Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hockey It Can Be Priceless

There are times when covering New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects that life can be so nice. Getting to watch players and teams giving their all is more a treat than a chore.

I do have to wonder how people can not see the special qualities from some of these kids as I get treated to. Seriously if you got a chance to watch a Casey Cizikas play every night there is no chance you would not become a fan of his hard work and 150% effort.

Ask the Owen Sound Attack as they have gotten to watch Cizikas go 2-6-8 in the five games the 2 teams have played in the OHL Finals. Cizikas with a 3 assist effort helped his Mississauga St. Michaels Majors to a 7-3 win that was closer than the score indicates.

This was a game of unanswered goals as Mississauga scored 4 in the game's 15:46 chasing Owen Sound starter Michael Zador after the first 2 goals to bring in Ranger prospect Scott Stajcer. Stajcer managed to stop the bleeding long enough for the Attack to score 3 goals of their own to make a game out of this.

But Owen Sound had no answer for the Cizikas line as Cizikas and his linemates broke the game open in the 3rd period with 3 unanswered goals as the Majors head to Owen Sound for Game 6 and a shot at winning the OHL championship.

Yet we are always amazed that Casey Cizikas gets overlooked by the supposed experts. Cizikas is the best defensive forward bar none in the OHL but he was overlooked by the OHL Eastern Conference in the post-season awards.

Most Islander "experts" rate Cizikas at the bottom of their prospect polls and sorry they are so very wrong on his potential. Big games and we have watched Cizikas respond by rising to the occasion.

Cizikas three assists were all primary ones as he made play after play putting his linemates into position for really easy goals. If we had a vote for OHL Playoff MVP it would go to Cizikas as 5-13-18 but we know it won't and Cizikas himself would tell us he is happy winning.

As for the Owen Sound side, people are going to look at Stajcer giving up 5 goals on 29 shots as a reason to not start him in Game 6. Hard to argue with that part but now that the OHL Finals is in elimination mode from a selfish standpoint we want to see Stajcer because we want to see how he handles the pressure.

Watch Owen Sound coach Marks Reid throw everyone a curve and start 17 year old Jordan Binnington.

If the Kootenay Ice go on to win the WHL Championship then without a doubt the playoff MVP would have to be Nathan Lieuwen of the Ice. If you want to look at a defining moment in a playoff series then it has to be the save that Lieuwen made robbing Portland's Sven Bartschi of the game winning goal with just 2 seconds remaining in the 3rd period and a tie game.

Bartschi was on a breakaway and it really looked like he had beaten Lieuwen but the Ice goalie made a heartbreaking sprawling save that forced the game into overtime.

Overtime where the Ice were able to come away with a 3-2 win to grab a 2-1 series lead going into game 4 on Wednesday night. Once again for Portland it was Bartschi who scored his 5th goal of the finals and if people are not seeing Bartschi's stock rising with each game then they are missing out.

Fellow soon-to-be NHL first round pick Ty Rattie had a goal and an assist for Portland. The sad thing about this game is once again the level of WHL officiating is going to come up for questioning.

With the WHL it is always feast or famine as the wildness of Game 2 was replaced by just not making any calls. Portland gets called for 3 penalties and gets just 1 power play total for the game.

Sorry but this is a championship series and we should not be talking about the level of officiating as being the deciding factor. But we do expect the WHL office to impose a suspension on Kootenay's James Martin for his charging major which should have been an intent to injure.

Remember this from yesterday

Look at Kootenay's Matt Fraser and how badly he is hurt. This earned Brad Ross an indefinite suspension from the WHL so imagine our surprise when Matt Fraser is not only back in the Kootenay lineup but playing his regular role.

The suspension was wrong to begin with and now with Fraser playing made to look even weaker. The WHL needs to realize they got played here and right the wrong by letting Ross play in now what is a pivotal game 4.

The laugh of the day belongs to the merchandising folks of the Portland Winterhawks who for game 5 of this series is going to make their own statement with a limited edition T-Shirt.

This has to be one of the best ideas we have seen in a long time. The 3 players involved in Game 2's incidents now a T-Shirt available on Friday right here.

Hope they made a bunch of these T-shirts as these will be a collector's item for sure. You can pre-order them now at the website but the only thing missing is the theme from "Cops".

(Images-Cizikas/Aaron Bell-OHL Images, Bartschi/Portland Winterhawks)

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