Saturday, September 11, 2010
Day 1 at the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: New York vs. Columbus
Day 1 of the NHL Prospects Tournament certainly proven to be a good day to be inside, considering the weather outside here in Traverse City was wet, rainy, and pretty much miserable. Needless to say, the action on the ice did plenty to warm the spirits of all the hockey fans, volunteers, and team personnel in attendance.
The action started off with the Minnesota Wild facing off against the defending tourney champions, the Carolina Hurricanes, on the David’s Rink side of the facility. A brief banner raising ceremony preceded the game (a new twist to the start of the tournament), along with a ceremonial face-off by Lt. Col. Wade Mueller of the U.S. Air Force (as a tribute to our veterans on the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks). After the pre-game festivities, it was finally time for some hockey for the puck-starved patrons gracing the stands of Centre ICE. As for my duties following the official kick-off of the tourney (I’d MC’d the aforementioned introduction), I was off to head next door to the Huntington Bank Rink to provide the P.A. announcing for the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers contest.
The matchup between the Blueshirts and BJ’s proven to be an endurance test of offensive stamina. Tomas Kubalik (Victoriaville – QMJHL) opened the scoring for the Jackets just over 5 minutes into the first period by jamming home a loose puck in front of Rangers’ goalie Scott Stajcer (Owen Sound – OHL) for a power play tally (with NY’s Sam Klassen – from the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades – in the box for a high-stick) and a 1-0 Columbus lead. The Jackets continued to apply pressure on Stajcer, who missed an opportunity to pad their lead when Matt Calvert (Brandon – WHL) misfired on a nice 2-on-1 chance from a left-to-right cross-ice pass by Ryan Johansen (Portland – WHL) at the left side of Stajcer’s goal mouth. Columbus proven to add some physicality to the game when Dalton Prout (Barrie – OHL) laid down a nice open-ice hit on NY’s Derek Stepan (Wisconsin – WCHA). Stepan would have the last laugh, however, as he evened the score at 1 by tipping in a rebound past Columbus’ super-sized netminder Jason Missiaen (Peterborough – OHL, standing at a ginormous 6’8”) off a Ryan Bourque (Quebec – QMJHL) shot just over halfway through the first. But Columbus regained the lead when Kubalik notched his second marker of the game on a shot from an impossible angle on the left wing past Stajcer with 3 ½ to play in the period. The Rangers applied their fair share of pressure on Missiaen, outshooting the Blue Jackets 11-5, but Columbus finished with a 2-1 edge after 20 minutes.
The offensive floodgates continued to flow to start the second period, as New York’s Christian Thomas (Oshawa – OHL) dangled and weaved through traffic and tied the score on a twisted wrister between the face-off circles and past Missiaen’s left shoulder just over a minute in (this is a goal that will be easily considered amongst the prettiest of the tourney….and we’re not even through the first full day!). After a good ol’ donnybrook between New York’s Randy McNaught (Saskatoon – WHL) and Columbus’ Steven Delisle (Rouyn-Noranda – QMJHL) and a hooking call on the Jackets’ Michael Kantor (Saginaw – OHL), New York then reclaimed the lead at 3-2 just 2:45 into the frame when Bourque fired home a pass from Stepan for another power-play goal. Columbus looked down-and-out after Kubalik drew a whistle for a four-minute high stick, but when Chris Francis (Portland – WHL) tickled the twine, beating Stajcer short-side from the left wing for a 4-on-4 tally (during Kubalik’s stay in the sin bin) 5 ½ minutes in to even things up at 3 apiece. Columbus took the lead back just over 3 minutes later when Theo Ruth (Notre Dame – CCHA) fired a Kubalik feed past Stajcer for a 4-3 Blue Jackets lead. Prout continued to lay down the lumber when he leveled McNaught to the ice (with a hit that could’ve easily been whistled elbowing). But the Rangers would not relent, as they continued to mount offensive pressure thanks to their top line of Stepan, Bourque and Evgeny Grachev (Hartford – AHL). Grachev knotted the game at 4 just past the halfway mark of the period, firing a Stepan pass off the right wing on a nifty 2-on-1 set-up. Grachev almost replicated the exact same set-up about 5 minutes later, but Missiaen was able to deny the slick Russian winger. Stajcer managed to make a few stellar pads saves to close the second period at a 4-4 tie, with New York outshooting Columbus 11-9 in the stanza.
The third period was a completely different story from the prior two, as the wide-open style of play clamped down hard, as the top D-man pairings of Ruth and John Moore (Kitchener – OHL) for Columbus, and Dylan McIlrath (Moose Jaw – WHL) and Ryan McDonagh (Wisconsin – CCHA) were able to snuff out the majority of quality scoring chances by plugging the passing line and collapsing around their respective goalies. Dan Maggio (Sudbury – OHL) also stood out for the Blueshirts blueline by landing some big body checks on various BJ’s. Stajcer stood tall to stop Francis point blank early in the third, and later stonewalled Oliver Gabriel (yet another Winterhawk from Portland) on a short-handed rush. Calvert almost had a golden opportunity as well, but a possible breakaway pass was just out of his reach. The Jackets outchanced New York and outshot the Rangers 10-7 in the period, but could not break the tie.
The contest seemed destined for overtime, but the Rangers won a faceoff deep in the Columbus end, and Grachev rifled a bullet past Missiaen on a bang-bang play with just 6.1 seconds remaining for his second goal of the day (and the game-winner), leaving the Jackets quite deflated.
Final score: Rangers 5, Blue Jackets 4
Meanwhile, back at David’s rink next door, Minnesota outdueled Carolina in a defensive struggle by a count of 2-1. In between periods of the Jackets-Rangers game, I was able to catch a few glimpses of the Wild-Canes. Matt Hackett (Plymouth – OHL) stood tall in net for Minnesota, making 29 saves and staying calm while Carolina jammed the net with plenty of bodies in front of him. Carolina’s Zac Dalpe (Ohio State – CCHA), Riley Nash (Cornell – ECAC), and Matt Pistilli (Albany – AHL) provided a lot of the traffic in front of Hackett. In fact, Pistilli appeared to be enough of a pest that Minnesota’s Josh Caron (Kamloops – WHL) dropped the gloves with him about halfway through the third. Tyler Johnson (Spokane – WHL) and Joel Broda (Calgary – WHL) tallied first period markers for the Wild, while Mike McKenzie (St. Lawrence – ECAC) spoiled Hackett’s shutout bid nearly 5 minutes into the third.
For those of you looking for additional statistics at the tournament, I’ll direct you to Pointstreak (the website used by our scorekeepers) for updates on the particulars on each of the games.
Still to come form Day 1….Stars vs. Red Wings (with snippets from Blues-Lightning)!