On Wednesday while on the Blueshirt Banter Radio, one of the hosts Eddie asked who we would call a dark horse prospect for the Rangers. The answer for us was easy as Jason Wilson (2010 5th) of the Niagara IceDogs was flying under the radar and was a player to watch.
We would like to thank J-Dub for making us look really smart as in Game 1 of the playoff series between the Wilson's IceDogs and the 4 prospect filled Oshawa Generals. Wilson was a force at both ends of the ice but it was his offense that proved to be the difference as Niagara took Game 1 of the series 2-1 for a 1-0 series lead.
Wilson had a goal as well as an assist to lead his IceDogs to the win; Wilson got his night going when he earned a secondary assist on Niagara's first goal of the game at 14:49 of the first period. It was Wilson's 3rd assist of the playoffs and it gave the IceDogs the momentum after the first period.
Oshawa tied the game at 1-1 in the second at 10:09 when Dan Maggio (NYR 2009 6th) earned a secondary assist of Oshawa's only goal of the game. Maggio for the night wound up with a plus one and 4 minutes in penalties.
It was more but the play of Niagara's goalie Mark Visentin that held the Oshawa Generals at bay all night. Visentin allowed just one goal of 38 shots to earn the win.
Christian Thomas (NYR 2010 2nd)was held scoreless for the first time in the playoffs but had several scoring chances including 2 third period breakawaya that Visentin stole from him. Calvin de Haan (NYI 2009 1st) and Tony DeHart (2010 5th) did not play badly but a strong Niagara defense helped keep them in check.
In the end it was Wilson scoring just his second goal of the playoffs in the second period on a power play goal at 14:09 of the second period. That goal was the difference maker as Niagara held home ice. Game two will be on Saturday night in Oshawa.
Do you remember the other day when we said by the time the Owen Sound/Plymouth Whaler's playoff series was over that Scott Stajcer (NYR 2009 5th) would take over as starter in goal?
We was wrong as it only took 40 minutes for the change to take place as Stajcer replaced started Michael Zador at the start of the 3rd period and top seeded Owen Sound trailing 6th seeded Plymouth 3-2.
Stajcer came in as Owen Sound rallied to tie the game in regulation and then earned the win when Owen Sound scored at 14:45 of the 1st overtime period. Stajcer stopped all 14 shots he faced in earning his first win since November.
For Carl Hagelin (NYR 2007 6th) 4 years as a member of the Michigan Wolverines comes down to just one last game; the men's ice hockey championship on Saturday night. It was not a pretty game but it was just enough to upset heavily favored North Dakota in the frozen four semifinals 2-0.
North Dakota with New York prospects Jason Gregoire(NYI 2007 3rd) and Brock Nelson (NYI 2010 1st) in their lineup came into this game unbeaten in their last 15 games. It was supposed to be a battle of 2 high powered offenses but instead it was a game where North Dakota outshot, out played, and just about out everything except for one thing they just could not get a goal.
North Dakota threw shot after shot all night long but goalie Shawin Hunwick made save after save all night long allowing nothing to get by him. North Dakota had some strong scoring chances as Jason Gregoire had 2 very good scoring chances that Hunwick robbed him of.
Michigan's scored in the first period and made that goal stand up until the last minute in the third period when Hagelin broke up a rush and sent his teammates up ice for an empty net goal which secured the win as Hagelin got a secondary assist. The game had a scare in the first period when Brock Nelson on a clean check landed hard and awkwardly into the boards and did not get up.
It was a frightening moment as Nelson was taken off the ice on a stretcher and taken to local hospital for X rays and as a precaution. At last report Nelson appeared to be able to move all of his body and North Dakota was listing his injury as an upper body injury.
For Gregoire it was a frustating way to end an excellent junior season as he finished 3rd on the team in scoring going 25-18-43 in 33 games including a career best 16 straight game scoring streak (18-11-29).
Nelson finished his freshman season 8-13-21 in 42 games started slowly but finished his season with 11 points in his last 11 games.
Michigan moves on to play Minnesota-Duluth who eliminated Notre Dame in the other semifinal game 4-3. Notre Dame actually led 2-1 in the first period when Minnesota-Duluth scored 2 to take a 3-1 lead after the first period.
Minnesota-Duluth added a goal in the 2nd period while Notre Dame answered with 1 in the third but Notre Dame just could not get the tying goal eventually losing 4-3. For Notre Dame talented freshman Anders Lee (2009 6th) ended his season scoreless for the game but 24-20-44 in 44 games.
Out west in game one of their WHL playoff series, the Portland Winterhawks were upset at home by the Kelowna Rockets 5-1. The Winterhawks have only themselves to blame for this one as Kelowna came out hungry and more disciplined than the Winterhawks did.
Kelowna scored 1st at 3:18 on the power play then the Winterhawks tied the game on the power play at 7:08 with a power play goal of their own. Nino Niederreiter (NYI 2010 1st) had an assist on the play for his 11th point in 5 playoff games and that was the last highlight for the Winterhawks.
Kelowna scored 4 unanswered goals including a natural hat trick by Shane McColgan to stun Portland and give the Winterhawks a lot to think about until Game 2 on Sunday in Portland.
The Rangers signed 2010 3rd Rd pick Andrew Yogan and UFA Shayne Wiebe of the Brandon Wheat Kings to ATOs for Hartford. Of the 2 moves, adding Wiebe who scored 45 goals this season was perhaps the best of the moves so far this spring.
A hard working player who does not take a shift off; wondering how come the Rangers do not go after more guys like this.Finally hockey lost one of the really good guys on Thursday when EJ McGuire passed away at 58 due to cancer. This one hurts us because one of the first people in the scouting world to play the role of teacher was EJ.
In all honesty I had lucked out because once upon a time EJ coached the Hartford Wolfpack and liked how the original owner of the Blueshirt Bulletin Richard Resnick (another great guy who I am endebted to) had written about him during his time with the Pack.
It was a conversation I never ever forgot because EJ was calling me while he was driving to cover a game. His first words of advice when I asked how best to get into scouting was "Find a different job cause this one is crazy" as he told me he was trying to catch 5 games in 3 games and make it back to Toronto for work on Monday morning.
He was the smartest man I have ever met when it came to more than just hockey but in his own original way life itself.
We chatted a few times and it struck me how the director of the NHL's Central Scouting would put a full day in then go sit in the replay room to catch games. He loved hockey and will never get enough credit for the positive changes he helped to bring about.
It was his idea for me to attend my first NHL draft to learn about the inner workings of the NHL. "Watch for everything because everything is worth watching". We made a deal that when he became the General Manager of the NHL's expansion team in Honolulu, I would come work for him in his media relation department.
He was a good man who left behind a wife and 2 children but an even larger family of people in hockey who's lives he touched and had an impact on. Including me.
Right now I bet that EJ is up there coaching, teaching and getting the angels ready to play hockey.
(Images: Wilson and Stajcer/OHL Images- Aaron Bell and Terry Wilson, Hagelin/Michigan Wolverines, EJ/NHL.com)