Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday's speeders

Jesse Graham (OHL Images)
Saturday night hockey for the New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects was about speed and skating. It fits in with the 2 prospects who earned stars for the night as when either gets into open ice with a chance to use their skating ability; it opens up space for their teammates.

First Star Jesse Graham Niagara IceDogs

The more I watch Jesse Graham (NYI 2012 6th) of the Niagara IceDogs play the more convinced I am that given his size (a generous 5'11 175) and skating ability that he really should be playing forward. On defense, he is frequently overpowered by the power forwards of the OHL.

If Graham is to even consider playing at the next level then his best hope will be as a forward. Against the Kingston Frontenacs, Graham tied his season high with a 1-2-3 effort which helped his IceDogs earn a 4-1 win.

With the game tied at 1-1, Graham set up Brett Ritchie for a power play goal at 11:41 of the 2nd period. The goal wound being the game winner and in the 3rd period the duo repeated their efforts only this time at even strength making it a 3-1 lead for Niagara.

Graham added an empty net goal in the game's last minute for the final score of the game. It was Graham's 3rd goal of the season and after his efforts against Kingston; Graham is now 3-28-31 on the season.

Cristoval Nieves (MGoBlue.Com)
Second Star Cristoval "Boo" Nieves Michigan Wolverines

Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (NYR 2012 2nd) is another example of what happens when you have a player with solid skating skills. Nieves helped his Michigan Wolverines defeat Ohio State 6-3 to earn a sweep of the weekend set.

Nieves had 2 assists but the first one was an accident as Nieves and his linemate Phil Di Giuseppe were actually trying to set Nieves up for a scoring chance when the pass from Di Giuseppe hit an Ohio State defender and went in. Di Giuseppe got the goal and Nieves the primary assist as the play gave Michigan a 3-2 lead.

The 2nd one was a secondary assist as Nieves again teamed up with Di Giuseppe only this one was an empty net goal which finished the scoring and gave Michigan a sweep of the weekend. For Nieves, the 2 assists improved his numbers to 8-18-26 which leads the Wolverines.

This win was bigger than many may think as it moved Michigan into 9th place going into the final weekend of the regular season.

In the CCHA, the top 5 teams earn a bye in the first round of the CCHA playoffs while teams 6-11 play a best of 3 with all games at the higher seed's arena. If Michigan has any hope of extending their 22 year streak of NCAA appearances, it will only happen if they win the CCHA tournament.

Longshot? Yes very much but if you ask any coach in the CCHA, nobody wants to play a Michigan team with nothing to lose. The Wolverines finish off their CCHA regular season hosting Ferris State next weekend.

The Rest of the Prospects

Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st) got some help as evidenced by Jesse Graham's 1st star in Niagara's 4-1 win over Kingston. Kind of crazy game for Strome as he got called for a high sticking major just 9 seconds into the game.

Strome earned a secondary assist on Niagara's 4th goal to extend his scoring streak to 8 games (3-8-11) and was a +2 on the night. Strome improved to 31-52-83 overall on the season.

Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) was scoreless but his Saskatoon Blades got plenty of offense from other players to hang a 7-1 beating on the Moose Jaw Warriors for their 15th straight win. McColgan was a +1 with a minor for slashing as the Blades moved to 7 points ahead of Prince Albert for 1st place in the WHL's East Division.

The Blades now have the longest winning streak in the WHL this season.

Brenden Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) and his Spokane Chiefs made it back to back wins as they shutout the Kamloops Blazers 2-0. Kichton was scoreless as the Chiefs remain 1 point behind the Tri-City Americans for 4th place in the WHL's Western Conference standings.

Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) was scoreless as was Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) as their Edmonton Oil Kings got whipped by the Tri-City Americans 8-1. Once again the Oil King's special teams was terrible giving up 3 power play goals and going 0 for 1 on their power play.

The loss was the Oil King's 3rd straight as they played the 2nd game of their 5 game trip through the WHL's US Division. Any hope of catching the Portland Winterhawks for the best record in the WHL it is say to say is gone as Portland is 14 points ahead of Edmonton.

Anders Lee (NYI 2009 6th) had a secondary assist on his 11th ranked Notre Dame's only goal during regulation as the Fighting Irish played to a 1-1 overtime tie with 7th ranked Western Michigan. Lee also had the deciding goal in the shootout round to help Notre Dame earn the 2nd point in the standings.

Robbie Russo (NYI 2011 4th) was scoreless on 3 shots and was a +1. Steven Fogarty (NYR 2011 3rd) also was scoreless on 1 shot but was even.

The tie and extra point in the shootout helped Notre Dame pull to within 1 point of Western Michigan for 2nd place in the CCHA with 2 games left to play in the regular season. Notre Dame will host Bowling Green in what will be the final CCHA regular season games as next season Notre Dame will move to Hockey East.

Brady Skjei (NYR 2012 1st) and his 2nd ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers played the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs to a 2-2 overtime tie. Skjei was scoreless on 1 shot and was a +1 for the game.

The tie gave Minnesota sole possession of 2nd place in the WCHA, 2 points behind league leader St. Cloud State with 4 regular season games remaining.

Scott Mayfield (NYI 2011 2nd) and his 10th ranked Denver Pioneers got spanked 6-1 by 6th ranked North Dakota. Mayfield was scoreless on 1 shot and a -2.

The loss put the Pioneers in 6th place of the WCHA with 2 regular season games remaining on the road against Minnesota. In the WCHA, 6th place is the lowest seed a team can have and be able to host the 1st round of a WCHA playoff series.

Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd) was scoreless and a -1 as his Guelph Storm were shutout by the Barrie Colts 2-1. Pedan had a strong effort for the Storm despite the loss which was a good sign to see out of him.

Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th)
missed the game for the Colts for undisclosed reasons but given his history this season; bet on it being an injury. The Colts halted a 4 game winless streak with the shutout win.

Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) and his Baie-Comeau Drakkar faced off against the team they are chasing in the QMJHL standings, the Rimouski Oceanic. The two teams are fighting for the Telus East Division title and this year because of their records the 2nd seed in the QMJHL playoffs.

The Drakkar spotted the Oceanic the game's 1st goal then scored the next 4 as they would go on to win 7-2 and pulled to within 1 point of the Oceanic. Noreau did not score (just 1 point for the month) but he was a +3 on 3 shots and was credited with 2 hits.

Peter Ceresnak (NYR 2011 6th) was scoreless and a +1 as his Peterborough Petes dropped a 5-2 decision to the Belleville Bulls. The Petes missed out on a chance to tie Kingston for the 8th and final playoff spot in the OHL Eastern Conference.

Cody Rosen (NYI 2010 7th) got to come in relief of starting goalie Greg Lewis as Clarkson lost 6-2 to Harvard. Rosen came into the game after Harvard scored their 6th goal of the game at 8:49 of the 3rd.

Rosen was credited with 1 save in his 5th appearance of the season. Rosen is 0-2 with a 3.16 GAA and a 0.882 save percentage.

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