Friday, May 4, 2012

3 OT 2 OT No More OT (please?)

What a way for New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects to kick off the league finals with two very exciting games on Thursday night.  With a double-overtime game in the OHL and a one goal game in the WHL; if this is how the finals are going to go then we are going to be treated to some very good hockey.

The last two nights have not been kind to the brothers Hunter, as Dale saw his Washington Capitals lose in triple overtime on Wednesday night. Brother Mark watched his London Knights drop game one of the OHL Finals to the Niagara IceDogs 3-2 in double-overtime.

If you are not aware, the London Knights were coached by Dale Hunter until the Washington Capitals hired him to be their coach. Brother Mark is the general manager and he stepped in to replace his brother as coach.

Now if we would've told you that Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) was the hotter goalscorer then Ryan Strome (NYI 20111st), you would've not believed us.

But right now it is the truth as Theoret with his fourth goal in his last six games got the Niagara IceDogs going with the first goal of the finals while Strome was scoreless (1 goal in last 11 playoff games).  Theoret has done a marvelous job going right to the front of the net and doing a great imitation of Adam Graves.

Theoret sitting in the crease tipped a Bret Ritchie shot past London goalie Michael Houser just 4:01 into the game for a 1-0 lead for the IceDogs.  Little did either team know that this would be the start of a pretty long evening, as this game lasted 89:03.

Super close game in almost every way as both teams went 0 for 4 on their power plays and Niagara had a 54-43 edge in shots.  Both teams did a great job keeping the other teams top guns under wraps so the secondary scoring like Theoret's is going to be key to the series.

Game 2 of this series will be Saturday night in Niagara.

In Edmonton, game one of the WHL Finals between Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) and his Edmonton Oil Kings and the Portland Winterhawks was every bit of the hard-hitting war that we said that the series would be.

Edmonton jumped out to a 3-0 lead and then hung on for dear life holding off the Winterhawks 3-2 to grab a 1-0 series lead. This definitely was not a game for those who don't play physical hockey as bodies were flying everywhere.

St. Croix didn't score but he had a couple of good chances and set up a couple of chances for his teammates. No complaints about his game but if anything, we liked how he withstood the physical battles and didn't back down.

For us that it was one of the key things that St. Croix had been questioned about and he stood in the crease fighting for space which we are gonna give him high marks for. Portland is a fast but very physical team that will punish you when you try to make plays and St. Croix did not disappoint.  As is

We said this series would go seven but we should have put in a disclaimer; depending on which team had enough bodies left. Kudos to both teams for showing the hockey world that you still can play a very physical hard-hitting brand of hockey without people going headhunting.

The player whose image we're showing on the left here is one of our favorite players in all of the Canadian juniors; Brendan Leipsic of the Portland Winterhawks. Leipsic can be best described as what Ryan Callahan was like when he played junior hockey.

We love this kid, we really do because to steal a line from the guys who calling the game; if this was played outdoors on dirt then Leipsic would have the dirtiest uniform. Just like Ryan Callahan, he's not the biggest dog nor is he the most talented but when you really truly need a play made he's your man.

Edmonton had just scored a shorthanded goal in the second period for their third goal of the game and were threatening to break the game open when Leipsic took the puck into the offensive zone. He went right into the slot area knowing he was getting get hit but he drew two Edmonton defenders to him and fired a shot towards the Edmonton goal.

Edmonton goalie stopped the initial shot but because Leipsic had drawn two players to him, left it wide open crease where Portland forward Marcel Noebels scooped up the rebound and put it in for Portland's first goal. It gave Portland a new life and they scored again 1:57 later to make it a one goal game.

If Leipsic is sitting there in the fourth round, then let lightning strike again and hope the Rangers take him just like they did Ryan Callahan in 2004.

Game 2 of the series will be Friday night in Edmonton.

The biggest winner on Thursday may have been Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) as the Kelowna Rockets traded him to the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for Bantam draft picks.

Now the reason why McColgan is a winner is because the hosts of the 2013 Memorial Cup are the Saskatoon Blades.  As hosts, they become automatic qualifiers and what you're seeing is what will be the first in a series of moves to see the Blades load up on talent.

It's also a good move for McColgan to get a fresh start after what was a frustrating season.  With the Rockets, McColgan was asked to carry the team and it was a hard task to do with all the injuries that the Rockets suffered.

On the Blades, there will be a lot of talent so McColgan will have to try to carry the team on his shoulders. And for those who are curious, the coach of the Blades is Lorne Molleken who is an old friend of Glen Sather's.

Win-win for McColgan and the New York Rangers.

(Theoret- Terry Wilson of OHL images, Leipsic- Portland Winter Hawks, McColgan- Kelowna Rockets)

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