Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stepan Up with the Defense

You know it is really funny how things work in this job. Derek Stepan (2008 2nd) was stuck in a goal scoring slump that was becoming a concern for the Wisconsin faithful.

It was kind of funny but earlier this week Melody Hasse who is our source of the Stepan and Ryan McDonagh pictures stopped to chat for the first time since well the last time Stepan scored a goal for Wisconsin.

So course you just know that the next thing that happened was that there was Stepan scoring one goal on Friday and on Saturday night well:

Tonight's First Star Derek Stepan

Maybe Melody should be signed by the Rangers when Stepan signs so she can kick him in the rear to get going. Stepan had a goal as well as 3 assists for a 4 point night as his 3rd ranked Wisconsin Badgers defeated 4th ranked St. Cloud State 7-4.

It was a big game from a player who has shown that he can bring it in the clutch moments as Wisconsin could not afford to lose this game with so much at stake. There was Stepan quarterbacking the Wisconsin power play in the first period setting up 2 goals to help Wisconsin to a 2-1 lead.

Then it was Stepan scoring his 8th goal to give Wisconsin a 3-1 lead and then in what had to be a knife in the heart play; Stepan setting in motion a play for a goal at 19:59 of the 2nd period for a 4-2 lead and while St Cloud pulled to within 5-4 in the 3rd period, the game really was not in doubt.

Not to mention that Stepan went back to looking for his shot as he took a team high 7 shots in the game.

A big game by someone who down the road is going to be doing the same thing for the Rangers. Stepan improved his numbers to 8-29-37 and is now 5th in the NCAAs in assists (19th overall in scoring)

Second Star Daniel Maggio

This is what we wrote last night when Daniel Maggio (2008 6th) was named 2nd Star last night as well:

With Jeff Beukeboom as his mentor, Maggio is going to have the right person to teach him but we need to see Maggio's name here more often.

So what does Maggio go out and do? He has his best performance of the season 24 hours later to help lead his Sudbury Wolves to a huge 5-1 win over the Guelph Storm. All Maggio did was net 3 assists (including setting up the game winning goal for the 2nd straight night), earn a +4 and be named the game's 3rd star.

The Wolves needed this win as it keeps the 2 point lead over the Niagara Ice Dogs for the 7th seed but also pulls the Wolves to within 3 points of 6th place with a game in hand. The Wolves need Maggio to step his game up and if this is his response then they will be able to secure a playoff spot for sure.

Third Star Sam Klassen

Because we were watching other games we did not catch what the Saskatoon Blades did against the Brandon Wheat Kings and boy are we kicking ourselves for not watching this one. Sam Klassen (2009 UFA) earned the game's first star as the Blades defeated the Wheat Kings 6-4 and moved back into 1st place in the WHL's Eastern Conference with 2 games in hand.

Now when we first checked out the Blade recap, we were really puzzled at what Klassen did to earn the first star. The scoresheet showed that Klassen had 1 assist (his 26th) and was a +2 neither of which stood out.

Even more confusing was that Brandon actually led the game 3-2 after the 1st period so we emailed Dan Ukrainetz the Blades Manager of Media and Website to see if he could shed some light on what Klassen did.

"He played nearly every shift against Brandon's top line of Brayden Schenn (5th 2009 Draft), Matt Calvert (127 2008 Draft), and Scott Glennie (8th 2009 Draft). Nearly shut them down (I know two goals but even strength very few shots on goal). He laid out Schenn with a pretty good hit in the first period."

Schenn and Glennie both have 26 goals this season and are 2 of the very best in the WHL and Klassen shutting them down is impressive. Even more impressive is that laying out Schenn who is the Wheat Kings Captain was a huge crowd pleaser and turned the game around for the Blades.

The Rest of the Ranger Prospects

Chris Doyle (2008 5th) continued his hot streak with his 21st goal of the season but his Victoriaville Tigre dropped a 5-3 decision to the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Doyle now has scored in 8 straight games to improve to 21-38-59 which leads all Ranger prospects in scoring.

Carl Hagelin (2007 6th) had a secondary assist to extend his career high scoring streak to 9 games (2-8-10) but more importantly his Michigan Wolverines came from behind to defeat North Michigan 5-4 to keep their faint NCAA hopes alive.

Hagelin who leads Michigan in scoring is 14-23-37 which is good for 25th in the NCAAs.

Ryan McDonagh (2009 Trade) did not score in Wisconsin's win over St. Cloud State but was a +2 and had several blocked shots in the win.

Tomas Kundratek (2008 3rd) was scoreless but helped keep the Moose Jaw Warriors scoreless as his Medicine Hat Tigers earned a 4-0 win to hold on to the 5th seed in the WHL's Eastern Conference.

Maybe the Chilliwack Bruins should have left Roman Horak (2009 5th) listed as their team captain given how they won Friday night. Correcting the mistake might have jinxed the team as they lost 5-3 to the Regina Pats as Horak was scoreless.

Scott Stajcer (2009 5th) was on his way to a "Star of the Night" from us after 2 periods as the Owen Sound Attack goalie had shut down the Kitchener Rangers. Stajcer had held the Rangers to just one goal while facing 30 shots after 2 periods for a 3-1 lead.

Notice that we said 2 periods? In the 3rd both Stajcer and his Attack teammates just fell apart as the Rangers scored 4 unanswered goals to take a 5-3 lead before rallying to tie the game and send it to first overtime then to the shootout where the Rangers wound up the winners 6-5.

The only sympathy we will show for Stajcer here is that he was playing his 3rd game in 3 nights (which we think is one of the dumbest coaching ideas we see in the Canadian juniors all over). As you can tell what we think about using a goalie in 3 straight nights still Stajcer has no excuse for his 3rd period efforts.

Max Campbell (2007 5th) might have wished that Western Michigan announced that they were firing coach Jim Culhane sooner as the junior center now has goals in back to back games since the announcement. Still WMU could not find a way to win going 3-3 in overtime and then losing the shootout in 6 rounds.

Campbell now has 6 goals on the season which is too little too late for a player who should have done more this season.

Danny Hobbs (2007 7th) and his UMass teammates are watching their hopes of an "At-Large" bid from the NCAA disappear as for the 2nd season in a row UMass is slumping at the worst time of the season. UMass lost their 5th straight game this time 3-0 to Merrimack. The Minutemen at one time were a Top 10 team but now are 16-15.


Finally it got pointed out to us that we are "Luke Walker's Biggest Fan" which while we are not sure if that person is being insulting or not but let us make something clear.

If rooting for someone who got overlooked in the 2009 draft and has made something of himself is a bad idea then we will gladly accept that title. Maybe the previous ownership has left too many of the Winterhawk fans expecting the worse but there is something special growing in Portland; too bad people are looking for things to complain about rather than enjoy it.

Too many overly concerned over goalies being pulled when they are forgetting how bad things were. How many were concerned that the Winterhawks were going to leave Portland?

Now they have a strong foundation that is not 100% perfect and will make mistakes like the Rosebuds but the on-ice product is going to get better. A team that could see as many as 7 players selected in the 2010 NHL Draft should be enjoyed.

Our boy Walker had his 26th goal of the season as the Portland Winterhawks continued their push towards the playoffs with a come from behind win over last season's WHL Champs the Kelowna Rockets 3-2. We are very happy to be called his biggest fan because we know a special player when we see one.

We point out Luke Walker to Ranger fans because unlike many of those who have gotten fat UFA contracts; here is a someone who accepted being a 4th liner without complaint and got a gold medal for it. You Winterhawk fans have no idea what bad management really is until you watch what Glen Sather and the Dolans have done to the Rangers.

You had 3 bad years and have a chance to make noise in the WHL playoffs. Ranger fans have an owner who lives off a Stanley Cup won on someone else's watch.

Next time you see Bill Gallacher or Doug Piper you might want to say thank you for running the team the way it should be done.

We point out Luke Walker because unlike several who disgraced the Ranger uniform, Winterhawk fans should realize what a special person they have wearing theirs. If you like you can always borrow Donald Brashear or Ales Kotalik to remind you of the Goldsmith years.

When a team is building towards winning a championship they need Luke Walkers and Oliver Gabriels just as much as they need a Neiderreiter or Sbisa. When you have players who will sacrifice themselves so the team wins then you will win a championship.

Nothing would make us happier than to see a Luke Walker wearing Broadway Blue so enjoy him while you can.

(Pictures courtesy of: Stepan/Melody Hasse, Maggio/ OHL Images(Terry Wilson), Klassen/Saskatoon Blades)

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