Ryan Nugent-Hopkins did a lot of damage to the Edmonton Oil Kings with his hands, and vision. But it was the Red Deer Rebels leg/knee that did the Kings in for good Thursday night in Edmonton.
After rookie blueliner Matt Dumba (more on him in a moment) opened the scoring with a terrific point blast low blocker side past a screened Laurent Brossoit, RNH converted a Andrej Kudrna flip pass, but appeared to direct it in with his right leg. The stripes reviewed it, and most of the hockey people sitting with us thought it wouldn't be allowed...but it was. That made it 2-0, and 35 seconds later with Griffin Reinhart and Adrian Van de Mosselaer in the box, Kudrna beat Brossoit with a one timed blast from the high slot. It was 3-0, and soon to be 4-0 in the series.
The lone bright spot for Edmonton came in the 3rd period when 2010 bantam pick - 2nd overall - Curtis Lazar put away a lazar of a shot (Guy's line) past probable league MVP Darcy Kuemper to break the shut out. It was Lazar's 10th WHL game, but unfortunately his last this year. Brett Ferguson was awarded a goal when Van de Mosselaer was forced to haul him down with an empty net and 5-1 was the final.
The Rebels move on and full marks to them, while the Oil Kings couldn't convert on the power play and will surely learn from this. Derek Laxdal's bunch has some serious potential, and with a few added pieces from Bob Green in the off season they will take a step forward next year.
As the playoffs continue, it will be fun to watch RNH add to his 5-4-9 in 4 game total, as well as Dumba. The kid has so much energy he's sometimes started up front to help him burn it off. He's a terrific talent, kind of a river boat gambler with a physical edge. Next year you can expect Dumba, (15 goals this year) along with Edmonton's Griffin Reinhart, Portland's Derek Pouliot, Everett's Ryan Murray and Moose Jaw's Morgan Rielly to come away as first round picks from the NHL draft.
Portland closed out Everett Thursday night as well in a 4 game sweep. The Winter Hawks outscored the Silvertips by 14 goals with Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Johansen and Sven Bartschi combining for 25 points. The Tips were without starting netminder Kent Simpson for the entire series as the Chicago 2010 second round pick is on the shelf with a sprained ankle.
Back to the Eastern Conference now, where Prince Albert took it to the Saskatoon Blades with a 5-2 win, evening the series at 2 games. Most we talked to have said the Art Hauser Centre in PA is a tough place to play in the post season, and the home side has won every game so far averaging 6 goals per game. Todd Fiddler scored twice, while 2011 first round prospect Mark McNeill had 1 +1 giving him 5 points thus far. Jamie Tucker has stopped 65 of 70 shots in winning 2 straight for PA. Brayden Schenn scored his 4th of the series after a ridiculous story surfaced before the game. Game 5 goes Saturday in Saskatoon.
It appeared for a while tonight that Brandon was about to go up 3-1 on Medicine Hat. The Wheat Kings led 3-0 and 4-1 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg before the Tigers stormed back winning 5-4 on Lindey Vey's GWG with 25 seconds to go in the 3rd period. It was Vey's 4th point of the game while Emerson Etem notched 3 points. The Tigers rallied in the 3rd with 3 unanswered goals on Corbin Boes who started in place of Liam Liston. Liston won game 3 for Brandon but didn't even dress due to a concussion. The back and forth series shifts to Medicine Hat Saturday where Michael Tadjdeh could join the team according to Wheat King voice Bruce Luebke, his season just wrapped up with the Okotoks Oilers of the AjHL.
Also Spokane scored 3 times in the first and held on for a 4-2 with an empty net goal victory over Chilliwack to grab a 3-1 series lead. Once again the Chiefs peppered Bruins goalie Lucas Gore with 38 shots. So far Gore has faced shot totals of 63, 47, 53 and 38 for a grand total of 205 in 4 games. His game 3 - 54 save winning performance was terrific. All this with the Sale of the team to a Victoria group reportedly finishing up as reported by CKNW's Jim Mullin on Thursday. The Chiefs can close it out Saturday night back at home. We hope to speak with Spokane voice Mike Boyle this Saturday morning.
Here's how the second round could shape up in each conference. Red Deer can face any team except Saskatoon. Portland looks to be facing Kelowna, unless Chilliwack stages a big comeback.
It should be interesting to see what players get the call from Hockey Canada for the upcoming World U18 Championship. Head Scout Kevin Prendergast will join us Saturday (have a question, drop an email firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday night 9:30 pm mst) to discuss some possible players. Ryan Murray should be automatic, Michael St. Croix and Laurent Brossoit of Edmonton will get some consideration as well as a couple of 16 year olds in Griffin Reinhart and Prince George's Troy Bourke.
Food for Thought
After Thursday action in the Canadian Hockey League, 12 of 24 CHL playoff series have ended in 4-0 sweeps. Half of the combined teams that made the playoffs in the QMJHL, OHL and WHL have seen their season come to an abrupt end without winning a single playoff game. What's more, 7 of the remaining 12 series that are still going on, could end in 5 games.
At first you might think that's to be expected, after all, it's a #1 vs #8 seed or in the case of the QMJHL, a #1 vs a #16 seed. To some degree that's fair and accurate. But not all of the match ups have played out the way most expected they would. In fact, in some cases, you'd be surprised by what's happened.
Aside from the WHL sweeps detailed above, Tri-City dumped Vancouver and Kelowna breezed past Prince George. In the OHL, the big surprise was the Ottawa 67s, the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference, getting bounced by the Sudbury Wolves. Most people would have never guessed that outcome although TPS regular Sam Cosentino suggested the Wolves would be very worthy adversaries in the playoffs.
The surprise in the QMJHL was Victoriaville's 4-game elimination of Acadie-Bathurst. The Titans were the higher ranked team but they laid a huge egg in the series starting in net where Olivier Roy was pulled in three straight games and watched from the bench in the fourth. Interesting timing, the Edmonton Oilers signed the World Junior goaltender to an entry level deal the day of Game 4.
Other favorites on the verge of elimination include the Kitchener Rangers and the Erie Otters who were red-hot going into the playoffs against Windsor.
There are a few powerhouse clubs having a tough go of it in their respective playoff matches. As mentioned above, Saskatoon is now tied with Prince Albert, a team they finished 48 points ahead of in the standings. The Top team in the OHL's Western Conference is also being pushed - London is even with the first place Owen Sound Attack amidst an off-ice war of words.
Suffice to say, the CHL playoffs are always a treat to watch and this year, they're proving rather difficult to predict.