Monday, March 12, 2012

The prime time player day

Sunday was a day of seeing key players making key plays for both the New York Ranger and the New York Islander prospects. No player perhaps made a bigger play than Scott Mayfield (NYI 2011 2nd) of the Denver Pioneers.

Mayfield started what turned out to be the series winning play as his Denver Pioneers rallied to win the third and deciding game of their WCHA quarterfinal series with the Wisconsin Badgers. Mayfield a freshman defensemen received a secondary assist on Luke Salazar's goal at 1:40 of the first overtime giving Denver a 3-2 victory and a trip to the WCHA's Final Five next weekend in Minneapolis Minnesota.

For Mayfield, his entire second half of the season has just been nothing but strong forward progress for the 6'4 defender. It may have been Mayfield's first point in the playoffs but it could not have come at a better time as Denver held off the upset minded Wisconsin Badgers.

Mayfield is now 3--9-12 on the season as Denver moves on to play Michigan Tech Thursday afternoon. For Wisconsin, a disappointing season for the team comes to an end but in our eyes Jason Clark (NYI 2010 3rd) taught us a lot about courage and determination to overcome adversity.

Clark (0-1-1) went underwent double hip surgery during the 2011 off-season was able to come back to play this season and even though injuries kept him from playing in the series, we still want to recognize his hard work and determination for coming back as fast as he did.

Clark is the third prospect we know has had to undergo this type of surgery so we are fully aware of the kind of rehabilitation that they have to go through just to get healthy. It takes a tremendous amount of effort as well as desire to go through what is one of the most painful rehabs there is in sports medicine.

In the QMJHL, Kirill Kabanov (NYI 2010 3rd) helped his Shawinigan Cataractes hand the Saint John Sea Dogs their first regulation loss in 19 games with a 1-2-3 effort as the Cataractes won 6-2.

It was a good win for the Cataractes to have knowing that they will be facing the same Sea Dog team in the Memorial Cup on the same ice in May. Kabanov (named game's second star) we have not really been happy with his play this season as we think he should have put up much better numbers than the 21-32-53 that he has.

After watching Kabanov in last year's QMJHL playoffs, it was not unreasonable to expect for Kabanov to dominate in this league. While Kabanov has not on this Sunday, it was Kabanov scoring Shawinigan's 3rd goal of the game in the second period that proved to be the game-winner.

Kabanov then added secondary assists on Shawinigan's 4th and 5th goals of the game to finish off the Sea Dogs. The win moves Shawinigan to within two points of Saint John for the overall lead in the QMJHL but because the Qu├ębec Remparts also lost on Sunday; the Cataractes now hold a four-point lead over them for the Telus East division title.

In the OHL, Christian Thomas (NYR 2010 2nd) scored his 31st goal of the year to help lead his Oshawa Generals to a 5-2 win over the Brampton Battalion which clinched a spot in the OHL's Eastern Conference playoffs. It was Oshawa's third straight win and assures them of at least the 7th seed which still a chance of moving up to 6th.

Thomas quietly has started to heat up as he has gone 13-13-26 in his last 19 games as well as scoring in each of the 3 previous wins. The goal that Thomas (named game's second star) scored in this game sealed the win as it was a power-play goal (10th) which made the score 4-1 in the 3rd period.

After all that Thomas is been through with the suspension and the struggles of the team, we are not sure if we want to face a Christian Thomas in the playoffs. Honestly we had hoped that Oshawa would not make the playoffs in order to get Thomas to the CT Whale by the end of next week but it didn't happen so now we want to see how far Thomas can go.

But should Thomas in Oshawa finished eighth in the OHL's Eastern Conference, there's a good chance that they would have to face the Niagara IceDogs with Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st). In that case it would be we're sorry to say a very short series given the way that Strome has played the season.

Forget that his numbers only are 29-37-66 because those do not take into account games missed because of injury or playing for Team Canada. Strome put those numbers up in just 43 games otherwise if you do take those two items into account the Strome was on a pace to go 46-59-105 which is close to his last season numbers.

Still consistency is important part of a player and out of those 43 games, Strome only failed to score in six of them and never failed to score in consecutive games. The Kingston Frontenacs might have a different opinion of Strome as on Sunday afternoon, Strome and his IceDogs scored 4 goals in the first 8:50 of the game and cruised to a 5-2 win.

Strome who scored at the 4:50 mark wound up with the game-winning goal because his goal was the 3rd goal scored by the IceDogs. Teammate Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) was scoreless in the game as the IceDogs need just 2 more points to wrap up their first OHL Eastern conference title since the franchise moved to St. Catherine's in Ontario.

In the OHL's Western Conference, JT Miller (NYR 2011 1st) and his Plymouth Whalers earned their 9th straight win with a 4-3 win over the Owen Sound Attack. The Whalers are trying to win the Western Conference title and thanks to this win and the London Knights losing find themselves in a tie for the conference lead (London has game in hand).

Miller scored his 25th goal of the season at 14:33 of the second period which wound up being the game-winning goal in this game (Miller's 6th). Miller may still have things to work on especially consistency at both ends of the ice, but there is one thing that Miller does better than any Ranger prospect.

Miller's goal was one of what we call his "specialty" which is a one timer coming down the slot towards the goal. It is a play that Miller and his linemate Andy Bathgate have worked almost to perfection in the second half.

Bathgate will control the puck around the goal line when Miller makes his move towards an open spot and as Bathgate passes the puck to Miller, Miller has already started to take a shot. Miller's eye/hand coordination as well as his release makes it almost impossible for goalie to stop if Miller gets it on target.

We cannot wait to see Miller with a Derek Stepan as those two will be magic together. Another thing that we like about Miller is he picks his spots when it comes to fighting.

Mention it mainly because in 2 days Mike Halmo (NYI 2011 UFA) has made 2 very unfavorable impressions upon us. Today Halmo took a slashing penalty at 8:04 of the second period.

Plymouth converted that resulting power play into a goal 15 seconds after the power play started to take a 3-2 lead. Halmo on the very next shift upon leaving the penalty box found himself 13 seconds later headed right back to the penalty box this time coincidental minors for roughing with JT Miller.

What is the big deal you may ask? Besides that how Halmo's 1st penalty gave Plymouth the lead but Owen Sounds best player is right back in the penalty box. JT Miller for a 40 goal scoring forward is a trade I will make any day of the week because Halmo can't score sitting in the penalty box.

Scott Stajcer (NYR 2009 5th) got the start in goal for Owen Sound and sadly validated our point from yesterday that it doesn't matter who starts in goal for Owen Sound, they don't play defense and they hang their goalies out to dry. Stajcer sees his numbers tumble to 10-10-3-3, 2.97 goals against and a 0.909 save percentage.

There's really not much one can say about Stajcer's situation as he gave up 4 goals on 37 shots. No goalie no matter how great you are can consistently win without his teammates coming back to play defense and it happens with Jordan Binnington too.

Normally when it comes to Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd) of the Guelph Storm when it comes to taking penalties that we are harsh on him. Not today as Pedan while he was scoreless received his second fighting major of the season and we will call it a good penalty because Pedan was coming to the aid of a teammate.

We will always acknowledge a player who stands up for those on his team and in this case Pedan was protecting Francis Menard who Erie's Tyler Kennedy was upset with over a tripping penalty. Doesn't matter Pedan wins or loses a fight because it's the protecting of a teammate which in its own way builds a team chemistry.

As for the game, Guelph became the masters of their own playoff destiny after defeating the Erie Otters 6-4. Gueph tried to blow a 4-1 lead but held on and with 3 games remaining hold a two-point lead over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

The Storm will face Erie again on Tuesday then a "home and home" with Owen Sound while Sault Ste. Marie has to play 3 games in 3 nights even though they are at home they will be tough.

Finally John Persson (NYI 2011 5th) and his Red Deer Rebels are just playing out the string after being eliminated from playoff contention last night. To his credit, Persson still showed up to play and we do sympathize with disappointment of his teammates as they have been playing shorthanded for most of the season.

Persson scored Red Deer's 1st goal and set up their other one as Red Deer was beaten 5-2 by the Calgary Hitmen. Persson is 23-33-56 on the season.

(Kabanov- Shawinigan Cataractes)

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