We'll start with the good stuff as Michael St. Croix (2011, 4th) ended a four-game scoreless streak in style. St. Croix registered a natural hat trick to help his Edmonton Oil Kings to a 5-0 shutout win over the Prince George Cougars.
For St. Croix who was named the game's first star game actually was a bit of a mixed bag for him despite the goals. St. Croix got his evening started when he scored his 26th goal of the season at 19:12 of the first period which gave the Oil Kings a 2-0 lead
In the second period, St. Croix was the beneficiary of some great forechecking by his teammates as they pinned the Cougars into their defensive zone long enough to start a line change while still on the attack.
St. Croix had just stepped on the ice and went right towards the net where he found the puck at his feet, tapped the puck to his stick and goal number 27 was in the net.
The even strength goal came at 9:02 and gave his Oil Kings a 3-0 lead. The goal also matched St. Croix's career-high of 27 goals that he he set last year.
But St. Croix on the same shift also took a bad penalty as he was called for tripping at 9:38 which gave Prince George their first power play of the game. Prince George didn't score and exactly one second after St. Croix's penalty had ended wound up catching Prince George with too many men on the ice giving the Oil Kings a power play of their own.
About 20 seconds into the power play St. Croix fired what looked to be more of a pass then a shot but the puck wound up in the net and St. Croix earned himself his second hat trick of the season as well as a new career-high in goals scored at 28.
The Oil Kings would add another goal 1 more goal finish up the scoring for the evening.
It was not the perfect game for St. Croix but it broke his scoreless streak and the current Ranger prospect leader in scoring is now up to 28-42-70 on the season which is also good enough to be 6th in the WHL for scoring.
For a couple of weeks now we were kind of worried about how physical Dylan McIlrath (2010, 1st) had been playing. It was looking to us like he was almost borderline on some of his hits as well as his timing in getting into fights.
His Moose Jaw Warriors team have been playing a very physical brand of hockey and it is a big reason why Moose Jaw is in first place team in the WHL's East division and second place in the WHL's Eastern conference.
Now please don't think that Dylan McIlrath is a dirty player as that is not the case. The case is a 6'5 and stronger than the average teenager. He plays a physical game and sometimes he just does not know his own strength
We found a video with highlights of this game which was Moose Jaw hosting the Victoria Royals. Victoria was hitting just as hard as Moose Jaw was as you will see in the video package. McIlrath's hit starts at around 4:12 of this clip.
The first couple of angles shown to not give clear look at the hit but the third angle which is over McIlrath's shoulder is the best look and sadly confirms our fears.
Now before people want to get on the soapbox and talk about how we are turning the game soft; it's not about taking the hitting out of the game it's about taking people getting hurt out of the game.
More importantly Dylan McIlrath is a key player for the Warriors, his presence in or out of the lineup could be the difference between Moose Jaw entering the WHL Playoffs as a first or second seed.
The other problem is when McIlrath returns to the lineup he's going to have a bull's-eye on him with the officials. When you coming back off of a a suspension, the officials they watch a little closer, they don't give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to close calls, and we really don't want to tell you what happens if a third situation comes up especially in the playoffs.
When we did the mid-season review and we got to Shane McColgan (2011, 5th) of the Kelowna Rockets, we said that: the season is going to be dependent on how well McColgan plays.
Wednesday night McColgan and his Kelowna Rockets hosted the Everett Silvertips on the back end of the home and home series between the two teams. Kelowna had won on Everett's ice on Sunday and was looking for the sweep.
Everett was able to grab a two-goal lead by the end of the first period and made it stand up until the final minute of the second period when McColgan set up Colton Sissions for a power-play goal at 19:19 per Kelowna's first goal of the game.
In the third, Everett scored again just 2 minutes into the period to push their lead back to two goals. McColgan answered with his 12th goal of the season at 10:08 to pull Kelowna to within one goal at 3-2.
That was as close as Kelowna would get as Everett walks out with the win. Kelowna can look at this game and realize that they should have lost it not to the team with the worst record in the WHL.
We can't complain about McColgan after he went 1-1-2 to improve on his season to 12-34-46 which is 3rd among Ranger prospects.
JT Miller (2011,1st) that his Plymouth Whalers into Owen Sound to take on the defending OHL Champions the Attack. January has not been very kind to JT Miller who has all of one point on-I assist to show for his last 6 games.
Owen Sound is where Scott Stajcer (2009, 5th) plays or should we say shares the play in a goalie rotation that we honestly think is not good for either goalie and their development.
But credit Owen Sound as they defeated Plymouth 5-4 to extend their unbeaten streak to 5 games. Miller didn't score as his slump continues.
For Miller's part, his coach Mike Vellucci still has Miller as his first-line center so we will watch and see how Miller deals with being a slump.
(St. Croix - Edmonton Oil Kings, Dylan McIlrath - Moose Jaw Warriors, Shane McColgan- Kelowna Rockets)