. Campbell is a very disappointing 3-4-7 in 15 games this year.
Daniel Maggio (2009 6th) did not score but was a +2 as his Sudbury Wolves despite being out shot 34-21 were able to defeat the Belleville Bulls 4-1.
Mitch Gaulton (2008 6th) did not score as his Erie Otters survived being out shot 12-3 in the 3rd period to hold off the Sarnia Sting 3-2.
Danny Hobbs (2007 7th) and his 15th ranked UMass Minutemen entered their holiday break on a happy note as they defeated the Merrimack Warriors 4-1. Hobbs was scoreless but more importantly the Minutemen enter the break with a 10-5 record (6-4 in Hockey East) in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season for them.
Luke Pither (Traverse City) and his Barrie Colts are now at 19 straight wins (21 straight with at least a point) as they defeated the Ottawa 67's 4-1. The Colts have not lost in regulation since Oct 15th and have a 27-4-0-1 record on the season.
(Horak courtesy of the Chilliwack Bruins, Werek courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images, Cunningham courtesy of the Vancouver Giants, Stepan courtesy of Melody Hasse)
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