|Michael St. Croix (Edmonton Oil Kings)|
First Star Michael St. Croix Edmonton Oil Kings
The Edmonton Oil Kings have made it clear that they have "Unfinished Business" from last season's WHL Championship run. If game one of their series against the Kootenay Ice is any indication then it could be very hard to stop the Oil Kings from reaching their goal of a Memorial Cup.
Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) opened his 2013 playoff run with a 1-2-3 +3 night as his Edmonton Oil Kings roared out to a 5-0 1st period lead as they blew out the Kootenay Ice 9-0 in game 1 of their WHL Eastern Conference playoff series. St. Croix started with a secondary assist on the only goal the Oil Kings would really need on Stephane Legault's goal at 8:26 of the 1st period.
1:50 later at 10:06 it would be a primary assist for St. Croix on Legault's 2nd goal of the game and the rout was just beginning. In the 2nd period, if you watched the linked clip then you saw St. Croix score his 1st goal of the playoffs with a nice backhand shot at 3:03 to make it 6-0.
It was a nice way to get his playoff season going as when we talked, St. Croix was totally focused on getting back to the Memorial Cup. Considering what a crazy night Friday was then St. Croix had the right idea.
|Brenden Kichton (Spokane Chiefs)|
Brenden Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) may be known for his offensive game but in game 1 of his 4th seeded Spokane Chief's WHL Western Conference playoff series against their arch-rivals the 5th seeded Tri-City Americans, it was offense first then solid team defense and physical play that helped Spokane earn a 4-1 win. The Chiefs jumped out to a 3-1 lead after the 1st period then held the Americans at bay to take a 1-0 series lead.
Kichton had 2 primary assists for the Chiefs as he was named the game's 2nd star. First Kichton set up Alessio Bertaggia for an even strength goal that broke a 1-1 tie as the goal wound up as the game winning goal.
Kichton wasn't done as 2:24 later at 13:39 with the Chiefs on a power play, Kichton set up Mitch Holmberg for a 3-1 Spokane lead which was how the 1st period ended. In the 2nd and 3rd, it was a physical defensive battle as Kichton and his teammates kept the Americans off the board.
Game 2 will be Saturday evening in Spokane.
The Rest of the Prospects
Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) had an assist and was a +2 in helping his Edmonton Oil Kings to their 9-0 win over the Kootenay Ice. Reinhart had a secondary assist on Stephane Legault's power play goal at 16:30 of the first period.
The top seed in the WHL's Eastern Conference, the Edmonton Oil Kings were powered by a 7 point game from Legault (3-4-7) and while some might see the score as "running it up" it wasn't. And considering that the Oil Kings were the only one of the top 4 seeds in the WHL to win their opener then it may look bad but losing would have looked worse.
And losing was exactly what happened to the 2nd seeded Saskatoon Blades as they were shut out by the 7th seeded Medicine Hat Tigers 3-0 and dropped game 2 of their series. It was not a good night for Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) as he took an interference call just 1:18 into the game that Medicine Hat used to score the game's first goal.
McColgan finished the game with a penalty as he went off for roughing at 18:45 of the 3rd period after Medicine Hat scored an empty net goal to ice the win. Teammate Josh Nicholls (NYR 2013 UFA) didn't have much more luck than McColgan as he took 2 minors himself.
The series shifts to Medicine Hat for game's 3 + 4 but Saskatoon now has lost 6 straight playoff games to the Tigers going back to last season. It won't look good at all if the hosts of the 2013 Memorial Cup get swept out in the first round.
Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd) had a 1-1-2 night for his 5th seeded Guelph Storm but his "check to the head" minor led to the Kitchener Rangers scoring what would prove to be the game winning goal as 4th seeded Kitchener took game 1 of their OHL Western Conference playoff series 5-2. Not going to blame Pedan for the loss as his teammates were worse in their on-ice behavior that helped Kitchener score 4 power play goals in 10 attempts.
Pedan scoring the first goal of the game for Guelph and set up their other goal with a primary assist did all the right stuff as Guelph actually led 2-1 before imploding mentally. This was a game that the 5th seeded Storm should have won as you take away the penalties and the Storm win 2-1.
Want to talk about handing a team a win as the Storm did that and their antics will have the OHL office talking to them too. At least 1 player should be suspended for a "check to the head" major and the team might be writing a check for 3 unsportsmanlike conducts misconducts in the 3rd period.
Game 2 will be Sunday night in Kitchener.
Ryan Strome (NYR 2011 1st) had a goal but also 4 minors as his 6th seeded Niagara IceDogs dropped game 1 of their OHL Eastern Conference series with the 3rd seeded Oshawa Generals 5-2. The score is not telling the story as the Oshawa Generals just dominated this game at both ends of the ice.
Strome actually got the IceDogs off to a good start scoring just 1:51 into the game on an even strength goal. Strome is going to be mad at himself for twice taking minors that ended IceDog power plays including a bit of a meltdown when he was called for interference 3 seconds after the IceDogs started a power play (then hit with unsportsmanlike minor for protesting).
Strome might have a right to be frustrated as the calls came with 3 seconds left in the 2nd period and Niagara had pulled to within 1 goal at 3-2. The second period was a frustrating one as the IceDogs were held to just 4 shots.
Jesse Graham (NYI 2012 6th) was scoreless and a -2 in the game. Game 2 will be Sunday in Oshawa with the Generals up 1-0 in the series
But I do have to question the quality of OHL officiating as in the 4 games played that there were 11, 14, 14 and 15 power plays handed out. That doesn't include the majors or misconducts that were called.
I can see 1 or 2 games getting out of hand but are the teams in the OHL that undisciplined to have that many penalties called?
In the QMJHL, Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) wasn't in the 2nd seeded Baie-Comeau Drakkar lineup when they took on the 15th seeded Sherbrooke Phoenix in the 1st game of their QMJHL playoff series. The Drakkar won 6-2 but it appears Noreau won't be in the lineup for the Drakkar for a while if at all the rest of the season.
Now this will be a confusing translation but evidence suggests that Noreau suffered a broken hand in a fight on March 9 against this very Phoenix team.
First here is the translated article that suggests a broken hand.
Side of Drakkar coach Éric Veilleux can count on his giant Samuel Noreau, also because of a broken hand suffered during the fight he gave Mathieu Laverdure, Sherbrooke, March 9 last.
Here is the link to the original article
And I also found a clip of the fight in question at hockeyfights.com
If you watch the clip you will see that Noreau at the 20 second mark, stop throwing punches and grab Laverdure, first putting him in a headlock and then pulling him in so Laverdure can't throw anymore punches. Now it is brief but as soon as the fight is broken up; Noreau takes off to the locker room.
What a shame for Noreau as he spent the entire season trying to become a player not a goon and this fight was only the 3rd one that he got into. Hope Noreau recovers in time to see some playoff action this year.
Brady Skjei (NYR 2012 1st) was a healthy scratch as his 2nd seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers were upset 2-0 in the WCHA Final Five Semifinals. The Golden Gophers were upset by Colorado College who entered the WCHA playoffs as the 8th seed and will get to play for a chance to make it to the NCAA tournament.
Minnesota as the 2nd ranked team in the NCAA is assured of a spot in the NCAA tournament despite the loss.
Minnesota was just one victim of a very strange day in hockey where in 8 games played in the various college conference tournaments only 1 favorite won their matchup. That has to be good news to a Cristoval Nieves (NYR 2012 2nd) and his Michigan Wolverines who need 2 wins to make it to the NCAA tournament.
Michigan faces Miami on Saturday in the CCHA semifinals with Notre Dame taking on Ohio State in the other semifinal.
The upset bug also hit the WHL as besides 2nd seeded Saskatoon losing, the top 2 seeds in the Western Conference both suffered losses as #1 Portland lost to #8 Everett and #2 Kelowna lost in overtime to #7 Seattle.