Robbie Russo (New York Islanders)
Got to start this with an apology as I misread the schedule for the Notre Dame/Michigan series and missed that it was going to be a Thursday/Friday series. Poor attention to detail on my part so I am sorry for those of you who were expecting to see New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects playing on CBS Sports Network.
There were 3 games on the Thursday night schedule involving New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects and the results of those contests leave more questions than answers. The biggest of questions that hockey fans in Canada will be asking on Friday is what happened and who is to blame for Russia winning the Subway Super Series?
If you saw Game 6 of the Subway Super Series between Team WHL and Team Russia then why Russia won 5-2 really is not hard to answer. Russia beat Canada mainly by wanting it more and outworking the Canadians at their own game.
The book used to be that if you hit the Russians enough they will back off but toss that book away. This Russian team never backed down from any physical play and if anything in several cases got the better of the Canadians.
All through the series the CHL players were so busy trying to hit Russia's Nail Yakupov that they forgot about the rest of the team. Russia got goals from 11 different players during the series and points out of 15 players.
How did the local prospects do?
Griffin Reinhart (NYI 2012 1st) was outstanding in game 5 and dominated in the 1st period of game 6. But in the 2nd and 3rd periods was almost invisible which was kind of surprising to see from him.
Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) was a non-factor for most of this game as it appeared that the WHL coaching staff could never figure out who best to use St. Croix with. I would have liked to see St. Croix used with either JC Lipon of Kamloops or Ty Rattie of Portland to take advantage of their offensive skills.
St. Croix hopefully gained something from this experience and if anything will need to add to his upper body. He was way too easy to beat in the puck battles.
8th Ranked Notre Dame took on 13th ranked Michigan on Thursday and it was an educational game to watch. It was my own first look at Cristoval "Boo" Nieves (NYR 2012 2nd) and if 1st impressions mean anything then I really did like what I saw from him.
There is no question that the 6'3 freshman fits in the mold of the kind of players that Gordie Clark and his staff have been drafting. Nieves was active on the offensive end going right to the net and showing no fear of skating into traffic.
The skating ability is impressive and don't read anything into his being a -2 for the night. Yes Nieves could use some improvement on his defensive positioning but he was not at fault for any of the Notre Dame goals.
Nieves showed a willingness to take a hit if it meant making the play and he knew where his teammates were on the ice at all times. That he is already playing on Michigan's first line is a surprise as normally freshman don't get moved up the depth chart like that.
If Nieves does plan on staying there then he needs to shoot more as I can see a bit of Chris Kreider in him. Kreider was not productive unless he took 4 or more shots in a game and I can see the same in Nieves.
Steve Fogarty (NYR 2011 3rd) was not a surprise for me as I saw what he could do last year. He was doing much of the same things last season in Penticton but it was a surprise to see the CBS Sports announcers talking about him as a key player for Notre Dame.
Fogarty was scoreless on 2 shots but he struggled on his faceoffs and I don't think he was 0-8 as the stat sheet said. He has grown into his body and I see him more as a forward than I do as a center down the road.
Robbie Russo (NYI 2011 4th) had as bad a first period as a player could have but made a solid play to help Notre Dame earn the win in the 3rd period. Russo had a terrible turnover in his own zone that put the puck right on the stick of Michigan's Justin Selman who scored for Michigan's only goal of the game.
In the 3rd, it was Russo who fired a shot that deflected behind the net but the player (Bryan Rust) went after the puck and came back around and stuffed the puck in. It was Russo's 3rd assist and 5th point of the season.
Anders Lee (NYI 2009 6th) was scoreless and I guess I am in the minority who think Lee is more effective as a winger than as a center. Lee is more scorer than playmaker and with his big body would be best used as a power forward than a center.
In Peterborough, Peter Ceresnak (NYR 2011 6th) and his Peterborough Petes broke a 7 game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Ottawa 67's. Ceresnak was scoreless and a +1 in this game.
The Petes have talent but they look so out of sync with each other that it is hard to see this team turning things around this season.