Bozon scored twice this weekend and put up a great performance in the first round of the playoffs. Archambault and Nygren had solid performances in their first playoff series while Dietz, Hudon, and Thrower struggled. Kristo’s and MacMillan’s week was disappointing, but they, along with Didier, secured a spot in the NCAA Frozen Four. Bennett, Collberg, and Walsh saw their seasons come to a close and Vail made his debut as a professional hockey player.
An incredibly disappointing season for Brady Vail has some light at the end of the tunnel. Vail was signed to an amateur try-out contract to finish the remainder of the season with the Hamilton Bulldogs. He made his debut as a professional hockey player on Friday night again Syracuse. Vail centred a line with rookie Steve Quailer and veteran Stefan Chaput. He had a very solid first shift which saw him clear the puck out of his own zone and then work the puck down low. Vail didn’t see a whole lot of ice time, but it became quite evident that he belonged as he didn’t look physically over-matched and made very smart decisions with the puck. As the game wore on he saw some limited penalty kill time, but was not used on the power play. Vail’s second game was also quite good. He forechecked hard and won the majority of his faceoffs. For the first period he was playing with Quailer and Chaput, but was eventually moved to second line with Bournival and Quailer, then back down to the third with his original line mates. Vail has looked solid in his first two games, but more importantly he looks like he belongs in professional hockey. With at least thirteen more games on the schedule, hopefully Vail will be able to register his first point and build experience that he can take back to junior next season.
Olivier Archambault and the Drummondville Voltigeurs kicked off the playoffs against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies this weekend. Rouyn-Noranda is team that Archambault has previously enjoyed tremendous success against, with 14 goals and eight assists in 18 career meetings including five goals and two assists in six games this season. Archambault put up a solid performance in game one, registering an assist on the powerplay. Disappointingly, Drummondville lost 4-2 after they gave up the game winner with five minutes remaining in the third period. Game two was the following night and Archambault had an even better performance despite being held pointless. He had countless chances. Archambault caused turnovers, created plays, went to the front of the net, took shots, and was surprisingly physical in the corners. He got absolutely robbed of an assist on a play in which he clearly set up. The puck took a funny bounce off the boards behind the net and Archambault re-directed the puck between legs right to the front of the net, which set up Boudens for an easy goal. Even though Archambault had a great game, Rouyn-Noranda managed to come away with a win after scoring a goal with just three minutes left in regulation. With Drummondville down two games to none, Archambault is going to have to elevate his play even further to help get his team back on track.
The Chicoutimi Saguenéens and Charles Hudon opened their post season on Friday night against the heavily favoured, Quebec Remparts. Hudon jumped off to a great start after weaving his way through traffic and drawing a penalty. He would go on to get robbed and then got stripped of the puck after getting way too fancy on the ensuing powerplay. Hudon picked up an assist late in the second with a shot from the point that got deflected twice to find its way in the back of the net. He had a nice sequence shortly after by stealing the puck in neutral zone, chasing it down, then falling over, but still managing to keep possession. He went for the wrap around but lost the handle and managed to direct the puck towards the net despite falling over. Hudon picked up his second assist of the night with a nice bounce pass off the boards in the neutral zone to set up a 2-on-1. Chicoutimi would go on to win game one 6-3 and Hudon would get second star. Game two was a different story as Chicoutimi got hammered 5-1 and Hudon was invisible. He appeared to be fighting the puck all night and didn’t register a single shot for the first time since the pre-season. The series is currently tied 1-1 and will resume on Tuesday when the series heads to Chicoutimi.
Tim Bozon was on fire last week with four points in his first game and three in his next. This week he wasn’t as fortunate on the scoreboard, with only a pair of goals over two games, but that wasn’t indicative of his play. The Kamloops Blazers kicked off their playoffs against the Victoria Royals and both the Blazers and Bozon got off to a great start. The Blazers came out flying and Bozon, along with linemates Smith and Kessy, were a huge part of that. Bozon alone had three or four great scoring chances in the first period. The Blazers would go on to 3-2, but they could have easily made the game a blow out. Bozon was held pointless. The second game on Saturday was very similar. Bozon and the Blazers come out flying, but this time they were able to bury their chances. They jumped out a 5-1 lead by the end of the second and Bozon had a pair of goals (Video). The Royals would storm back for three straight goals, but the Blazers were able to add an empty netter to win the game 6-4. Bozon, yet again, could have had more. He waltzed around the offensive zone twice before finding an open shooting lane, but just missed the net. He also went through the whole team on multiple occasions and crashed the net hard. Kamloops is the driver’s seat with a 2-0 series lead. The series resumes on Tuesday in Victoria’s barn, the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
It was a regular season full of up and downs for Darren Dietz and the Memorial Cup bound Saskatoon Blades. They struggled early on in the season, but finally were able to put it all together in the second half of the season. The Blades, finishing second in their conference, were hoping to keep their momentum going through the playoffs. Unfortunately, for Dietz and the Blades, they went back to first half of the season form. In both games this week they were unable to put together a full 60 minute effort. Dietz, who was named to the WHL Eastern Conference First All-Star team this week, struggled as well. The Blades were dominated in the first period of game one against Medicine Hat. They were outshot and gave up two goals. The Blades dominated the third, but were only able to beat goalie, Cam Lanigan, once. Dietz got an assist on the play with a pass to McColgan on the point. The Blades went back to getting dominated in the third period and dropped game one 4-1. Dietz struggled just as much as the Blades did. He was very, very quiet when his team needed his play to elevate the most. Friday was a similar story for both the Blades and Dietz. They got dominated two periods and only showed up for one. Dietz was quiet, but he put together a more solid effort than he did the previous night. The best-of-seven series will head off to Medicine Hat for games 3 and 4.
With Dalton Thrower’s point totals way down, one would expect that he heavily worked on his defensive game, and that is exactly what he’s done. If you want to read more about Thrower’s progression and his attitude towards improving his overall game, check out this article. The Blades were dominated in the first game Thursday night and Thrower was very disappointing. He played with intensity, but was on the ice for two goals against and one was his fault as he turned the puck over in the neutral zone, resulting in a 2-on-1. Friday night was just as disappointing, but wasn’t because Thrower played poorly. He actually played a solid game in all three zones. He was very steady defensively and was pretty good offensively. The Blades were dominated in the first and second periods, but started to come alive in the third period. Yet again, Medicine Hat Tigers goaltender, Cam Lanigan, played an extremely impressive game, shutting the door on all 42 shots that he faced. The series heads off to Medicine Hat for two games on Tuesday and Wednesday, they could complete the upset with a pair of wins.
The Michigan Wolverines turned their season around just in time. They were unbeaten eight in a row coming into this weekend, including a pair of series sweeps in the playoffs. Mac Bennett was a huge reason for this turnaround. Bennett and Trouba formed their top pairing and ate up huge minutes. This weekend, Bennett and the Michigan Wolverines were competing for the CCHA Tournament title. They kicked off their first game against Miami, the highest rated team in the tournament. Bennett played a great game as he used his stick well and was very calm under pressure. He moved the puck out of his zone efficiently and made good, crisp passes. He logged massive minutes, probably playing around half the game. Michigan won the game in blow out fashion and went on to play on Sunday against Notre Dame in the CCHA final. Bennett played a solid first two periods; he limited the Notre Dame scoring chances and looked always seemed to have control of the puck. Unfortunately, his only mistake of the game turned out to be a costly one because it was the eventual game winner. Bennett cut across the ice twice, confusing his defensive partner and then ended up screening his goal so the forward could rifle a shot by the goalie. Bennett’s season is over now, but he has the option to forgo his senior year and either sign with Montreal or opt out and become UFA. Both are highly unlikely. The loss meant that Michigan’s incredible streak of making the Frozen Four would end at 22 straight years.
Josiah Didier’s (University of Denver) Pioneers have been selected to participate in the NCAA’s. They will face off against New Hampshire on Friday.
Despite being a finalist for the most prestigious award in the NCAA, the Hobey Baker, Danny Kristo had a disappointing week. The University of North Dakota was unable to pull out a win against Colorado College in the Final Five, despite a valiant effort by Kristo. He scored a goal which gave UND the lead after stealing the puck behind the net and firing a shot as he cut out in front. The loss ended UND’s hopes at extending their WCHA Tournament Championship streak to four. However, Kristo’s season is not over. UND secured a bid at the NCAA Championship, so Kristo will have a chance to win a national title for the first time. The first game in single-elimination tournament of 16 is on Friday. Kristo and MacMillan will face Niagara. You vote Danny Kristo for the Hobey Baker Award, here, and read about Kristo’s competitive edge, here.
Kristo’s team mate, Mark MacMillan, also had a weekend full of disappointment. UND lost to Colorado College in a very intense game. They kept Colorado on their heals all night, but their goaltender came up huge and kept bailing them out. UND would tie the game, but Colorado College scored the overtime winner, crushing UND’s WCHA Tournament Championship title aspirations. Individually, MacMillan played a lackadaisical game, which is rare for the very intense forward. He struggled to find his groove and was unable to generate quality scoring chances. MacMillan’s season is not over, so when they head off to the NCAA’s against Niagara on Friday, lets hope that he’s able to find his way on the score sheet.
Dustin Walsh’s Dartmouth College was not selected to participate in the NCAA’s, so this will be the last update on him this season. He finished the year with 11 goals and 11 assists in 29 games, setting career highs goals, assists, and points. The Montreal Canadiens must sign him by August 15th 2013 or they will lose his rights.
Sebastian Collberg registered his first career Elitserien playoff point with an assist last week. Luleå took a 2-1 lead on the series. Collberg played on the second line with Olimb and Brunnström for game five. He played 23 minutes in the double overtime game, and set up the game winning goal. He shot a sharp angle shot, and the rebound went right on the tape of Olimb’s stick. The series resumed Thursday and Collberg had a solid game. He got promoted to top line due to Kahnberg’s injury. Collberg had multiple scoring chances, but failed to capitalize on any of them. Frölunda lost the game 4-1 and Collberg was -2 and had 2 shots on goal. In a weird turn of events Collberg was scratched for game six, due to illness. Frölunda would go on to lose the game 4-2, ending their season. Collberg closed out the season with six goals and three assists in 35 regular season games, to go with a pair of assists in five playoff games in the Elitserien. He also had a very successful World Junior Championship with four goals and two assists in six games. Collberg is under contract for another with Frölunda, so he will more than likely stay there for next season. He is still eligible to join Frölunda’s U-20 for the playoffs, so there is a chance that his season might not be over.
After taking a 3-0 series stranglehold over MODO Hockey, Magnus Nygren and Färjestad BK just needed a single win to advance to next round. Nygren put up a great individual performance in game four, picking up a pair of assists and getting six shots on goal. His first assist came from a routine pass off the faceoff and his second was a beautiful stretch pass to set up a 2-on-1. MODO rallied for two straight goals late in the third, and eventually scored the overtime winner. Nygren and Färjestad got a second crack at finishing off MODO on Thursday, but MODO was not going down without a fight. It was a scoreless game heading into overtime, but just 57 seconds in, Färjestad BK scored a goal, winning the series 4-1. Nygren had three assists in five games in the first series. Färjestad will take on the team that eliminated Collberg’s Frölunda Indians, Luleå HF, in the second round of the playoffs starting Friday.
Erik Nyström was mysteriously scratched in game two of the Allsvenskan Qualification Tournament, but returned in game three and made an impact by grabbing an assist. Nyström continued to play on the top line with Jensen and McDonell. Karlskrona was shutout and Nyström picked up a penalty after getting involved in scrum. He also added two shots on goal. Nyström’s final and second game of the week was another loss for Karlskrona. Nyström was able to pick up an assist and finished with an even rating. With a pair of losses this week, Karlskrona moved to fourth in the relegation table. With only five games left, Karlskrona and Nyström need to play better if they want to stay in the Allsvenskan.
Scratched in game five, Daniel Pribyl returned in game six hoping to make an impact on Monday. It was a rough game for him as he saw little ice time and was on the ice for the only goal against in a 3-1 victory. The best-of-seven series wrapped up on Wednesday and it was a disaster for Pribyl’s Sparta Praha. They lost 5-0 and were pinned in their own zone almost the entire game. Pribyl saw very limited ice time and when he got ice time, did very little with it. With the loss in blow out fashion, Pribyl’s season has now come to a close. He set career highs across the board with 12 goals and 10 assists in 42 games. Pribyl was held pointless and -1 in the playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens will lose his rights if he is not signed by June 1st of this year, so it will be interesting to see if the 6’4″ forward gets a contract or not.