Thursday, April 26, 2012

Never take anything for granted

Welcome to the Truck Stop (Image courtesy Katie Brickman of Moose Jaw Herald)
After three games, the battle between two New York Ranger prospects was heading towards a four-game sweep and a plane ticket to Hartford for one Ranger prospect.

Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) and his Edmonton Oil Kings entered game 4 of their WHL Eastern conference finals against Dylan McIlrath (NYR 2010 1st) and his Moose Jaw Warriors up three games to none.

Edmonton had everything going besides their 3-0 series lead, unbeaten in 11 playoff games and 22 straight win going back to February . With his team down to their last loss, Moose Jaw coach Mike Stothers turned to a 16-year-old, third string goalie who had just 1 WHL regular season start and no WHL playoff appearances on his resume.

Justin Paulic of Thompson, Manitoba made his WHL playoff debut a very memorable one as he stopped 28 out of the 29 shots he faced to lead Moose Jaw to a 5-1 win. If you want to talk about the magic of playoffs than here is another story for the collection. Paulic put on a jaw-dropping "wow, are you kidding me?" kind of effort that left Edmonton shaking their heads in wonder.

Maybe you could've seen this coming, as everybody had been playing up Edmonton's winning streak and that sometimes is more curse than cause. Edmonton had their chances in this game, but this time it was Moose Jaw was getting the breaks thanks to Paulic.

At least three times during the game, Paulic just flat out robbed Michael St. Croix of what looked like sure goals. And it wasn't just St. Croix that Paulic was doing this to as he was making unbelievable saves.

Our favorite was in the second period when Paulic stoned Edmonton's Martin Gernat and after the play Dylan McIlrath went up to his goalie and put his arm around him as if to say, "we got your back" and they did.

We really like how McIlrath showed up tonight not only has a defensive player but also as a team leader. McIlrath was very protective of his goalie and as the game wore on; there was McIlrath doing everything he could to make plays to take the pressure off his goalie (McIlrath had 2 hits like the 1 in the image).

It was the kind of effort that showed McIlrath's maturity and perhaps even his own growing confidence in his own play. Even if Moose Jaw loses the series it will be the Rangers who will win in the long run because of the lessons McIlrath is learning now.

As for Michael St. Croix, he didn't play a bad game, and we thought he had several good looks at the puck, but tonight was not his night. Game five is Friday night back in Edmonton and it's going to be interesting to see how Edmonton answers their own questions now.

In the OHL, it was a "good news, bad news" for Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st) and Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) in game 4 of their series against the Ottawa 67's. The "good news" was that Niagara won 5-2 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead heading back to Niagara

The "bad news" comes to us via our friends at Buzzing The Net who asked this very important question:

Will Ryan Strome play on Friday?The New York Islanders first-round choice was limited to providing moral support after the first period, standing at the end of the bench after sustaining an undisclosed injury.

"He's day-to-day," Williamson said. "We'll check to see how he is tomorrow and go from there."

Theoret was scoreless but nobody seems to have any idea as to how Strome was injured (95% of the coverage of the game didn't mention Strome at all) but odds are if he was able to stand at the bench for 2 periods it might not be so bad.

Niagara is deep enough to defeat Ottawa without Strome but they will need Strome for the OHL finals.

In Penticton, Steven Fogarty (NYR 2011 3rd) and his Penticton Vees moved one step closer to a spot in the RBC Cup after winning game 4 of the Doyle Cup 6-1 over the Brooks Bandits.

The win gives the Vees a 3-1 series lead and like Niagara, the Vees used a 4 goal third period to break open a close game. Fogarty didn't make the score sheet, but that doesn't mean he didn't play well.

Fogarty helped lead a penalty killing unit that limited the Bandits to just a 1 for 6 on their power plays. It was huge for the Vees were bouncing back from a loss on Tuesday evening.

The Vees get their first shot at ending this series in game 5 on Friday night. We strongly urge them to take it because if they don't, then they could find themselves playing 3 games in 3 nights.

Thank you schedule maker

Thursday night is wide open, so we get to watch the Rangers play perhaps the most important game since 1997. For myself the game takes on an even be bigger meaning as 8 players are those we have covered since we started doing this.

I know for one of these young men Brandon Dubinsky this is what he dreamed of getting to do ever since he was a child. For those of you who've read our prospect interviews at the Blueshirt Bulletin then you've gotten to read
how each of these Ranger prospects has told us his dream moment and how he won a game 7 Stanley Cup final.

Selfishly, I want Brandon Dubinsky to score the game-winner as he was the young man who got me so hooked on covering Ranger prospects. But more importantly it was Dubinsky, who reminded me of why I am a Ranger fan as being a Ranger means everything to him.

He is the only player on the Ranger roster who actually grew up as a Ranger fan. Dubi like so many of us became a Ranger fan because his father is a Ranger fan.

Everyone talks about how this is the first time since 1994 that the Rangers will host a game 7. Once upon a time there was a young man in Anchorage, Alaska, who sat in front of the TV and watched the Rangers win the Stanley Cup in 1994.

It became Brandon's dream to win a Stanley Cup as a member of the New York Rangers. The best part of any dream is when you get somebody else to believe in that dream.

I do believe in Dubi's dream and I hope you will too.

(McIlrath- Katie Brickman Moose Jaw Herald IF you use this image please make sure you credit it back )

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