Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cue the theme from Jaws

Michael St. Croix (Andy Devlin)
After a terrible Tuesday, Wednesday night only had 3 prospects of the New York Rangers and New York Islanders but one prospect on his own had one really good day. To start his Wednesday, Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) found out that he was named "CHL Player of the Week" for the week ending on March 3rd.

The current "WHL player of the Week" St. Croix had a strong week going 2-7-9 as Edmonton finished off a 5 game road trip with 3 wins thanks in large part to to his play. So here is the release from the CHL announcing St. Croix's selection.

Toronto, ON – The Canadian Hockey League today announced that forward Michael St. Croix of the Edmonton Oil Kings is the CHL Player of the Week after scoring two goals and seven assists for nine points in three games with a plus-minus rating of plus-5 for the week ending March 3.

St. Croix led the Eastern Conference leading Oil Kings to three wins last week producing multi-point efforts in all three games. Last Tuesday night he scored once with two assists as second star of a 6-2 road win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. He then scored the game-winner with just 1:03 remaining in the third period and also recorded an assist in a thrilling Wednesday night showdown visiting the WHL’s top ranked team the Portland Winterhawks and claimed third star honours in the 4-3 victory. His week wrapped up in Everett on Friday with his second four-point game of the season this time with four helpers as first star of a 7-1 win over the Silvertips.

St. Croix, a 19-year-old from Winnipeg, MB, is playing in his fourth WHL season with the Oil Kings. Selected by the New York Rangers in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Draft, St. Croix is currently ninth in WHL scoring with 83 points including 33 goals and 50 assists.

This is the 2nd time in his junior career that St. Croix has earned this honor as St. Croix won it last season for the week end January 22nd 2012. So how does a player celebrate this kind of honor one might ask?

Michael St. Croix goes out and has a 3-1-4 game to help his Edmonton Oil Kings earn a 6-3 win over the Regina Pats. The game's 1st star, St. Croix showed off why I gave him the nickname "The Predator."

St. Croix started off almost quietly but scored his 34th goal of the season at 11:11 of the first period erasing a 1-0 Regina lead. The Oil Kings despite holding a 25-9 advantage in shots actually trailed Regina 3-2 going into the 3rd period.

Cue the theme from Jaws as St. Croix tied the game at 3-3 when he went top shelf on Regina goalie Matt Hewitt for his 35th goal at 1:04 of the 3rd. After an Oil King goal that took the lead, St. Croix went for the kill scoring the Oil King's 5th goal of the game on a breakaway at 7:40 for a 5-3 lead and the hat trick.

St. Croix would make it a 3 goal lead when he set up linemate T.J. Foster for the Oil King's 6th goal and this one was over. Regina won't cry if St. Croix doesn't return to Edmonton for an overage year as St. Croix has done a number on them this season.

St. Croix had a 4 goal game on December 16th, a 1-2-3 game on February 7, they shut him out on February 22 and tonight's 3-1-4 for a 8-3-11 line this season against Regina. For St. Croix this was his 7th hat trick of his WHL career as he improves to 36-51-87 on the season (7th overall in the WHL).

It is the first time in his career that St. Croix has had back to back 4 point games as St. Croix is 5-8-13 in his last 4 games helping Edmonton win all 4 games. I haven't forgotten about Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) as while the Oil King captain may not have scored; his defensive play was needed after one Oil King defender was ejected on a "clipping" major and then a 2nd got into a fight a little over 2 minutes later.

As special as St. Croix's offensive numbers were, if Reinhart doesn't help kill the major penalty (helped by Regina taking a minor) and having to play the rest of the game missing a defender then St. Croix's offense might not have happened.

Something else to think about Reinhart's efforts on defense is that Regina for the entire game only got 14 total shots on goal. St. Croix might be the "Predator" but Reinhart just might be the "Alien" half of this duo and equally important to how the Oil Kings do.

The win which as was already noted was Edmonton's 4th straight also lowered their "magic number" to clinch a 2nd straight Eastern Conference title to just 1. 1 more point or 1 more loss or overtime loss by Calgary in the remaining 5 regular season games and Edmonton will have the home ice advantage during the Eastern Conference playoffs.

On the other hand, Brenden Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) and his Spokane Chiefs hurt their own playoff status by losing to the Seattle Thunderbirds 4-2 on their home ice. It was Spokane's game in hand and a chance to move past Tri-City for 4th place in the WHL's Western Conference.

While Kichton was scoreless for the Chiefs, the team can only blame themselves for letting a 2-0 2nd period lead slip away against a team that entering the game was 28 points behind them in the standings. These are the games you just can't give away but Spokane did giving up 3 third period goals to remain 1 point behind Tri-City.

Spokane has 6 games remaining on their schedule including a home and home on the final weekend of the regular season against Tri-City. What they don't want to do is have their playoff status determined by that series as Spokane plays 3 games in 3 days that weekend with the 3rd game being in Portland.

Time for players to start stepping up.

Thursday is a mostly quiet day for me as I will spend part of it talking with the Ranger's duo up in Saskatoon Shane McColgan and newly signed Josh Nicholls.

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