Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Defense to the rescue

Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oil Kings)
Friday night was about players stepping up for their teams as the prospects of the New York Ranger and New York Islanders make pushes to help their teams with their playoff hopes. No position had a bigger impact than the defense corps and it should not be a surprise that more defensemen are also captains on their team.

First Star Griffin Reinhart Edmonton Oil Kings

His team is already set in their playoff position and while others would take the night off that wasn't the case for Griffin Reinhart (NYI 12 1st) as the captain of the Edmonton Oil Kings led them to a 3-1 win over the Red Deer Rebels.

Reinhart's 8th goal of the season at 6:59 was the game winner (his 3rd of the season) as the Oil Kings needed to rally to defeat the Rebels. Reinhart hasn't forgotten last season's disappointing performance at the Memorial Cup and isn't about to let his teammates forget either.

Reinhart had a secondary assist on Edmonton's first goal which tied the game up at 1-1 in the second on a power play goal. Reinhart improved to 8-20-28 in 58 games as his Oil Kings will finish up their regular season at home on Saturday night with these same Red Deer Rebels.

Reinhart and the Oil Kings will be facing Reinhart's younger brother Sam and his Kootenay Ice. The Ice are coached by former Hartford Wolpack coach Ryan McGill.

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

The Spokane Chiefs went into the "home and home" series against the Tri-City Americans needing to win one to clinch the 4th seed in the WHL's Western Conference playoffs and Brenden Kichton (NYI 11 5th) made sure they would get it out of the way as soon as possible.

Kichton had 2 primary assists to lead the Chiefs to a 6-0 win and home ice advantage when the Chiefs open the playoffs next week against these same Americans. Kichton set up Alessio Bertaggia for what would prove to be the only goal that the Chiefs would need, a power play goal at 12:44 of the first period.

Kichton would also set up Carter Profit for a power play goal in the second to give Spokane a 3-0 lead as the Chiefs were on their way for the win. Kichton improved his season to 22-61-83 which is a career high for Kichton.

It was the Chief's final home game of the regular season and they handed out some hardware to their players. Kichton was named the Spokane Chiefs' Player of the Year and the John "Hitman" Hern Defenseman of the Year.

It was the second time he has been player of the year while it was the 3rd straight season winning the defenseman of the year. It is just start of the post-season awards that Kichton will be winning.

Kichton and the Chiefs head to Tri-City to face the Americans for the second half the series and expect fireworks as the teams attempt to send "messages" for next week's playoff opener.

Scott Mayfield (Denver Pioneers)
Third Star Scott Mayfield Denver Pioneers

Scott Mayfield (NYI 11 2nd) and his Denver Pioneers opened their WCHA playoff series against Colorado College with a 5-3 win to grab a 1-0 lead in their best of three series. And it was Mayfield who wound up earning first star honors with a 2 assist effort which it is believed to be his first time as "first star" with Denver.

Mayfield had the primary assist (his 12th) to help Denver score their 1st goal of the game which at the time tied the game at 1-1. It was an even strength goal at 16:17 of the first period and Denver would take the lead for good 1:29 later on a goal.

In the second period, Mayfield had a secondary assist (his 13th) on a power play goal which extended Denver's lead to 3-1. Mayfield in his sophomore season with Denver is now 4-13-17 as he also has a 4 game scoring streak of (2-3-5).

Denver will look to sweep the series on Saturday against their biggest rival and that won't be an easy task.

The Rest Of The Prospects

Michael St. Croix (NYR 11 4th) had a primary assist on his Edmonton Oil King's first goal which tied the score as the Oil Kings went on to earn a 3-1 win over Red Deer. St. Croix improved to 33-57-90 (8th WHL) and was named the game's Third Star".

Peter Ceresnak (NYR 11 6th)
and his Peterborough Petes needed a win against the Kingston Frontenacs to have any hope of earning a playoff spot. It took overtime but the Petes would earn a 5-4 win which along with Mississaugas's loss to Belleville has the Petes in 7th place in the OHL's Eastern Conference with 1 game to go.

Ceresnak was scoreless with a +1 as his Petes are in the driver's seat for a playoff spot. If the Petes win on Sunday against Brampton that will send them to the playoffs no matter what Kingston and Mississauga do.

Trust me this is the easiest way to explain it but if you so desire the various scenarios then have fun they are right here.

Cristoval Nieves (NYR 12 2nd) and his Michigan Wolverines know that any hope of earning Michigan's 23rd straight NCAA invite happens only if Michigan can win the CCHA tournament which carries the automatic invite. So for starters the Wolverines have to travel to Kalamazoo Michigan and defeat 3rd seeded Western Michigan.

As Michigan coach Red Berenson would say, "it is only one win" but Michigan took game 1 of their best of 3 series with Western Michigan with a 4-3 win. Nieves was scoreless, even on 2 shots but led Michigan with a very nice 10-4 record on his faceoffs.

This series is not over by a longshot but right now the longshot holds a 1-0 lead going into Saturday night.

Brady Skjei (NYR 12 1st) and his 2nd seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers opened their WCHA playoff series against the Bemidji State Beavers as huge favorites. The Golden Gophers ended their regular season with a 2 game sweep on the Bemidji State campus so what chance did the Beaver's have?

A very good chance as despite being out shot in regular 41-11, the Beavers were able to force Minnesota into a nailbiting overtime which Minnesota 13:18 of the first overtime was able to end with a 2-1 win for a 1-0 lead in their series.

Skjei was a +1 on zero shots as his Golden Gophers escaped the upset bid and will look to eliminate Bemidji State.

Andrey Pedan (NYI 11 3rd) wasn't around for the finish of the game between the Erie Otters and his Guelph Storm on Friday night. Pedan was ejected for "kneeing" at 13:59 of the 3rd period with the score tied at 1-1.

The Storm were able to earn a 2-1 win over the lowly Otters but now the question is going to be will Pedan have to face any kind of additional discipline by the OHL office. Pedan who has played some very good hockey over the last couple of weeks is a player the Storm can't afford to lose but if they do it will be his own fault.

If I was coaching the Storm I would leave Pedan home rather than take a chance on Pedan in a meaningless game against the Otters. If Pedan gets suspended it will be the third time this season.

For the Otters, Adam Pelech (NYI 12 3rd) as the Otters remain winless in their last 4 games. The news was not all bad for Pelech has the annual coaches poll came out for the OHL's Western Conference and Pelech was picked 2nd as for the best shot blocking defenseman.

Josh Nicholls (NYR 13 UFA)
had 2 assists but was a -3 while linemate Shane McColgan (NYR 11 5th) was scoreless as their Saskatoon Blades dropped the first of a two game series with the Prince Albert Raiders in overtime 6-5. It was the tale of 3 games as Prince Albert was fighting to hold on to the 5th seed in the WHL's Eastern Conference.

Prince Albert jumped on the Blades for a 3-0 first period lead before the Blades would respond with 2 goals in the first period, then 2 more in the second and 1 more in the third for a 5-3 lead. Nicholls would wind up with 2 primary assists for his points (45-38-83, 16th WHL) but the Blades stopped playing in the third period.

The Raiders would force overtime by scoring 2 goals and then got the game winner in overtime. The 2 teams will face each other to finish the WHL regular season on Saturday. Again it will mean something for Prince Albert but not the Blades so who knows what will happen.

Mitchell Theoret (NYI 11 7th) and his Barrie Colts really had nothing to play for in their game against the Brampton Battalion and it showed with a 5-3 loss to the Battalion. Theoret would have a 2 assist game (primary, secondary) to improve his numbers to 25-35-60.

Ryan Strome (NYI 11 1st) sat out his 2nd straight game as his Niagara IceDogs lost to the Sudbury Wolves 5-1. For the IceDogs it was a meaningless game as they are locked into the 6th seed and choose to rest Strome.

Jesse Graham (NYI 12 6th)
would have a secondary assist on Niagara's only goal for his 38th point on the season. The IceDogs face Barrie on Saturday in a meaningless game for both teams so expect plenty of regulars sitting this out.

We added a somewhat new prospect in Jake Bischoff (NYI 12 7th) as he has joined the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, this is going to be his 2nd reall time with the Lancers,. WHat we learn about him we will gladly share. Since this was his first game, going to cut him some slack as his team lost

In the QMJHL, Samuel Noreau (NYR 11 5th) did not play for his Baie-Comeau Drakkar as they faced the Victoriaville Tigre. There was no word as to why but it had to be serious with the Drakkar trying to hold off 2 teams for the 2nd seed in the QMJHL playoffs. javascript:;

The Drakkar lost in the shoot out 4-3 while Rimouski won to tie for the Telus East Division but Baie-Comeau has 2 more wins so in the last game of the season whoever gets points will win. There is a 3rd team involved now as well in the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada who are just 1 point behind the 2 teams in the overall standings.

In any event come checkout some really nail biting hockey with me tomorrow.

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