Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Punching His Ticket

For the first time since Michael Sauer in 2007, a New York Ranger draft pick is heading to the Memorial Cup as Scott Stajcer and his Owen Sound Attack earned the right after defeating the Windsor Spitfires 10-4 to eliminate the Spitfires 4 games to 1.

Thanks to the Mississauga St. Michaels Major's who are hosting the 2011 Memorial Cup winning the OHL's Eastern Conference championship, the Attack get to represent the OHL as the 2nd OHL representative.

But before they get to the Memorial Cup, the Majors and Attack will be facing each other for the OHL championship. For the Attack this will be the first time they have played in either the OHL finals or the Memorial Cup since the franchise moved to Owen Sound in 1986.

Stajcer did not have a pretty game but he stopped 34 out of 38 shots to earn his 8th win against just 1 loss. Stajcer the Ranger's second of two 2009 5th round picks has a 2.08 goals against with a 0.931 save percentage.

The schedule for the OHL finals has not been released yet.

It was a wonderful run while it lasted but Kirill Kabanov and his Lewiston Maineaics saw their Cinderella story come to an end as the Saint John Sea Dogs eliminated them in 4 games after a 6-5 win.

For us, it still is a winner as Kirill Kabanov showed that he was growing up and shedding the problem child label that hurt him last year. Kabanov paid a price for having a bad reputation by dropping to the 3rd round but the trade to Lewiston was without a doubt the best thing to happen to his career.

Garth Snow must very happy as Kabanov had a coming out party during the QMJHL playoffs. The numbers were excellent for Kabanov 8-12-20 in 15 games, a +7 and because he had an assist in Game 4; a QMJHL high 12 game scoring streak.

Lewiston gambled when they traded for Kabanov but the trade worked out for both sides as Kabanov was able to learn under former NHLers Jean-Fran├žois Houle and Darren Rumble. The duo are the coaching staff of the Maineaics but now it is going to be up to Kabanov to show this run was not a fluke.

Kabanov is a world class talent and by all rights had he not had such a bad reputation would have gone in the top 10 in last year's draft. He turns 19 in July so either he makes the Islanders in training camp or he returns to what should be a very good Lewiston team next season.

Kabanov is not the only prospect to have a good playoff run in the QMJHL as Ryan Bourque earned the game's second star as his Quebec Remparts defeated the Gatineau Olympiques 2-1 to take a commanding 3 to 1 lead in their series.

Bourque earned a secondary assist on the game's tying goal and while he did not receive any points was a part of the game winning goal for the Remparts. For Bourque is was his 11th assist of the playoffs and 16th point.

Bourque and his teammates get a chance to finish off the Olympiques on Friday night at home. A win and the Remparts will be heading to the QMJHL finals.

In Spokane, it really is going to take Portland coach Mike Johnson some major biting of his tongue not to question the officiating in game 3 of the Portland Winterhawk/Spokane Chief's series. If he does then we would offer to help pay whatever fine he gets.

Really we normally do not blame the officials but here is the game sheet so you can judge for yourself. This is a conference final and the level of officiating was horrible for a series of this importance.

You know something is wrong when Andy Kemper the voice of the Portland Winterhawks loses his cool. Andy is the most level headed announcer in the WHL and he is the rare bird who actually leaves the homer out of his play by play.

Had Portland not won in overtime we are pretty sure Andy would still be screaming about this game. The real stars of this game were the Portland penalty killers who had to kill 9 Spokane power plays and Mr 191 Mac Carruth.

We call Carruth Mr. 191 because the Rangers with pick 190 in the 2010 draft selected Randy McNaught who at best would be an enforcer at the ECHL level. The Chicago Blackhawks with the very next pick grabbed Carruth who on Wednesday was named the CHL Goaltender of the Week for his play last week.

The Rangers really missed the boat on this one as Carruth was flat out brilliant stopping 41 out of 43 shots. Carruth had people worried about him early in the playoffs but as this series has gone on has gotten better.

As for Nino Niederreiter well yes he set up the tying goal but tonight he goes to the woodshed. It was not the 2 penalties he took that bugged us but the constant yapping to the refs.

Sorry Nino but when you have refs who are this bad then you do not risk taking either an unsportsmanlike conduct minor or even worse a 10 minute misconduct. You let Mike Johnson the coach do the talking as you do not help the Winterhawks by sitting in the penalty box.

Nino is now 7-14-21 good for 6th in the WHL as the Winterhawks regain their home ice advantage with the win and a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 is on Friday in Spokane.

(Stajcer/Aaron Bell-OHL Images, Kabanov/Ron Morin-Lewiston Maineaics, Bourque/Quebec Remparts, Niederreiter/ Portland Winterhawks)

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