Saturday, March 2, 2013

Helping hands

Michael St. Croix (Edmonton Oil Kings)
The time for playing around is over as for most of the New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects this weekend the playoffs are starting. Whether it is jockeying for position or trying to rise as high as possible to gain a favorable seed; "tomorrow" has arrived for them.

The prospects were in a giving mood; scoring a total of 14 assists doing what they can to help their team as best as possible. Our stars of the night did just that and in some cases more than expected.

First Star Michael St. Croix Edmonton Oil Kings
First Star Griffin Reinhart Edmonton Oil Kings

Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oil Kings)
Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) and Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) made sure their 13+ hour bus ride back to Edmonton would be a happier one as they combined for a 1-6-7 evening to help their Edmonton Oil Kings earn a 7-1 win of the Everett Silvertips.

It was a fitting end to a 5 game road trip that started poorly but ended as a winner as the Oil Kings captured 3 out of 5 games. St. Croix with a 4 assist evening and Reinhart with a 1-2-3 game were too much for the Silvertips.

St. Croix got the party going with a secondary assist on Edmonton's 1st goal, a power play goal which came at 5:42 of the first period. It gave the Oil Kings a 1-0 lead and would be the only goal scored in the period.

In the 2nd with the Oil Kings up 2-0 St. Croix would earn a primary assist on Martin Gernat's goal which was an even strength goal at 5:45 of the period. After Everett scored what turned out to be their only goal of the game, St. Croix would earn his 3rd assist on the night when he got the primary assist on linemate Trevor Cheeks goal at 9:36 to make it a 4-1 game.

St. Croix was almost done as he earned a 3rd primary assist and 4th point of the game when he set up good friend Griffin Reinhart for the team's 5th goal at 19:31 of the 2nd. It was Reinhart's 7th goal of the season and it became his turn to play scorer.

In the 3rd period, Reinhart would help put the Silvertips out of their misery with secondary assists on the Oil Kings 6th and 7th goals of the game. St. Croix was named the first star while Reinhart wound up with the 3rd star.

St. Croix's 4 assists were a new career high for a single game but it was his 2nd 4 point game of the season (the other was an all 4 goal affair). Overall St. Croix is now 33-50-83 which leads the team and is 7th in the WHL.

Reinhart's 3 point game helped him improve his numbers to 7-18-25 on the season. The Oil Kings travel home long enough to say hi and held back on the road for a 3 game road trip.

Brenden Kichton (Spokane Chiefs)
Second Star Brenden Kichton Spokane Chiefs

Brenden Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) led his Spokane Chiefs to Victoria for a 2 game set with the Victoria Royals. The Chiefs and Royals along with the Tri-City Americans have been fighting for 4th place in the WHL's Western Conference.

Kichton and his teammates earned a hard fought 4-3 overtime win over the Royals thanks in part to Kichton's 3 assists. Kichton got to work early helping to set up Mitch Holmberg for a power play goal just 3:30 into the game.

Victoria would respond by first tying the game and then take a 2-1 lead into the 1st intermission. In the 2nd, Kichton would earn his 2nd assist also a primary assist on the Chief's 2nd goal which tied the game at 2-2.

The teams would trade goals during the rest of the 2nd and 3rd periods forcing overtime where Kichton would earn assist number 3. In overtime Kichton's shot was deflected in by Mike Aviani for the game winner as Spokane takes game 1 of this mini-series 4-3.

Kichton was named the game's 1st star for his 3 primary assists as he improved to 20-55-75 as Spokane won their 4th straight game. But for the Chiefs the win was sweeter as they moved back into 4th place in the Western Conference.

Third Star Samuel Noreau Baie-Comeau Drakkar

Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) and his Baie-Comeau Drakkar returned back to 2nd place in the QMJHL standings thanks to a 6-1 win over the Gatineau Olympiques. Noreau played his best game in quite some time recording a 1-1-2 evening to help the Drakkar win.

Noreau scored his 1st goal in 38 games as he got his goal on the power play in the 2nd period at 7:30 of the period. It was his 7th goal of the season; all of them were power play goals. Noreau would earn a primary assist on the Drakkar's 2nd goal in the 1st period as that goal would wind up as the game winner.

Third Star Shane McColgan Saskatoon Blades

Ironic how the Ranger's "Mutt and Jeff" 2011 5th round picks would both have 1-1-2 evenings on the same day. Shane McColgan's (NYR 2011 5th) Saskatoon Blades returned home and promptly spanked the Brandon Wheat Kings 6-1.

It would be McColgan who would get the Blades going by opening the game's scoring with his 17th goal of the season. It was an even strength goal scored at 12:02 and the Blades would never trail in this game helping their coach Lorne Molleken become just the 2nd WHL coach to have won 600 games.

It was also the Blade's 18th straight win as they also now have the 2nd best record in the WHL's Eastern Conference. McColgan also earned a secondary assist on the Blade's 4th goal which was an empty net goal to seal the win.

McColgan is now 17-46-63 and his next assist will set a new career high for him.

Honorable Mention Cristoval Nieves Michigan Wolverines

Christoval "Boo" Nieves of the Michigan Wolverines was named the Gongshow Rookie of the Month for February.
Nieves outscored every other freshman in the country during February and is Michigan's leading scorer. The Ranger's 2012 2nd round pick had points in 5 of the 6 games that Michigan played in February.

Congrats to "Boo" on this honor.

The Rest of the prospects

Might as well start with Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (NYR 2012 2nd) as they were hosting Ferris State trying move up in the CCHA standings to try to gain home ice advantage in the 1st round of the CCHA playoffs. The Wolverines needed to win but also needed some help by other teams and they got some of that as the 2 teams that the Wolverines are chasing (Bowling Green and Northern Michigan) lost.

Michigan would do their part by defeating Ferris State 4-1 and while Nieves was scoreless; he was a +1 on 4 shots while going 11-6 on his faceoffs. The win put Michigan into 8th place which would earn them that home ice advantage in the first round of the CCHA but they like the rest of the CCHA have 1 game left in their regular season.

12th ranked Notre Dame was one of those who "helped" Michigan but they were thinking about their own playoff seeding as they were defeating Bowling Green 4-3. They are chasing Western Michigan for 2nd place in the CCHA standings.

Anders Lee (NYI 2009 6th) had 2 assists (primary and secondary) for Notre Dame as well as going a +1 on 2 shots and was an impressive 21-10 on his faceoffs. Lee is also Notre Dame's leading scoring as his 2 assists improved his numbers to 17-16-33 on the season.

Robbie Russo (NYI 2011 4th) had a primary assist on Notre Dame's 2nd goal of the game to improve to 5-10-15 as he was a +1 on 1 shot. Steven Fogarty (NYR 2011 3rd) was scoreless as he too was a +1 on 1 shot but Fogarty was 2-3 on faceoffs.

In Minnesota it was the 2nd ranked Golden Gophers of Minnesota taking on the 11th ranked Denver Pioneers in a critical matchup for both teams. Scott Mayfield (NYI 2011 2nd) and his Pioneers came away with a 2-0 win over Brady Skjei's (NYR 2012 1st) Golden Gophers.

While neither prospect figured in the scoring both made their presence known on the defensive end playing a physical game as the stakes were high for both teams who have just 3 regular season games remaining in the WCHA season. The win for Denver keeps their hopes alive for a slim chance to finish 1st but their best hope might be 2nd-4th as they are closer to those teams (2nd is 3 points ahead of them).

Minnesota too must lower their sights thanks to the loss but now needs to defeat Denver on Saturday just to keep a hold of 4th place as Denver trails them by just 1 after the win.

Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd)
and his Guelph Storm clinched a spot in the OHL's Western Conference playoffs after a 6-3 win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Pedan was scoreless and took a minor for tripping that the Greyhounds converted for a power play goal.

Not going to knock Pedan on the penalty as he has taken only 5 minors since January 26th which for him is a major improvement. Glad to see him working on such a key area as the Storm head towards the playoffs because it might make a huge difference in how well the Storm do.

Peter Ceresnak (NYR 2011 6th) and his Peterborough Petes missed out on a chance to tie for 8th place in the OHL's Eastern Conference after they lost to the Sudbury Wolves 6-3. That the Petes could not string wins together down this stretch is going to be the main reason why they fail to make the playoffs.

Ceresnak was scoreless with a minor for "interference" and was a +1 for the game. The Petes have 6 games left but Mississauga the team they are chasing has 8.

Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th)
returned to the Barrie Colt's lineup as they took on the Mississauga Steelheads. The Colts were able to shut out the Steelheads 2-0 as Theoret was scorless but the Colts got some good news when Belleville saw their 10 game winning streak come to an end.

That meant Barrie was able to pull back to within 2 points of Belleville for 1st place in the Eastern Conference but Belleville holds 2 games in hand.

Cody Rosen (NYI 2010 7th)
got to see some action in relief as Clarkson was whipped 5-0 by Rensselaer. Rosen came in after starter Greg Lewis gave up 3 goals on 10 shots.

Rosen played 38:29 giving up 2 goals on 13 shots as his last regular season game will be tomorrow night. Hope the Islanders are serious about giving him a look after all he has gone through at Clarkson.

Finally Adam Pelech (NYI 2012 3rd) sat out game 4 of his 5 game suspension as his Erie Otters dropped their 5th straight 7-2 to the Plymouth Whalers. Not much more one can say other than you have to hope that this is eating at Pelech so if he returns to the Otters next season he will realize he isn't helping his team being suspended not once but twice.

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