Friday, March 26, 2010

Wanting to Prove a Point or Three

We had this all written up and was about a minute from finishing it up when the one prospect who has repeatedly come up with clutch play after clutch play did it again.

We love it when we have to rewrite the prospect recap because it meant someone did something special.

First Star Roman Horak

When we hand out awards for the play of Ranger prospects, the "Happy Surprise of the Year" is going to go to Roman Horak. For a 5th round pick, Roman Horak has simply come out of nowhere to establish himself as a prospect to watch.

In all honesty we were just about totally finished writing tonight's recap and saying good-bye to Horak's season as it look like his 8th seeded Chilliwack Bruins were going to be eliminated in 5 games by the Tri-City Americans.

Someone forgot to tell Horak that the series was over as he played his best game of the playoffs with 2 huge assists but that did not tell the story as Horak appears to be in no rush to go home to the Czech Republic. Horak in the 3rd period simply played his heart out as with the Bruins trailing 3-1 and facing elimination, it was Horak who kept their season alive.

Horak first set up Alexander Wiklund at 2:30 of the 3rd period to bring the Bruins to 3-2. With less than 2 minutes to go in regulation, Horak went on the attack; Horak carried the puck into the American's zone and fired a shot at American's goalie Drew Owsley that handcuffed the goalie.

Linemate Ryan Howse and Horak fought for the puck as Howse eventually shoved the puck home for a 3-3 tie and renewed life. In overtime Horak did what he does best which is score game winners as at 7:16 of overtime; Horak scored his 2nd goal of the playoffs.

Call Horak "Mr Clutch" as that was his 7th game winner of the season which is tops among all Ranger prospects.

Second Star Ryan Bourque

Ryan Bourque has been getting better with each passing game as he was a big reason why the Quebec Remparts overcame a stubborn Acadie-Bathurst Titan team that may have lost the series in 5 games but it was 5 very tough games for the Remparts.

Bourque who was limited to just 41 games during the regular season put up a 3 point night as the Remparts held on to defeat the Titan 6-5. Bourque opened the scoring for the Remparts with his 3rd goal of the playoffs just 1:25 into the game.

Bourque added a secondary assist just 2:13 later as the Remparts jumped out to a 2-0 lead but the Titan responded with 4 unanswered goals to take a 4-2 lead early in the second period. Bourque then added his 3rd point of the game when he found Mikhail Stefanovich to cut the Titan lead to 4-3 at 3:11.

That appeared to have turned the tide as the Remparts stayed close to finish the period trailing by just when as the Remparts scored 3 goals in the 3rd period to end the series 4-1. For Bourque, he finished the series 3-6-9 which leads the CHL Ranger prospects in scoring.

Second Star Derek Stepan

It is almost karma that the 2 best playmaking prospects that the Rangers have had big games on Friday night. Derek Stepan quite simply has to be the best playmaker in all of college hockey.

When we watch him play, we are not sure which we like the best; his passing skills or how he can almost predict exactly where to put the puck for a scoring chance. He does both so equally well that it is a guilty pleasure any time we get to watch him play.

Against Vermont in the first round, Stepan had 2 assists as Wisconsin came from behind to defeat Vermont 3-2. Stepan had a secondary assist on Wisconsin's first goal in the first period but the one assist that was just picture perfect was his second one.

With Wisconsin trailing 2-1 in the second period, Stepan while quarterbacking the power play, Stepan had the puck and was going behind the Vermont goal looking to pass. Stepan kept holding the puck waiting and waiting until he put the puck right onto Michael Davies stick as Davies one timed it into the Vermont net to tie the score at 2-2.

It was typical Stepan knowing exactly where his teammate was going and where the teammate wanted the puck. We can not remember the last time the Rangers had a player with Stepan's passing skills but it is going to be fun when he does make it to Broadway.

Third Star Tomas Kundratek

When the Medicine Hat Tigers fell behind the Kootenay Ice 2-0 in their playoff series; we were wondering if Tomas Kundratek was going to step up his play to help get his team back into this series.

3 straight Medicine Hat wins later and we have our answer as Kundratek continued his impressive play as the Tigers won game 5 on Kootenay's ice 5-2. Kundratek was excellent at both ends of the ice as even though he was scoreless, Kundratek was a +3 for this game.

Seeing Kundratek elevating his game is making the Ranger decision to send him back to Medicine Hat another year look like. a very good move.

Horak and linemate Ryan Howse fought for the rebound and it went in with Howse getting credit for the goal and Horak the primary assist at 18:26 of the 3rd to force overtime. In overtime, it was Horak who scored the game winner at 7:16 for his

The Rest of the Prospects

Ryan McDonagh says he is undecided as to whether or not he is going to return to Wisconsin for his senior year. In our book we do not see any reason for him to return as he is ready to turn professional.

In the Wisconsin win over Vermont, McDonagh showed that defensively that he is ready to make the jump as we never saw him caught out of position. We saw a prospect who finished his checks, protected his crease and did not get caught out of position,

If the Kingston Frontenacs are eliminated by the Brampton Battalion; it will not be because Ethan Werek did not try his best. Werek had his 3rd goal of the playoffs but it was not enough as Brampton came from behind to win 4-3 in overtime and now lead the series 3-2.

Werek has been putting up the points as he is 3-2-5 in the series so far but it may not be enough as the Frontenacs are learning how to win in the playoffs on the fly.

Chris Doyle returned to the Victoriaville Tigre lineup as the Tigre defeated the Shawinigan Cartaractes 4-3 to take a 3-2 series lead. Doyle was held scoreless for the first time in the series but the Tigre have a chance to end the series on Sunday.

(Picture Credits: Horak/Chilliwack Bruins, Bourque/Katherine Ep, Stepan/Melody Hasse, Kundratek/Medicine Hat Tigers)

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