Ryan Strome (OHL Images)
Boy what a difference a day makes for the New York Ranger and New York Islander prospects. Friday night was one where players could do no wrong and 8 prospects had 2 or more points.
Saturday night was a different story as we had our usual Ryan Strome performance but overall the prospect teams went 3-6-1 for the night. This is turning into one very strange season that is for sure.
First Star Ryan Strome Niagara
Really what I should do is make a form so all I need to do is fill in who Ryan Strome (NYI 2011 1st) and his Niagara IceDogs are playing and how many points Strome had. Strome started his December the way he ended his November; on fire.
Strome earned the game's 2nd star with a 2-1-3 effort as his Niagara IceDogs dropped a 6-5 decision to the Brampton Battalion. Strome had a typical game for him but his teammates struggled all night and ran out of gas in the 3rd period.
Strome got on the scoresheet when he earned the primary assist on Brett Ritchie's goal at 15:43 of the 1st period tying the score at 2-2. In the 2nd period, Strome broke the tie with his 19th goal of the season at 18:24 sending his IceDogs into the 3rd period with a 3-2 lead.
The 3rd period as I mentioned was where the IceDogs fell apart as Brampton scored 4 goals in the period to Niagara's 2 to earn the win. Strome got his 20th goal off a deflection with just 10 seconds left in the game to make the score 6-5.
Strome extends his scoring streak to 14 games (11-27-38) as he improves to 20-39-59 which not only leads the OHL but also the entire CHL. Give high marks to Strome who if not for the lockout would be in the NHL for playing as hard as he does.
Cristoval Nieves (MBigBlue.com)
Second Star Cristoval Nieves Michigan
Cristoval Nieves (NYR 2012 2nd) and his Michigan Wolverines really needed a huge bounce back game after being shut out by Ferris State 5-0 on Friday evening. It wasn't great but the Wolverines played to a 3-3 overtime tie and earned the extra point by winning the shoot out 3-2.
Nieves had a better game in his 2nd one as a center as he scored his 3rd goal of the season on 4 shots, went 9-12 on faceoffs and scored on his shootout chance. Nieves goal was him cashing in on a rebound as it is kind of funny but Nieves has been playing almost opposite than many scouting reports on him.
If you believed the various reports then Nieves couldn't score, wouldn't score, he wouldn't play a physical game, and more. Nieves is growing into his body as at 6'3 he is as thin as a rail but he has been the total opposite of his critics.
Brenden Kichton (Spokane Chiefs)
Third Star Brenden Kichton Spokane
Brenden Kichton (NYI 2011 5th) and his Spokane Chiefs played a wild almost crazy game against the Regina Pats on Saturday. Spokane Spokane defeated Regina 6-5 in overtime as the two teams took turns scoring goals in bunches.
Spokane outshot Regina 60-25 including 6-0 in the overtime. Kichton had 2 primary assists in this game; the first one came on the power play giving Spokane a 1-0 lead. The second one came in the overtime period as Kichton set up Tyler King for the game winner at 2:46 of overtime.
For Kichton, the 2 assists extended his scoring streak to 4 games (1-8-9) and improved his season numbers to 9-24-33 (tops among WHL defensemen). Spokane also extended their unbeaten streak to 6 games (5-0-0-1).
The Rest of the Prospects
Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) had 2 secondary assists in his Niagara IceDogs 6-5 loss to the Brampton Battalion. Theoret is now 14-18-32 on the season for the IceDogs.
Teammate Jesse Graham (NYI 2012 6th) also had a secondary assist in the game to give him a 1-6-7 for the season.
Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) and his Saskatoon Blades were on the receiving end of a shutout 3-0 by the Red Deer Rebels one day after the Blades shutout the Swift Current Broncos 4-0. This one turned ugly after the final buzzer with a couple of fights that will wind up costing both teams some fine money.
McColgan was a -2 for this game but stayed out of trouble in just his 2nd game back from a "suspected" concussion.
Brady Skjei (NYR 2012 1st) was the first pair defense as his 3rd ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated 14th ranked Nebraska-Omaha 3-2 to earn a split of their weekend series.
Skjei took 1 shot and was a +1 will find out on Tuesday if he will get to try out for Team USA's Under-20 team in the 2013 World Under-20 Championship. I still believe Skjei will get an invite mainly because of his past efforts on Team USA's Under-18 squad and his chemistry with Seth Jones who was his partner last season.
Anders Lee (NYI 2009 6th) scored his 10th goal of the season as 6th ranked Notre Dame earned their 3rd straight win with a 6-1 beating of Lake Superior State. The Irish jumped all over the Lakers with 4 1st period goals and cruised the rest of the way.
Lee with his goal is 10-5-15 but he also went 13-6 on his faceoffs. Robbie Russo (NYI 2011 4th) had a secondary for his 12 point of the season (4-8-12) and earned a 10 minute misconduct in the 3rd period.
Steven Fogarty (NYR 2011 3rd) was scoreless on 3 shots, a -1 and a minor for interference. Forgarty also was 4-5 on his faceoffs which is no biggie as only Anders Lee won more than he lost on faceoffs among Notre Dame centers.
Scott Mayfield (NYI 2011 2nd) and his 5th ranked Denver were upset at home 3-1 by Wisconsin. Denver is now winless in 4 straight as Mayfield was scoreless on 3 shots and a -1.
Andrey Pedan (NYI 2011 3rd) and his Guelph Storm lost to the London Knights 3-1. Pedan was scoreless and a -2 as London won their 14th straight game.
Peter Ceresnak (NYR 2011 6th) was scoreless and a -1 as his Peterborough Petes were defeated 5-2 by the Sarnia Sting. Not much one can add to the team with the worst record in the OHL.
Cody Rosen (NYR 2010 7th) was "DNP" as his Clarkson Knights lost 5-4 in overtime to Colgate.
And in case you are wondering some details as to how "BennyGate" came to light was detailed by Neate Sager of Buzzing the Net.
Sager opened the door to this from Elliotte Friedman which might go a long way in explaining part of why the WHL hit Portland so hard.
"It all got started because you had plenty of jealousy of the quality of recruits they've been able to scout, develop and get [NHL] drafted. Go to any bantam game and you'll see those guys are there... They basically outworked and outplanned people."
Now here is why I am very defensive of the current ownership and management team of the Portland Winterhawks. See 5 years ago the Winterhawks were a franchise that was in more than deep trouble; they were the worst run franchise in any hockey league.
The ownership (AKA the 3 J's) at the time alienated fans, alienated the local politicians and the Portland Trail Blazers (their landlords) while demanding a better lease and repair to the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, and were suspected (I have to say suspected because nobody was ever able to prove) of not paying bills or paying for player medical treatments.
It got so bad that the WHL under the same commissioner Ron Robison stepped in and basically ordered the Winterhawks to sell or else. Until Bill Gallacher came to the rescue and purchased the team, there was legit fear that the Winterhawks were going to be relocated.
Bill Gallacher is a billionaire who loves hockey, he has a son who was a 4th round draft pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2010 NHL draft. He is in my eyes the best kind of team owner; he hires qualified people to run the franchise, says call me if you need something and then leaves them alone.
Gallacher hired Doug Piper to be team president; Piper has worked in NHL front offices and has fixed the entire front office from ticket sales to the smallest detail. Gallacher hired Mike Johnson to be coach and GM and then convinced Johnson to hire Travis Green as his assistant.
Under the 3 J's, Portland was so bad there were nights where attendance looked like it barely topped 1000 in a 10-12,000 seat arena. Portland was the closest WHL team to where I lived but when Ranger prospects came to town, I wouldn't go there because you could not get a "good read" on the prospects because the Winterhawks were so bad.
The best way to explain how the Winterhawks changed things is to say look at how the Ranger's drafting and development changed when Gordie Clark took charge. Solid drafting, some rock solid free agent signings and a willingness to look all over the world to give someone a chance.
The Winterhawks are the model franchise on how to rebuild from the ashes. I have said I would send my kid to play for the Winterhawks and I meant it.
The Winterhawks have built themselves into real contenders not by cheating as so many would have you believe but by working their butts off. The Winterhawks are basically a well run NHL franchise playing in the WHL.
Unlike others who feel the sanctions will cripple the Winterhawks; Portland might fall a little back but their scouting department will make up for the lost draft picks. The Winterhawks will also have the advantage of a track record that says play for them and you increase your chances of being an NHL draft pick.
The Winterhawks have had 5 players selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft since 2010 and will have 1 for sure possibly a 2nd in the 2013 draft. That will get players to come here.
Oh and while Bennygate is going on; the Winterhawks keep playing and keep winning. The Portland Winterhawks defeated the Everett Silvertips 4-1 as Brendan Leipsic had an assist to extend his scoring streak to 15 games 13-22-35).
They have a win percentage of 0.833 which is 2nd best in the CHL.
Welcome to Hawkey Town.