Sunday, February 10, 2013

Taking charge of destiny

Anders Lee
Saturday night was about teams trying to take control of their own destiny as New York Islander and New York Ranger prospects took to the ice jockeying for playoff positioning. This is the time of the year where we find out which players can handle the pressure of a playoff race.

First Star Anders Lee Notre Dame

It was a chance to do something that no Notre Dame team had done since 1972 and that was sweep Michigan in all 4 CCHA games. It was also a chance keep pace for first place in the CCHA and the captain of the 12th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish Anders Lee (NYI 2009 6th) stepped up to make it happen.

Lee followed up his 2 goal performance on Friday with a 1-2-3 effort to lead Notre Dame to a 6-4 win over Michigan. Instead of scoring the first goal of the game like he did on Friday evening; Lee started off with a secondary assist on Notre Dame's first goal of the game and the Irish never trailed in this game.

The assist at 12:10 gave Notre Dame a 1-0 lead and was the only score in the first period. In the 2nd with Notre Dame on the power play, Lee would make it 2-0 with his 17th goal of the season at 6:26.

Michigan would score to cut Notre Dame's lead to one but there was Lee earning his 3rd point of the night with a primary assist on teammate Bryan Rust's goal at 14:29 to make it 3-1. Lee would earn the 2nd star of the game for his performance on Saturday evening as the 3 points improve Lee's numbers to 17-12-29.

Lee's efforts were key as Notre Dame now hits the road the next 2 weekends to face the teams they are trailing in the CCHA standings starting with Miami next Friday (to be seen on CBS Sports Network). Here are the highlights courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics.

Shane McColgan (Steve Hiscock)
Second Star Shane McColgan Saskatoon Blades

Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) and his Saskatoon Blades returned home to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their arena the Credit Union Centre. McColgan and company fueled by a franchise record crowd of 12,588 threw a party at the expense of the Lethbridge Hurricanes with a 5-2 win.

McColgan had a 1-1-2 evening as his Blades earned their 8th straight win while getting to jump into 4th place of the WHL's Eastern Conference. McColgan would earn a secondary assist on a power play goal that gave Saskatoon a 4-1.

A Lethbridge shorthanded goal would cut the lead to 4-2 but McColgan would score his 13th goal of the season at 15:26 of the 3rd to make it 5-2 and end any hope of a Lethbridge comeback. The win combined with a Prince Albert loss to Kamloops brings the Blades to within 2 points of 1st place of the WHL's Central Division.

McColgan is now 13-40-53 on the season as the Blades in 3 weeks have silenced those who felt they wouldn't make a respectable Memorial Cup host team. The race towards the Memorial Cup in the WHL alone just might be one of the very best in years.

The rest of the prospects

Steven Fogarty (NYR 2011 3rd) had a key primary assist in Notre Dame's win over Michigan as Fogarty set up Peter Schneider for a goal at 16:07 that gave Notre Dame a 4-1 lead. It was Fogarty's 3rd assist of the season as he also was +1 and 4-3 on faceoffs.

Robbie Russo (NYI 2011 4th) was scoreless on 2 shots but was credited with 2 blocked shots. Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (NYR 2012 2nd) of the Michigan Wolverines had a rough game held scoreless as well as without a shot and a -2 for the game.

Brenden Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) had a primary assist on his Spokane Chief's first goal of the game as the Chiefs defeated their rivals the Tri-City Americans 5-2. Kichton is now 17-47-64 for the season as his Chiefs jumped past the Americans for 5th place in the WHL's Western Conference.

Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st) had a shorthanded goal for his 29th of the season but his Niagara IceDogs fell to the Oshawa Generals 4-2. It was a tough loss for Niagara who saw their lead over Mississauga shrink to just 1 point.

Strome is 29-44-73 for the season which is good for 7th in the OHL but he is getting little if any support these days. Teammate Jesse Graham (NYI 2012 6th) was scoreless with 2 minor penalties in the game with Oshawa cashing in on one for a power play goal.

Scott Mayfield (NYI 2011 2nd) and his 8th ranked Denver Pioneers played a partial game against their rivals the Colorado College Tigers. The Pioneers had a 2-0 lead after the first period only to watch Colorado score 5 straight goals to grab a 5-2 lead in the 3rd period.

Denver would then score 3 goals in a span of 3:18 to tie the game and force overtime but Colorado scored a goal with just 11 seconds remaining in the overtime for the 6-5 win. Mayfield struggled in this game taking 2 penalties including 1 that Colorado converted into a power play goal.

A costly loss as Denver falls 6 points behind 1st place St. Cloud State in the race for the WCHA regular season title.

Brady Skjei (NYR 2012 1st) and his top ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers lost to St. Cloud State 4-3 to fall 5 points behind St. Cloud State for the WCHA title. A rough outing for Skjei as he and his partner Nate Schmidt were on ice for 2 of St. Cloud State's goals.

Skjei was a -2 on 2 shots for the game and the loss drops Minnesota to 3rd place in the WCHA 5 points behind St. Cloud State.

Adam Pelech (NYI 2012 3rd) and his Erie Otters dropped a 4-1 decision to the Belleville Bulls. Pelech was scoreless for the game as his Otters are now reduced to the role of spoiler with 16 games left and 18 points out of a playoff spot.

Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) and his Barrie Colts lost 5-3 to the Saginaw Spirit and as a result of Belleville's win over Erie only lead Belleville by 4 points for 1st place in the OHL's Eastern Conference.

Theoret was scoreless as his Colts saw the Spirit jump out to a 4-0 lead on just 11 shots. Got to play better than this at this time of the season.

Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) and his Baie-Comeau Drakkar should be embarrassed after losing to the Cape Breton Scream Eagles 5-3. Maybe they were more worried about the snowstorm than they were the Eagles who entering the game were 49 points behind the Drakkar in the standings.

Should rub salt in their wounds by pointing out that a rookie goalie comes off the bench in relief and stops 38 out of 39 shots? They should be lucky there was that snowstorm otherwise one could see them doing some punishment drills.

But kudos to the Eagle fans who know their team is hurting and not going to be even close to making the playoffs. Yet 1754 braved the snowstorm to cheer on their team.

We even have a Cody Rosen (NYI 2010 7th) sighting as Rosen came off the bench in relief after starting goalie Greg Lewis gave up 5 goals on 10 shots. Rosen faced 14 shots stopping 13 of them as his Clarkson lost 6-2 to Rensselaer.

It was Rosen's 4th appearance of the season and he still is looking for his 1st NCAA win in his 4th year.

Peter Ceresnak (NYR 2011 6th) was not in the Peterborough Pete lineup as they defeated the Saute Ste Marie Greyhounds 3-2. And odds are that he was a healthy scratch because there has not been anything about his being injured.

Peterborough still has hoped of making the playoffs as they are 1 point out of 8th even though Kingston the team they are chasing holds 3 games in hand on them. One has to wonder which is more important to the franchise building towards a winning future or avoiding the stigma of missing the playoffs for 3 straight years.

You have a coach who wants to lose the "interim" tag on his job, a very angry fan base and other issues that just making the playoffs will not cure. Sometimes this can be a mean spirited business where young men wind up getting hurt along the way.

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