Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pass the Kool-Aid please

This is supposed to be all about New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects but every once in a while along comes someone who puts on such a performance that to not talk about it would be criminal. It is the best part of doing this;  getting to see somebody before he becomes "a name" and Devin Williams is going to be a big name.

This was supposed to be a time-killer for us as the first place Niagara IceDogs with Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st) and Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) were taking on the Erie Otters who entering this game had the worst record in the three leagues that make up the CHL.

Given what appeared to be a huge mismatch became instead without question the best individual performance we watched this year. Devin Williams all 15 years of age that he is stole the show by stopping 61 out of 62 shots to upset Niagara 2-1.

And no that is not a typo at all, 61 out of 62 shots is for real and really you have to check out not only the box score what our old friend Victor Fernandes of wrote about this extraordinary performance.

There are very few players who you can see from the very first time that they have something special about them and Devin Williams is one of those very special few. If they Otters do the right thing and build around him then they will as the old saying goes "move from the outhouse to the penthouse" very very quickly.

A scoreless first period where the IceDogs held a 21-5 edge in shots; that became a second period where Ryan Strome would set up what turned out to be Niagara's only goal of the game coming at 14:58 of the second period.

It gave the IceDogs a 1-0 lead as the 2nd period ended and Niagara with a 45-12 advantage in shots. In the 3rd period with basically everybody expecting Erie to fold instead Erie took advantage of two power plays to score first the tying and then game-winning goal despite being out-shot 62-18 for the game.

What was supposed to be as we said a time-killer became one of the most fun games to watch this season. Even better is that young Williams is an American so one cannot help but to think about the Junior teams for the next few years as Devin Williams grows up.

Wednesday night was very much a night of surprises as the evening got off to a surprising start when Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) and his Baie-Comeau Drakkar beat Kirill Kabanov (NYI 2010 3rd) and his Shawinigan Cataractes 5-4 in overtime.

This was another wild game which saw both teams yanking their starting goalie's and had 13 different power plays including one in overtime which decided the game. For the Drakkar, Noreau was scoreless and a mostly quiet game but for the Cataractes, Kabanov had a goal as well as an assist in being named the game's first star by the local media.

Kabanov's goal actually wound up being the game tying goal that sent the game into overtime and his assist was a primary one that came in the1st period. Kabanov is now 17-23-40 on the season for the Cataractes.

Heading out west to the WHL, our rather different evening almost lasted the entire night as our featured match-up was Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) and his Edmonton Oil Kings traveling to Kelowna to face Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) and his Kelowna Rockets.

This was supposed to be another mismatch because the Rockets were missing six regulars from the lineup and were playing 16-year-olds as replacements. Edmonton did win the game 6-3 but one has to wonder what might of been had the Oil Kings not taken advantage of all their power plays (went 4 for 5)

The first period was scoreless until the last 2 minutes when we saw a rare penalty shot and penalty called on the same play. The Rockets were the recipients of the calls here and they took advantage of them scoring on the penalty shot then taking advantage of the power play giving them a 2-0 lead after one.

In the 2nd, Shane McColgan we thought had lost his mind when the 5'9 forward dropped his gloves to take on 6'3 Oil King Keegan Lowe. Lowe was coming into this game with 110 PIMs: someone forgot to tell McColgan that this was a bad idea because McColgan despite every disadvantage not only held his own got in and landed several good shots before wrestling Lowe to the ice.

One might of thought it would've sparked Kelowna but instead it was the Oil Kings who the fight woke up. With Kelowna up 2-1 midway through the 2nd, the Oil Kings struck for 4 goals in exactly 4:59 to turn the entire game around.

Michael St. Croix scored his 37th goal of the season while on the power play at 14:55 giving Edmonton their first lead of the game at 3-2. Exactly 1:05 later while on another power-play St. Croix set up Rhett Rachinski to give Edmonton a 4-2 lead on what wound being the game-winning goal.

St. Croix is now a Ranger prospect leading 37-52-89 which is also good for 6th in the WHL. McColgan while scoreless the fight was his 4th of the season which puts him 3rd behind Dylan McIlrath and Samuel Noreau (both 6'5 200+).

Speaking of Dylan McIlrath (NYR 2010 1st), he and his Moose Jaw Warriors hosted the Saskatoon Blades looking to earn their 5th straight win. McIlrath had a nice quiet night as his Warriors behind a 4 goal second period earned a 5-2 win.

The win extends the Warriors lead over the Blades to 9 points in the WHL's East division and keeps them within 5 points of Eastern Conference leading Edmonton.

In Spokane, we were given quite possibly a preview of a first-round match-up in the WHL's Western Conference playoffs as the Vancouver Giants visited Brendan Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) and his Spokane Chiefs. The two teams are currently fighting over the 4th seed in the WHL's Western Conference with Vancouver after a 2-1 win now holds.

It was a hard-fought but very good match-up between two teams that we see are looking at an almost guaranteed 7 game series. While Vancouver regained 4th-place on this occasion, the Chiefs maybe two points behind but also hold 2 games in hand on the Giants.

Kichton was scoreless and a -1 for the evening.

Finally up in Prince George, John Persson (NYI 2011 5th) was not in the lineup for his Red Deer Rebels as they lost to the Prince George Cougars 3-1.  We do not have confirmation as to why Persson missed this game but when we do will update.

Persson considering all the injuries that the Rebels of gone through that this is only the 2nd game of the season that he missed can be considered an accomplishment. However Red Deer lost their 2nd straight and find themselves 8 points behind Brandon for the 8th seed in the WHL's Eastern Conference.

The Rebels do hold 3 games in hand but cannot afford to get any further behind Brandon.

(Devin Williams - Erie Otters)

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