Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Predator And The Truck

For us the highlight of Wednesday was getting to see a match up between two of the New York Rangers top prospects. Right now Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) of the Edmonton Oil Kings is the leading scorer among Ranger prospects.

Dylan McIlrath (2010 1st) of the Moose Jaw Warriors is seen as the Rangers top defensive prospect. What made Wednesday's game that much more important was that the two teams are currently fighting for the WHL's Eastern Conference leadership.

The game didn't disappoint us as the two teams battled all the way to the shootout before Moose Jaw came away with a 4-3 win. For those who are not familiar with the makeup of both teams than this definitely was a contrast in styles. The Warriors are one of the biggest teams size wise in all of the CHL while the Oil Kings or one of the best skating teams also in CHL.

If you wish to judge the game by how the individuals played then a clear edge went to St. Croix as the 2011 fourth round pick of the Rangers as he earned the game's third star with a goal and an assist in losing effort.

St. Croix picked up his 20th goal this season as well as his 37th assist of the year giving him 57 points on the season, along with 5 points in his last 2 games. The goal came in the second period off a nice rush that saw St. Croix enter the attacking zone on the rush and fire off a quick snap shot that handcuffed Moose Jaw's goalie.

The Warriors rallied from down 2-1 to take the lead late in the third period by using their size and physical game to grab a 3-2 lead with 3 minutes left in regulation.

But they stopped hitting which allowed St. Croix to start a rush to hang the the assist the tied the game and forced overtime.  Neither team scored in overtime and in the shootout, St. Croix missed on his attempt which would have forced the shootout to another round but instead gave the Warriors the 4-3 win.

St. Croix's assist allows the Oil Kings to hold a 2 point lead over the Warriors in the standings.

In the OHL, Scott Stajcer (NYR 2010 5th) earned the game's second star in a losing cause as his Owen Sound Attack gave up two third period goals up and lost to the Niagara IceDogs 2-1. Stajcer gave up two goals while facing 34 shots from the IceDogs while his own teammates could only manage 22 shots on the IceDogs.

For the IceDogs, Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) was scoreless as the starting left wing. Stajcer falls to 6-5-2-2 with a 2.44 goals against and a 0.928 save percentage.

In Oshawa, Christian Thomas (NYR 2010 2nd) registered his 14th goal this season as is the Oshawa Generals defeated the hapless Erie Otters 4-1.

The more we look at it, the more we believe that Oshawa really needs to think about tomorrow and Christian Thomas on the trade market in order to get as big a return as he could possibly get.  This team is not going to be a contender for the OHL title and Thomas is not only to return next season but will turn pro; they might as well pick up some players you will help them in the next couple years.

Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd) of the Guelph Storm missed Wednesday's game against the Mississuga St. Michaels Majors due to a leg injury that he suffered while trying out for the Russian squad playing in the 2012 World Under-20 Championships. He is expected to return by Saturday.

So what happened at the World Under-20 Championships on day three you ask? Where to begin, Canada thanks to a gift by Team USA can already made plans the semifinals after having little trouble with the Czech Republic shut him up 5-0.

Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st) had a goal, his second along with an assist (his 4th) to help Canada to the rather easy win. Strom has played well for Team Canada in both games with Denmark scheduled to be the next victim on Thursday.

Peter Ceresnak(NYR 2011 6th) was scoreless as his Team Slovakia lost to Team Russia 3-1. With three points in the standings, to Slovakia needs to win one of the two remaining games in order to advance to the medal round.

Johan Sundstrom (NYI 2011 2nd) was scoreless as Sweden blew a 3-1 3rd period lead and escaped Switzerland 4-3 via the shootout. Sweden needs to earn points from either of their games against Russia or Slovakia.

Not sure who felt worst, the New York Rangers getting a huge scare when J.T. Miller (NYR 2011 1st) limped to the bench after taking a shot to his knee or team USA for only playing 40 minutes hockey and losing to Finland 4-1.

While others wish to call this an upset, we won't because if you don't play 60, you don't deserve to win. And we don't buy that Team USA believed that Finland was a serious threat after watching how Finland lost to Canada in their opener; not to mention the previous history between the two teams.

But it seems to be that every year either Canada or the USA put their teams together trying to beat the other while ignoring the other teams in the competition. Now Team USA faces not one but now two must win games just to advance to the medal round.

With the next two years of world juniors being played in Europe and the last thing that team USA needs for their program is a trip to the relegation round. Not after three straight gold medals from the under 18 teams.

But we have to wonder just how many people would support college hockey in the USA were happy to see goalie John Gipson's brain cramp in the third period. Wonder if they still think he should still down to Michigan?

(St Croix- Edmonton Oil Kings)

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