Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Taking care of the "unfinished business"

Michael St. Croix (Edmonton Oil Kings)
It is the mantra of the Edmonton Oil Kings that they have "unfinished business" from last year's disappointing appearance in the 2012 Memorial Cup. As the only team that has both a New York Ranger and a New York Islander prospect on their roster; both players give their future teams plenty of reasons to get excited about their addition.

Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 1st)
earned the game's first star with a 3 point performance (2-1-3, +3) leading his Edmonton Oil Kings to a huge 9-2 beating of the Medicine Hat Tigers in game 3 of their WHL Eastern Conference semifinal. Honestly this game was over the moment the 2 teams hit the ice as Edmonton scored just 1:39 into the game on a goal by Henrik (Son of Ulfie) Samuelsson who also had 2 goals in this game.

In fact Samuelsson scored Edmonton's 2nd goal on the power play of a rebound off a Michael St. Croix shot at 12:25 and the rout was on. Edmonton would finish the period up 3-0 and would hold the Tigers to just 2 shots on goal.

In the 2nd, St. Croix would keep the pressure on the Tigers scoring his 5th goal of the playoffs at 1:40 of the period. After a goal from Martin Gernat making it 5-0, St. Croix made it 6-0 with his 6th goal at 10:36 for his 3rd point of the game.

You can go here to see the postgame interviews from St. Croix as well as highlights from the game. You have to watch carefully as the goals are not in order and look for 18 in the red and blue.

St. Croix is 6-6-12 in 8 playoff games which is 9th overall in the WHL and 2nd on the Oil Kings behind teammate Stephane Legault. the Oil Kings got points from 15 of the 18 skaters who dressed for the game.

The win puts the Oil Kings up 3-0 in the series and they will be looking to finish off the Tigers Wednesday evening in Medicine Hat.

Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) may not have scored any points but that is because the captain of the Oil Kings was doing his work on the defensive end. From leading a defense that limited the Tigers to the 2 shots in the first period, Reinhart was also helping to kill 7 out of the 8 power plays the Oil Kings gave the Tigers.

The Oil Kings lead the WHL in penalty kills with a 97.6% having given up just 1 goal in 41 times shorthanded. Reinhart's defensive presence on the ice is a big reason why the Oil Kings are tearing up a Medicine Hat team that swept the Saskatoon Blades in the first round.

I will be seriously shocked if Reinhart is not playing on Long Island next year as his defense is very much NHL ready.

Brenden Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) finds himself one loss away from the end of his WHL career after his Spokane Chiefs dropped game 3 of their series with the Portland Winterhawks 3-1. Outside of 2 assists in game 1, the Winterhawks have shut Kichton down which is not a knock on Kichton as it really looks like Portland and Edmonton are on a collision course for a rematch of the 2012 finals won by Edmonton.

Game 4 will be Wednesday night in Spokane.

Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) missed his Barrie Colt's 4-2 win over the Oshawa Generals that swept the series for the Colts. Theoret missed the game with the "undisclosed" injuries suffered in game 3 but he is expected to be ready when the Colts open the OHL Eastern Conference finals most likely against the Belleville Bulls who are up 3-0 in their series.

I really like Theoret as a player when he is in the lineup but what is going to hurt his hopes of a pro career is that he has missed a lot of games this season due to one injury or another.

It is a cruel world

It has not been a good off-season for coaches who I have a ton of respect for as first Denver of the WCHA fired (they can say what they want he was fired) George Gwozdecky and Tuesday was the last day for Tim Whitehead who coached the Maine Black Bears.

Coach Whitehead was a great guy who was willing to answer emails from a rookie writer about his 2 New York Ranger prospects back in 2005. But it is a results driven job and sadly Maine was not able to compete in a very strong Hockey East.

What did get me was this part which covers how Maine plans to pay off Whitehead's remaining year of his contract:

In a news release, the university said Ferguson will use only privately raised funds from the President’s Discretionary Account to buy out Whitehead and no funds will be reallocated from the university budget committed to academic programs, faculty, student or operational needs. Athletic Director Steve Abbott has indicated that the Athletics Department is committed to reimbursing the president’s investment through anticipated revenues generated by renewing fan interest and increased ticket sales, the release said.

Actually I would wager that the money from Hockey East's contract with NBC Sports Network as well as the addition of Notre Dame to the conference.

Bob Ridley (Medicine Hat News)
So you are thinking what is the big deal about a bus driver right? Well this is not your normal bus driver as he is Bob Ridley who when he is not driving the team bus is also the voice of the Medicine Hat Tigers. Ridley has been driving and calling the games of the Tigers since the team entered the WHL in 1970.

We are talking about a guy who has called over 3000 hockey games in his career and one of the truly classy guys in hockey. He is a walking history book about who is who in hockey and also a reminder that hockey in the smaller towns in Canada requires the folks who work for the teams to do double and sometimes triple the jobs.

Or can you picture Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti flying the Ranger's charter with Kenny Albert and Dave Maloney as the flight attendants?

(Stick tap to Gregg Drinnan of Taking Note who is also a legend having covered the WHL for close to 40 years)

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