Sunday, March 27, 2011

1 Second And It Is Over

This is the time of year for New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects where their dreams of signing that NHL contract can come true. It is also the time of the year when in the matter of a second the dream can come to an end.

Anyone who does this kind of work and says that they do not have favorites is not being honest with you or themselves. You can not help when you are watching someone for 2,3 or 4 years not to have your favorites that you root for to make it.

You are watching someone grow up right in front of your eyes so there are those like Max Campbell who you root for because he was always fighting to beat the odds.

The Rangers 5th round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Campbell along with Carl Hagelin and Danny Hobbs are the prospects who I have covered the longest.

Hagelin you knew after his freshman year that he was going to become an NHL player. Hobbs was the opposite as you knew he was not going to become one.

But Max Campbell has always been different, Campbell has been the underdog you root for because no matter what happened he bounced back from adversity and kept fighting.

A respectable freshman season followed by a very good sophomore season gave the hope that Campbell had a shot at playing for the Rangers. How could you not like someone who paid his own way to attend Ranger prospect camps not once but twice?

How could you not like someone who refused to quit despite being on some bad Western Michigan teams? Campbell had a horrible junior season playing for a coach who eventually would lose his job.

Even we said he was done as a prospect after his junior season as he was just a 1 way player, he spent a lot of time in his coach's dog house to the point where he was a healthy scratch and dropped to the 4th line. Western Michigan was so bad that they could not even make it out of the first round of the CCHA playoffs

But enter Jeff Blashill the new coach of Western Michigan and Max Campbell transformed from the 1 way player into a responsible 2 way player and team leader. As a senior Max Campbell turned his game totally around, when WMU needed someone to win a key faceoff there was Campbell.

The 4th picture posted was Campbell's biggest goal as it was the one that clinched an unthinkable 4th place finish in the CCHA. From cellar to Cinderella there was Western and Max Campbell as he set new career highs in goals, assists and points.

There was Max Campbell leading an upset of Michigan in the CCHA semi-finals which earned the Broncos their first NCAA bid in Campbell's career. Western Michigan was ranked 10th in the polls and earned a date against Denver in the Midwest Regional.

And what a game it was, Western Michigan jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Denver and it looked like Cinderella was going to keep going. Denver scored 1 goal with 4:29 remaining the 3rd period and then of all people New York Islander prospect Matt Donovan (2008 4th) scored with just 2:36 remaining in regulation to force overtime.

We would nominate as the play of the week, Denver's last second shot in regulation as with just 2 seconds remaining in regulation a puck that had it's own eyes just trickled along the goal line just staying out as the buzzer sounded.

And the first overtime was everything you loved about hockey; end to end action, scoring chances and 2 teams giving everything they had. For everything that people point out is wrong in hockey this sudden death overtime was everything that is so right about hockey.

So the 2 teams battled to a second overtime and in the second overtime just as we were settling in for what looked like a never ending battle it was over. A shot, a rebound and then a goal at 11:16 of the second overtime for a Denver 3-2 win.

But with that goal was the end of Max Campbell's career at Western Michigan just like that. The true sudden death loss ending a 4 year journey for Campbell in just a second with no good byes or warning.

For weeks we have said that the Rangers should offer Campbell an ATO (amateur tryout) and give him a shot to see what he might do for the CT Whale. We know it is wishful thinking on our part as knowing the Rangers they have told Campbell a while ago whether or not they were interested in his services.

Max Campbell in 4 years at Western Michigan and as a Ranger prospect played in 153 games, he scored 46 goals, netted 61 assists for a total of 107 points.  And we thank him for sharing his journey with us over the years.

But all was not bad on a Saturday that featured 12.5 hours of non-stop live hockey action from the east coast to the west coast. That is if you are an Islander fan it was a very good day and you can find that right here.

The Ranger side of the story is not so nice or pretty as things we said had to be avoided were not and it had a price which you can read here.

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