Thursday, March 15, 2012

Every second counts

If you don't think that every game means something to either New York Islander or New York Ranger prospects then ask the players of 9th-ranked Denver about that.

Denver which has the New York Islander's 2011 second round pick Scott Mayfield on the roster was 5 minutes away from being upset at the WCHA's Final Five by Michigan Tech.

A loss in this game could've been the difference between earning an invite to the NCAA tournament getting to watch them on TV. Michigan Tech were trying to be Cinderella and boy did they ever come close to knocking off the Denver Pioneers. Too bad close does not count as Denver tied the game with just 4:32 remaining in regulation and went on to earn a 3-2 win in overtime an advance to the semifinals of the WCHA's Final Five.

Scott Mayfield was scoreless on two shots and was a -1 as the opening game of the WCHA's Final Five was pretty entertaining as well as a reminder that at this time of the season it just takes one shot to determine how your season winds up.

In the second half of the opening-round in the Final Five, another Islander prospect 2010 first rounder Brock Nelson made sure that his North Dakota Fighting Sioux didn't even come close to being an upset victim with two goals including one that wound up being the game-winner as 12th-ranked North Dakota defeated St. Cloud State 4-1.

Nelson, we have said this before could wind up becoming the best of the Islander first-round picks with his combination of size and skill. Nelson for a guy who is 6'4 handles the puck really well and it was evident on his first goal of the night as he took a pass just before entering the offensive zone, carried the puck in then crossed over to the left side before firing a shot that went top shelf and in.

The goal coming at 15:51 of the second period broke a 1-1 tie giving North Dakota the lead for good. This game was not pretty at times both teams were playing not to make a mistake which always leads to plenty of mistakes.

The score remained 2-1 until late in the third when St. Cloud pulled their goalie and Nelson made them pay with an empty net goal that sealed the win. For Nelson the goals were his 24th and 25th on the season as North Dakota's leading scorer earned his team a trip into tomorrow nights semi-finals.

The WCHA Final Five semifinals will be Denver taking on Minnesota Duluth starting at 3 PM Eastern/ noon Pacific and North Dakota takes on Minnesota at 8 PM Eastern/5 PM Pacific. We believe all four teams will make it to the NCAA but how they finish here could go a long way in how they wind up seeded as well as which regional they are set to.

Thursday night wound up being a very good night for Islander prospects as Ryan Strome (2011 1st) and Mitchell Theoret (2011 7th) both had a goal to help their Niagara IceDogs whip Peterborough Petes 8-1 and clinch the OHL's Eastern Conference Regular-Season Championship.

A sellout crowd of 3,145 got to witness their home team win their first conference championship since moving to St. Catherine's for the 2007-08 season. It was Theoret who got Niagara going by scoring his 12th goal of the season just 3:34 into the game giving Niagara a lead they never had to worry about. This

Strome scored his goal also in the first period connecting on a power-play goal at 17:36 giving Niagara a 4-0 lead and it was easy going the rest of the way. For Strome, he now is 30-37-67 and his fellow prospect Theoret is 12-8-20 (20 points tied his career-high).

The Petes who were eliminated from playoff contention earlier in the week dropped their 6th straight game and really not much nice to say. Andrew Yogan (NYR 2010 3rd) took the penalty that led to Ryan Strome's goal and had a secondary assist on the Petes only goal to extend his who scoring streak to seven games (37-37-74 season).

Peter Ceresnak (NYR 2011 6th) was for the most part invisible and non-factor.

All-Star Honors

Chris Kreider (NYR 2010 1st) was named to the Hockey East 2nd team all-conference team on Thursday. Boston College's leading scorer (20-18-38) this season added to his 2009-10 Hockey East All-Rookie honors.

Boston College will face Providence in game one of the Hockey East semifinal starting at 5 PM Eastern time. The game will be televised on the NBC sports network.

(Nelson - Grand Forks Herald, Strome- Terry Wilson of OHL images)

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