Sunday, March 17, 2013

Win and you are in

Anders Lee
The thing on Saturday for New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects is simple; win and you are either in or you move on. If you lose then you risk elimination but at least you get 1 chance to make things right.

First Star Anders Lee Notre Dame

The captain of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Anders Lee (NYI 09 6th) did what you hope your team leaders do when you need it which is come up with the big play. Lee's 19th goal of the season turned out to be the game/series winning goal as Notre Dame held off a very pesky Bowling Green team 4-3 to eliminate them 2 games to none and advance to the CCHA semifinals in Detroit.

Lee took a feed from fellow Islander prospect Robbie Russo and found himself with an wide open net to score at 12:05 of the 3rd period giving Notre Dame a 4-2 lead at the time. It worked out as Bowling Green would score just 13 seconds later to pull within a goal which was too close for the Irish.

Lee also had a secondary assist on Notre Dame's first goal of the game as he also teamed with Russo on that goal. The only blemish for Lee was that he went 11-14 on his face-offs; a rare sub-500 game for Lee.

Lee leads the Irish in scoring with a 19-18-37 and it has been quite the week for Lee who was named to the first team ALL-CCHA and is a finalist for the CCHA Player of the Year and Defensive Forward of the year.

Here are the game highlights courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics:

Robbie Russo (Notre Dame)
Second Star Robbie Russo Notre Dame

As big as Anders Lee's plays were, then so too were sophomore Robbie Russo's (NYI 11 4th) as he had the primary assists on both of the goals that Lee was involved in. Russo had a bit of a slump during the middle of the season but is coming out of it at the right time.

As Notre Dame moves to the CCHA semifinals in Detroit, Russo improves on the season to 5-18-23. Notre Dame has to wait to find out who they will be facing as 2 series in the CCHA are going to a 3rd game.

Adam Pelech (OHL Images)
Third Star Adam Pelech Erie Otters

It was his final game of the 2012-2013 as there won't be any playoffs for defenseman Adam Pelech (NYI 12 3rd) as his Erie Otters were eliminated from playoff contention long ago. But Pelech and his teammates offered their fans some hope next season sending them home with a come from behind 5-4 overtime win over the Guelph Storm.

Pelech played a part of it setting up the game winning goal with just 12 seconds remaining in overtime as the Otters cashed in on a Guelph penalty. Pelech also scored his 8th goal of the season also on the power play getting the Otters on the board after Guelph built up a 3-0 lead.

For Pelech the season ended on a positive note as he finished with career highs on offense 8-32-40. However Pelech needs to come back next season with a better on-ice discipline if the Otters are to turn things around.

The Rest Of the Prospects

Normally when a prospect misses a game, it gets mentioned at the end of the post but tonight will be an exception as Andrey Pedan (NYI 11 3rd) missed the game against the Erie Otters. Pedan who was ejected from the Storm's game against the Otters on Friday evening as the result of a "kneeing" major.

Pedan is a big part of the Storm blueline and if he doubts it then one should take a look at the 3 for 4 that the Otters recorded on their power play. The Otters who finished with the 2nd worst record in the OHL was able to score power play goals that they shouldn't or hold the Storm to just 1 for 4 on their own power plays.

Pedan finished the regular season 14-30-44 with 145 PIMs; congrats to Pedan as he just could wind up the leader in penalty minutes. Just when you think Pedan turns a corner and shows some maturity then he pulls a stunt that hurts his team.

The playoffs start Friday for Pedan and the Storm but which Pedan will show up (if the OHL doesn't add more games to the suspension).

Brenden Kichton (NYI 11 5th) and his Spokane Chiefs defeated the Tri-City Americans 3-2 in overtime to sweep the "home and home" series that clinched the 4th seed in the WHL's Western Conference playoffs for the Chiefs. Kichton had 2 assists including setting up the game winner just 34 seconds into the overtime period.

Kichton the clear favorite to win the "WHL's Defenseman of the Year" also set up Spokane's 2nd goal which was on the power play coming at 5:55 and gave Spokane a 2-1 lead at that point. Kichton finished the season leading WHL defensemen in scoring (22-63-85) with career highs in assists (63) and points (85).

Spokane will finish their season in Portland on Sunday then open the playoffs against Tri-City starting on Friday.

Michael St. Croix (NYR 11 4th) had 2 assists while teammate Griffin Reinhart (NYI 12 1st) added one of this own to help their Edmonton Oil Kings defeat the Red Deer Rebels 5-1. St. Croix's assist both came on the power play with the first one winding up as the game winner.

As the Oil Kings begin their quest for a second straight WHL title, St. Croix finished with a very solid 37-55-92 with a WHL leading 20 goals on the power play (20-24-44 total power play points). It was a big reason why the Oil Kings led the WHL in power play percentage (28.6).

Reinhart who finished 8-21-29 +30 was the anchor of the Oil King penalty kill which currently is 2nd in the WHL with a 87.5 success rate. Reinhart will lead his Oil Kings against his kid brother Sam and the Kootenay Ice starting on Friday.

The night's biggest surprise belongs to Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (NYR 12 2nd) and the Michigan Wolverines who shocked 3rd seed Western Michigan 5-1 to knock them out of the CCHA playoffs in a two game sweep. The 7th seeded Wolverines are headed to Detroit for the CCHA semifinals where their impossible quest to earn a 23rd straight NCAA appearance is now just 2 wins from happening.

Nieves was scoreless, a +2 on 2 shots while going 4-8 on his faceoffs. Michigan is heading to their own backyard the Joe Louis Arena where the team on January 31st was 8-16-2 is now 17-18-3 on a 9-2-1 run. Who they face is still to be determined but right now would you want to face this Michigan team?

Steven Fogarty (NYR 11 3rd) was scoreless, even on 1 shots and a 1-3 on his faceoffs in Notre Dame's 4-3 win against Bowling Green on Saturday evening. Don't count Fogarty out as he has a proven flair for the dramatic 4 of his 5 goals this season were game winners.

Yesterday Scott Mayfield (NYI 11 2nd) and his Denver Pioneers earned a hard fought 5-3 win in game one of their best of three series against Colorado College. Saturday evening they were on the short end of a 2-1 outcome in game 2 which means their entire season will be on the line on Sunday in game 3.

Mayfield was scoreless on 3 shots and a +1 as Denver and Colorado setup a Sunday "winner take all" game three. This one should be a dandy.

The Saskatoon Blades with the Ranger duo of Josh Nicholls (13 UFA) and Shane McColgan (11 5th) ended their regular season with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Prince Albert Raiders. 2 straight games in Prince Albert ended with the Blades giving away 2nd period leads.

Nicholls staked the Blades to a 2-0 lead off his 46th and 47th goals of the season but Prince Albert rallied from down 0-2 and 2-3 to force overtime and then the shootout. McColgan was scoreless and missed on his shootout attempt as did Nicholls.

Nicholls finished the WHL regular season 47-38-85 while McColgan was 19-46-65 as the Blades head home to begin the WHL Western Conference playoffs against the Medicine Hat Tigers on Thursday.

Brady Skjei (NYR 12 1st) was scoreless on 2 shots while a +2 as his Minnesota Golden Gophers needed a goal in the last minute of regulation to defeat Bemidji State 4-3 to eliminate the Beavers and advance to the WCHA's Final Five. Give Bemidji State a lot of credit as the 11th seeded team fought tooth and nail against the number 2 seed on their home ice.

The WCHA Frozen Five is a rather "different" tournament that once the field is set, it will be easier to explain.

With Ryan Strome (NYI 11 1st) sitting out his 3rd straight game with a sore foot, his Niagara IceDogs lost their 4th straight to Mitchell Theoret's (NYI 11 7th) Barrie Colts 3-2. Jesse Graham (NYI 12 6th) did play for Niagara and had a primary assist to finish off his regular season 4-35-39.

Still think Graham should be moved to forward to get the best out of his skating but to his credit he works hard on the blueline even though he isn't strong enough physically as a defender. Theoret (scoreless) who started the season with the IceDogs finished off his season 25-35-60 but his offense has dried up over his last 10 games (1-5-6).

Strome finished the season 34-60-94 as Niagara finishes 6th in the OHL's Eastern Conference where they will face the Oshawa Generals. As for Theoret and his Colts, they finished second in the Eastern Conference but still don't know who they will face out of Peterborough, Mississauga or Kingston.

Mississauga finished their regular season and start Sunday in 7th place with 60 points, Peterborough is 8th with 59 and Kingston 9th with 58. Go here if you want to see how the folks figured out who does what and how.

Samuel Noreau (NYR 11 5th) missed his 2nd straight game as his Baie-Comeau Drakkar defeated the Drummondville Voltigeurs 5-4 and won the Telus East Division title for the first time in ten years. The Drakkar also because of the win clinched the 2nd seed in the QMJHL playoffs and will face the 15th seeded Sherbrooke Phoenix.

Sunday is a "sudden death" day between the 3 way fight in the OHL, the Colorado civil war, and the WHL scoring race in Portland where the last 2 players you would have thought would win a scoring title will either win it or share it.

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