Saturday, March 9, 2013

Scoreboard watching

Josh Nicholls (Saskatoon Blades)
It is that time of the year where teams with New York Ranger or New York Islander prospects are doing scoreboard watching. With all the jockeying for playoff seeding going on at this time of the season you had better believe that just like their fans, the players and coaches are keeping track of what the other teams are doing with some exceptions.

Tonight's Star Josh Nicholls Saskatoon Blades

Well it did not take the newest member of the Ranger prospect pool Josh Nicholls (UFA 2013) of the Saskatoon Blades very long to draw some attention to himself. Nicholls with 2 shorthanded goals and an assist earned the first star of the game honors as his Saskatoon Blades defeated the Medicine Hat Tigers 6-3.

Nicholls and his teammates clinched the WHL's East Division title as well as the 2nd seed in the WHL's Eastern Conference playoffs with the win. Give the Blades credit as they didn't play around with what was at stake.

Nicholls helped the Blades get on the board first when he set up defenseman Darren Dietz for the game's first goal, an even strength goal at 11:57 of the 1st period and Medicine Hat never really threatened. Nicholls would make it 2-0 with a shorthanded goal at 18:51 off a breakaway and the Blades would take that lead into the intermission.

The Blades would make it 4-0 before Medicine Hat would get on the board as the 2nd period would end with the Blades up 4-1. In the 3rd period, Nicholls would get his 2nd goal of the night when he stole the puck from 2 Tiger defensemen and scored his 2nd shorthanded goal of the night to make it 5-1 at 5:08.

This goal was that much more impressive as the Blades were trying to kill off a Medicine Hat 2 man advantage at the time. The 2 shorthanded goals were Nicholl's 5th and 6th of the season as he took over the WHL lead in that category.

For the stat fans, Nicholls will make you happy as his 2 goals gave him 44 on the season (4th WHL, 1st team), his 44 goals are 4th in the WHL and overall he is 44-34-78 which is 16th in the WHL and 2nd on the Blades.

The Rest of the Prospects

Nicholl's teammate Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) was scoreless in the Blades win but the win gives McColgan a 2nd WHL Division title on his resume (won 1 with the Kelowna Rockets). He was a 15 year old rookie with the Kelowna Rockets watching them win the WHL Championship and play in the Memorial Cup.

This time he will be playing in the Memorial Cup not watching from the press box.

Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd) and his Guelph Storm are one of the teams playing scoreboard watcher as they are chasing the Kitchener Rangers for 4th place in the OHL's Western Conference while at the same time trying to hold off 6th place Sarnia. Entering their game against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the Storm were trailing Rangers by 5 points but were leading Sarnia by 5 in the standings but held a game in hand over both.

The Storm did their part earning a 6-2 win over the Greyhounds as Pedan had a good night with 2 assists (primary, secondary) and a +3. Pedan stayed out of the penalty box and helped the Storm kill all 7 power plays that the Greyhounds had.

Pedan is now 13-30-43 on the season as the Storm picked up a point on the Rangers who lost a shootout decision but maintained their 5 point lead over Sarnia who also won.

Cristoval Nieves (NYR 2012 2nd) and his Michigan Wolverines opened their best of 3 CCHA playoff series against Northern Michigan with a 3-2 win but Michigan was holding on for dear life for the win. Nieves earned his 19th assist of the season on Michigan's 1st goal of the game, a power play goal at 6:39 of the 1st period.

Nieves was credited for the primary assist as Jon Merill's shot hit a body in front and deflected in. The goal was part of a 3 goal first period as Michigan extended their unbeaten streak to 5 games. Nieves other than the assist had a bit of a struggle playing the 1st line center as he took 1 shot but was a -1 and went 5-9 on face-offs.

The assist boosted Nieves to 8-19-27 for the season as Michigan tries for the 2 game sweep on Saturday evening.

Brenden Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) had 2 assists as his Spokane Chiefs broke open a tie game with 3 third period goals to defeat the Everett Silvertips 6-3. The Chiefs are trying to beat out the Tri-City Americans for the 4th seed in the WHL's Western Conference.

Kichton had a primary and a secondary assist during Spokane's 3rd period outburst. For Kichton the assists were his 55th and 56th of the season and improved his totals to 21-56-77 (tops among all WHL defensemen).

The Chiefs were able to keep pace with Tri-City who also won and both teams have 5 games remaining.

Scott Mayfield (NYI 2011 2nd) and his Denver Pioneers were looking to move up from 7th place in the WCHA as they hosted the Alaska-Anchorage Sea Wolves. The WCHA standings going into the final weekend were a traffic jam with several teams fighting for playoff seeding.

Denver did their own part by earning an pretty easy 7-1 win as Mayfield had a secondary assist on the 7th goal for Denver. It was Mayfield's 11th assist of the season as he was a +2 on 0 shots to improve to 3-11-14.

Going into the final regular season game on Saturday, Denver moved up to a tie for 4th place in the WCHA and the best they can do is 3rd due to tiebreakers.

Brady Skjei (NYR 2012 1st) was back in the Minnesota Golden Gopher's lineup after being a healthy scratch last Saturday. In their WCHA wishes was a shot at winning the MacNaughton Cup and the top seed that goes along with it.

The Golden Gophers were on the road against the Bemidji State Beavers and almost saw all their top seeded hopes disappear with an upset loss. Falling behind 3-2 in the 3rd period, Minnesota rallied for a 4-3 win.

Skjei was scoreless with no shots and was even for the night. On Saturday the best Minnesota can hope for is a share of the MacNaughton Cup and the 2nd seed if both St. Cloud State and North Dakota lose.

Otherwise they will wind up 3rd going into the WCHA playoffs.

Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th)
and Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) and their Edmonton Oil Kings almost suffered an embarrassing loss to the 12th place Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday evening. Instead they escaped Brandon with a 3-2 shootout win for their 5th straight win.

Granted the Oil Kings really don't have much to play for as they have little chance of catching Portland for the best record in the WHL and are locked into the top seed in the WHL's Eastern Conference. Against Brandon, St. Croix was scoreless while Reinhart had a secondary assist on the Oil King's 2nd goal but he took a hooking penalty that led to a Brandon power play goal.

Reinhart is now 7-19-26.

Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) and his Baie-Comeau Drakkar are fighting for the 2nd seed in the QMJHL playoffs with the Rimouski Oceanic as the QMJHL seeds their teams 1-16 for their playoffs. Not hard to imagine the difference in finishing 2nd against 4th.

The Drakkar went into their game against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (holders of 3rd place) in 2nd but the Drakkar came up on the short end of the score 4-2. Noreau was a +1 on 3 shots with 3 hits and a roughing minor which isn't a bad line.

The Drakkar caught a break when the Oceanic also lost but both teams have 87 points and Rimouski holds a game in hand. The only edge that the Drakkar hold is they have the first tiebreaker which is wins. Harder for the Drakkar is they end their season next Saturday while the Oceanic finish on Sunday.

Hang on the ride will be fun.

The Erie Otters are playing out the string having been eliminated from playoff contention it seems ages ago. Adam Pelech (NYI 2012 3rd) and his teammates have been struggling to be even competitive which sadly has been almost an impossible chore.

The Otters are in Owen Sound to play the Attack in a 2 game set but after losing the first game of the set 9-1; one has to wonder if they really want to play on Saturday evening. Pelech was as bad as his teammates going scoreless and a -4.

And finally we have Cody Rosen (NYI 2010 7th) who's NCAA career is now down to one more loss as his Clarkson Knights dropped the first game of their ECAC playoff series to Brown 3-0. Rosen was as he normally is the backup for the Knights and most likely will be that way on Saturday.

It will be interesting to see if the Islanders offer to bring him to Bridgeport on an ATO despite barely playing during his NCAA career.

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