Let us start with what happened on Sunday evening as Mother's Day 2013 was the day TWO New York Ranger prospects won championships with their respective teams.
In Edmonton, Michael St. Croix (2011 4th) picked the best possible day to have a breakout game in the WHL Finals. In game seven against the Portland Winterhawks, Michael St. Croix had a goal and an assist on what was the game-winning goal as his Edmonton Oil Kings defeated the Portland Winter Hawks 4-1 to become WHL Champions.
If you have any doubts as to how big a game that Michael St. Croix had then we will simply turn you over to Neate Sager of Buzzing the Net who named St. Croix as their first star of the evening.
Tyler Maxwell's 2-0 goal in the final seconds of the frame really seemed to show Edmonton had more in reserve. On that play, St. Croix and recent Edmonton Oilers signee Kristians Pelss jimmied the puck loose from Portland's Troy Rutkowski at the 'Hawks blueline, creating a 3-on-1 rush where St. Croix fed Pelss, who dished to Maxwell for a rocket over goalie Mac Carruth's right shoulder.
St. Croix then added the third goal in the second period. Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Keegan Lowe stepped up in the neutral zone to create a turnover and draw Portland's Derrick Pouliot up from his defence spot, creating a space for Pelss to swoop in and carry deep into the Portland zone. Pelss patiently waited until St. Croix was in prime position and then gave him a perfect pass that was one-timed past Carruth.
St. Croix also made a big defensive play in the third period, tearing back to cut off a goalmouth pass to Portland's Brendan Leipsic. There was probably a less than 5 per cent chance that Portland was coming back at that point, but you have to love the effort.
For us the biggest thing was that St. Croix rebounded from a game that he knew he played poorly in back in game four and turn things around.
Game five was decent, game six was more of the player we watched this season and in game 7, St Croix became a big game player when his team needed the big game the most. The biggest play for us was that St. Croix went down to block the shot when he really didn't have to.
That one play illustrates the growth of Michael St. Croix from the guy who couldn't buy a point and the beginning of the season. He told us back in October that his number one goal was to improve defensively and that he did.
St. Croix and his Oil Kings win the WHL title for the first time since his franchise was reborn five years ago. St. Croix and company are now headed to Shawinigan to play in the Memorial Cup.
St. Croix becomes the first drafted Ranger prospect to play in the Memorial Cup since Michael Sauer did in 2007. Two sons of former Rangers got to be a part of the winning team; Henrik Samuelsson (son of Ulfie) and Keegan Lowe (son of Kevin).
Meanwhile, some 400 or so miles to the east in Humboldt Saskatchewan, another New York Ranger prospect was winning a national championship as well. Steven Fogarty (2011 3rd) and his Pentiction Vees won the 2012 RBC Cup after coming from behind to defeat the Woodstock Slammers 4-3.
Fogarty, like St. Croix picked an ideal time to play his best game of the tournament, scoring one goal while getting an assist on the game-tying goal. If anything, it was a typical Steven Fogarty performance when his team needed him the most.
Fogarty got his evening going when he scored his first goal of the tournament when he blew his shot past Woodstock goalie Matt Murphy at 12:81 to give Penticton a 2-0 lead at the time. In the third with Penticton trailing 3-2, Fogarty fired a shot that hit off the post and dropped right at the feet of teammate of Bryce Gervais who put it right back in to tie the game.
For his efforts, Fogarty, was named as Penticton's "Player of the Game," What a great way for Fogarty to end a dream season as next year Fogarty will be playing for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is one of the top programs in US college hockey and that will help Fogarty with this development.
We have been saying that the New York Rangers future is much brighter than people realize. We didn't say it to brag, we didn't say it just to draw attention, but rather we have said it because we believe it's true.
Show us another NHL team that can claim that their prospects were major parts of this year:
1- The NCAA championship (Chris Kreider)
2- Hockey Canada's Junior "A" championship (Steven Fogarty)
3- The WHL championship and will play in the Memorial Cup (Michael St. Croix)
We're not talking role players but key members who helped their team win. At best, you're happy if you have one player that wins a championship, but three?
While Kreider is a Ranger now, others are just entering the system and they will contribute to a better Ranger tomorrow. Oh and just 8 more wins and the Rangers win the biggest prize of them all.
(St. Croix- Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings, Fogarty- Penticton Vees)