There comes times when a player who is struggling with his game that his coach can do one small thing and it goes a long way in helping a player get untracked. In the case of Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th), it led to a "first star of the game" after a 1-1-2 performance on Tuesday evening.
St. Croix helped his Edmonton Oil Kings earn a 5-1 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The win was the 2nd straight for the Oil Kings as they moved into first place in the WHL's Central Division with a record of 5-2-1-1.
St. Croix had gone scoreless in 5 straight games when Edmonton Oil King coach Derek Laxdal trying to jumpstart St.Croix just had him start the game. It was not an earth shattering move at the time but St. Croix notched an assist during the game.
It was something for St. Croix to build upon and that is exactly what St. Croix did early in the first period of this game. First St. Croix fed teammate T.J. Foster for a goal at 4:07 and a 2-0 Oil King lead.
That turned out to be the game winning goal but St. Croix was not done yet. Exactly 1:42 later, St. Croix basically ended the game when he scored his second goal of the season and a 3-0 Oil King lead.
From there the Oil Kings just cruised to the win and if St. Croix is starting to heat up then the Oil Kings have a lot to look forward to this year.
It is rare that you can get a game this early in the season that lives up to it's hype but boy did Dylan McIlrath (NYR 2010 1st) and his Moose Jaw Warriors play an entertaining game with the Saskatoon Blades.
You know that corny cliche about "a shame someone has to lose"? This game fit that to a tee as this was a game that deserved to end in a tie.
The scoresheet says that the Blades defeated the Warriors 4-3 in overtime but the real winners were those who got to witness this game. You had two teams who are 1-2 in the WHL East Division standings facing off with first place on the line.
You take 2 very good goalies in Luke Siemens of Moose Jaw (ranked 7th in the WHL) and Andrey Markov of Saskatoon (ranked 4th) and you have a seriously entertaining show with goalies who were playing "Can you top this?" with their saves.
Memo to Rangers or Islanders; if you have a draft pick in say the 2012 4th round and either goalie is still sitting there then use said pick on either one (OK we prefer Markov the Russian) as in any case you will be getting a future NHL goalie.
As for Markov, one has to wonder what the heck QMJHL GMs were thinking when at the dispersal draft for the Lewiston Maineaics that nobody grabbed Markov. Go look again at his numbers and ask the same question.
Both goalies earned stars for their efforts as they really truly stole the show Tuesday night as they took what would appear to be scoring chances and denied them. Both teams had to really work hard for every goal they got.
McIlrath recorded his 1st point of the season when he fed Sam Fioretti for Moose Jaw's 2nd goal of the game. McIlrath had some very heavy clean hits during this game but he also had a couple of times when he missed reads too.
The Warriors also did something with McIlrath that the Rangers might want to take note of especially on the power play. Trailing 3-2 in the last minute of regulation with a power play, the Warriors sent McIlrath into the slot area and it paid off a huge dividend.
McIlrath using his size was able to take up enough space that his teammates in effect we able to turn a 6 on 4 into a 5 on 2 as McIlrath just sealed off the crease area allowing Brett Lyons to pick up the tying goal with just 11 seconds left in regulation.
The best thing about using McIlrath in the crease area is that he does not have to move; just stand there with his stick on the ice and he created space, he created screens and he tied up defenders just with that 6'5 215 body of his. Make a note of that and file it away for use at a later date.
Not Going to Apologize
Last year our critics called us "kiss ups" for our constant support of Islander pick Nino Niederreiter. We are OK with it because if defending a player who we feel is being unfairly criticized then our vindication will come when said player earns his NHL roster spot.
Well go right ahead and not bother waiting as our "kiss up" poster child this season is going to be Chris Kreider. Kreider is a prospect that we know exactly why the Rangers have been trying to get him to leave Boston College early.
But do not take our word for it; we will start with this article from the folks at the College Hockey News. Now remember our beef is with those who want to claim that Kreider lacks hockey sense so go ahead and read this from a neutral observer.
With the help of his coaches at BC, Kreider has developed into one of the best two-way forwards in Hockey East. His blazing speed might stand out the most (he was the fastest skater at the 2009 draft combine), but Kreider makes just as much — if not more — of an impact with everything else he does. He wins 1-on-1 battles and protects the puck down low. He backchecks hard and rarely gets caught out of position. He can score a goal on the power play one shift and block a shot on the penalty kill the next.
This next bit of evidence comes from one of the people we really respect in college hockey. On twitter you can find him as @goon48
But in this post, our friend here posted the 2nd period shot chart of the North Dakota/Boston College game. Please note that Chris Kreider wears 19 for Boston College and notice where Kreider is shooting from.
The goal is from dead center in goal crease and Kreider's other shot is about 7 feet away. The closer you get the harder it is for goalies to stop you and this is what Kreider is going to bring the Rangers next year.
Wonder why we defend Kreider now?
(St. Croix/Edmonton, McIlrath/Moose Jaw, Kreider/NHL Media)
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