Cam Charron

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Cam Charron is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports

  • Marek Tvrdon scored four times for Kelowna in Round One (Marissa Baecker:Getty)

    -BY CAM CHARRON AND SCOTT SEPICH

    The second round continues, with eight wins standing in the way of the dream Western Conference championship series of Portland and Kelowna, though both teams face opponents who gave them a lot of competition in their respective regular season series'.

    SHAW TV subscribers can catch every game of the Portland and Victoria series.

    (1) Kelowna Rockets (57-11-0-4, 118 pts) vs. (4) Seattle Thunderbirds (41-25-2-4, 88 pts)

    Season series: Tied 2-0-0-2 Odds favour: Kelowna 86% Most mathematically-likely outcome: Kelowna in 5. Prediction: Kelowna in 7.

    Why the Rockets should win: This is a rematch of last year's first round series when Kelowna came back from a 3-0 series deficit to win it in seven games. The Rockets have a similar roster, but their key players from last year's series such as Myles Bell, Damon Severson and Tyson Baillie are still around while midseason addition Marek Tvrdon, rookies Nick Merkley and Justin Kirkland have been added to the core along with the 17-year-old Rourke Chartier after a breakout season.

    Read More »from Favourites Kelowna, Portland face challenge: WHL Western Conference second-round preview
  • Kingston's Robert Polsello scored twice Sunday (Terry Wilson - OHL Images)

    No. 1 Star - Robert Polesello, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

    There were three series active in the Ontario Hockey League Eastern quarterfinal Sunday, headlined by a wild 5-4 win by Kingston over Peterborough to give the Frontenacs a 2-0 lead in the series before both buses head west down the 401. The Petes had leads of 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3 in this game, but the 1994-born former Vaughan Viper Robert Polesello tied the game twice, including a re-direct with just 49 seconds left in the contest to send the game to overtime.

    In the extra frame, Kingston won on a seeing-eye shot from their 2012 top priority selection pick Roland McKeown, who also assisted Polsello on the 1-1 goal way back in the first period. Sam Bennett, who should be a top-5 selection in the upcoming NHL draft, also tied the game in the third period, converting an excellent passing play set up by Henri Ikonen. The defeat has to sting for the Petes, who must not only have to come back from a 2-0 series deficit, but couldn't get the victory on a night that Fronts goalie Matt Mahalak struggled: the Frontenacs out-shot Peterborough 37-25 through regulation but needed the overtime period to eke out the one-goal win.

    Read More »from Polesello and McKeown’s heroics lead Kingston to 2-0 series lead – Sunday’s 3 Stars
  • Brendan Leipsic has been around for three consecutive Portland conference championships (CP)

    —BY CAM CHARRON AND SCOTT SEPICH

    Due to league rules, we can't just skip the first two rounds and head directly to the expected Western Conference showdown between the top team in major junior hockey's official rankings Kelowna and the top team according to Buzzing the Net, Portland.

    While Kelowna and Portland are expected to waltz over their opponents, the other two series' are worth keeping an eye on, especially the 3-6 set between Victoria and Spokane which appears to be a dead heat on paper.

    Read More »from Winterhawks begin quest for fourth straight championship appearance: WHL Western Conference playoff preview
  • Curtis Lazar went No. 17 overall to the Ottawa Senators (Larry Macdougal, The Canadian Press)No. 1 Star - Curtis Lazar, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

    It was a night of blowouts all across the Western Hockey League, unfortunately, but the top offensive performer on the night was Curtis Lazar and his four-point night against the Regina Pats in a 5-2 win. The Ottawa Senators prospect scored three consecutive goals, spanning all three periods, to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Five minutes after scoring his third, he drew an assist on a goal from Edgars Kulda.

    Lazar hadn't played at home in Rexall Place since December 8. He went overseas with Team Canada for the World junior championship, and returned in January to join the Oil Kings on a five-game Western trip.

    "I love playing at Rexall," the 2013 17th overall pick told the Edmonton Sun. "It's an NHL rink and it's one of those nights where it was going in for me and I thought I contributed."

    That quote seems unnecessarily humble. To his credit, Kulda assisted on all three of Lazar's goals, also giving him a four-point night. In net for the Kings, Tristan Jarry stopped 20 of 22 shots for his 28th win on the season.

    Read More »from Hat trick for Curtis Lazar propels Oil Kings over Pats: Wednesday’s 3 Stars
  • Crestfallen Team Canada players stand on the blueline following Saturday's semfinal loss to Finland (Frank Gunn, The Canadian Press)

    With Frédérik Gauthier on the ice for Team Canada in all games save the cakewalk opener against Germany, the Canadians were out-chanced 9-4 by the opposition.

    Gauthier is used to facing opposition of this calibre. Gauthier was a first round pick in the NHL draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has talent, was nearly a point-a-game in the QMJHL with the Rimouski Océanic a year ago, and had a +22 plus/minus. It's interesting to see the contrast to this season when he's a year older and perhaps given a bit more responsibility. He's just a +1 on a team that has a +20 goal differential.

    The team that drafted him, the Leafs, has a player in a similar role named Jay McClement. Despite McClement's reputation as a two-way player, who would put up 20-point seasons at the NHL-level in addition to being a reliable checker and penalty killer, McClement has been used exclusively in a defensive role this season. He is on pace for just 10 points, and when he's on the ice, the Leafs give up just 30.4 shots per 60 minutes, compared to 36.0 when he's not out there.

    The problem, however, is that hockey is a game of ratios, and not raw numbers. I forget who said it, but I'd read a long time ago a basketball quotation from a high-profile player or coach who suggested that "when you out-score your check, that's good defence." With McClement on the ice, the Leafs take just 18.8 shots per 60 minutes, compared to 28.1 when he's not on the ice.

    A checking line, or what exists when the Océanic send out Gauthier, or when Brent Sutter put Gauthier on the ice with Kerby Rychel and Josh Anderson, is a concession you give to the other team. Some of the top offensive players in the world, or at any level in hockey, are susceptible to momentary defensive lapses. The way to beat them isn't to limit their opportunities, it's to out-score them.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Conservatism and focus on safe plays costs Canada again
  • Swedish goaltender Oscar Dansk stopped 26 of 27 in his team's semifinal (CP)

    In the end, Oscar Dansk's best save of the game didn't count.

    With 11 seconds to go in Sweden's World junior championship semifinal against Russia, Dansk was holding onto his net to keep his position established as Russian forward Vyacheslav Osnovin walked out from the corner in an attempt to tie the game. Osnovin lost control of the puck, and so too, did Dansk, of his post. The net fell out from behind him (was it intentional on Dansk's part?) and the play was blown dead as Russia's Pavel Buchnevich took a shot from the far side of the net. Somehow, with Dansk sprawling, the puck hit his pad and stayed out.

    It was just how the day went for the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect, and a modest summary into how his tournament had gone. With the win over the Russians, and stopping 26 of 27 in the process, Dansk's save percentage from the tournament jumped over Andrei Vasilevsky's to an impressive .935 before going into the gold medal game. In that regard, he's only behind Finland's Juuse Saros, though has more wins (and no losses) and a higher goals against average thanks to playing behind the better team.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Oscar Dansk’s performance against Russia showcases another team strength
  • The Czech Republic's Dominik Simon (left) and Marek Langhamer celebrate on Saturday (Frank Gunn, The Canadian Press)

    Canada's loss to the Czech Republic Saturday afternoon at the World Junior championship raised some questions, but it may be safe to say that it wasn't exactly a clean win for the Czechs—they got lucky. While the shot count was relatively even, and the Canadians held just a slim puck-possession advantage, the fact is that Canada dominated in regard to shots close to the net, holding a large scoring chance advantage in the first period and carrying it through to the end of the game.

    Officially, Canada lost 5-4 in a shootout and the shots were even at 29-29 (in actuality, it was 29-28 for Canada since the IIHF credits a shot to the winning team in the shootout). Both teams had a very similar amount of time on the man-advantage: Team Canada had 5:48 with the powerplay and the Czechs had 5:58. Unofficially, @MacSapintosh of Twitter calculated that the Canadians had just 53% of the game's overall shot attempts — or Corsi — which is a measure of puck possession, and at the NHL level, an indicator of future success.

    [Canada-Slovakia Chatravaganza, 11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT]

    That said, upon a re-watch of the game, it was clear that Canada's offensive guns were firing on all cylinders. Marek Langhamer, the Czech goaltender who plays with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, stopped 20 of 24 Grade-A chances for Canada. That doesn't include two goal posts hit by Sam Reinhart, one in the first period and one in the third period. Overall, I counted Team Canada as collecting 30 scoring chances to the Czech Republic's 15.

    Read More »from World junior championship: Further examining Canada’s loss to the Czech Republic
  • Team Sweden's Andre Burakowsky (Ludwig Thunman - AP)

    No. 1 Star: Andre Burakovsky - Team Sweden

    December 29th was not a day at the World Junior Championship that will have any of its games show up on ESPN Classic anytime soon. Bruce McCurdy of the Edmonton Journal pointed out on Twitter that the combined score was 18 for the Whales (Sweden and the United States) to 0 for the Minnows (Norway and Germany).

    Still, it was a good day for the Malmo-born, Washington Capitals first rounder Andre Burakowsky, who paced a dominant Swedish powerplay in his team's 10-0 win over Norway. Burakowsky scored three goals on three shots—two came on the powerplay—and got a loud cheer when given the Best Player award at the conclusion of the game.

    The Swedish powerplay went 5-for-8. It worked out to about a goal every 1:45 of powerplay time. While no player picked up multiple assists on Burakovsky's goals, other NHL prospects padded their stats against the Norwegians: Columbus' Alexander Wennberg, Montreal's Sebastien Collberg, Nashville's Filip Forsberg, Carolina's Elias Lindholm, Minnesota's Gustav Olofsson and Anaheim's Nick Sorensen all had three-point nights.

    No. 2 Star: Vince Hinostroza - Team United States

    The Chicago Blackhawks sixth-rounder and Notre Dame product had the day's high in points, with two goals and two assists in the Americans' 8-0 win over Germany. All of Hinostroza's points came on a powerplay that went a wild 6-for-10, helped out by a Leon Draisaitl hit from behind 10 seconds into the second period that earned the prospect first round pick in the most upcoming draft 5-and-a-game.

    Some balanced scoring for the Americans as well. Matt Grzelcyk, who scored a very pivotal goal against the Slovakians Saturday afternoon, had another fine game with a goal and two assists. Riley Barber and Nic Kerdiles each also had two-point games, while Winnipeg 2013 fourth rounder Andrew Copp had a pair of assists and went a dominant 13-4 in the faceoff circle.

    Read More »from World Junior championship: Routs the story of the day as Sweden, USA powerplays explode
  • Czech goalie Marek Langhammer (CP Images)

    No. 1 Star: Marek Langhammer, Team Czech Republic

    The notable upset on the day was the Czech Republic's defeat of Team Canada, in a game that raised the eyebrows of many an international hockey observer. As is tradition when Canada gets defeated in an international tournament, it's customary to tip our collective caps towards the opposing goaltender. In this case is was Marek Langhammer, the starting goalie for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League, who was put on display internationally Saturday morning.

    The IIHF has the shots on goal at 29-28 through regulation and overtime for the Canadians, but that doesn't seem exactly right. Canada had the better chances through the game, and Langhammer never let the Czechs trail on the day. He stopped Derick Pouliot stopped point-blank twice in the first period, and kept in the game after being run over by Curtis Lazar driving to the net in the third period. He stopped Nic Petan in the shootout, and then stared down the talented Connor McDavid to seal the 5-4 win for the Czechs.

    No. 2 Star: Alexander Wennberg, Team Sweden

    A strong goaltending performance from Nashville Predators prospect Jusse Saros kept the over-matched Finland in their game against Sweden a little bit longer than they ought to have, and Sweden had just a 3-2 advantage in the third period before a somewhat controversial goal from Alexander Wennberg, the Columbus Blue Jackets' 14th overall selection from the most recent draft. Wennberg circled the zone and fired a long wrist shot from the point, which eluded Saros, but the Finns were up in arms because Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Andreas Johnson appeared to be in the crease before the shot.

    However, it counted. It was Wennberg's second tally on the day. After Esa Lindell put Finland up 1-0 just 41 seconds into the game, Wennberg opened the scoring for the Swedish on a two-man advantage 4:15 in. He also assisted on Johnson's 2-1 goal in the second period and was named his team's best player post-game.

    No. 3 Star: Matt Grzelcyk, Team United States

    The final score of the United States and Slovakia game could be considered a rout—6-3 after 60 minutes to give the USA a 2-0-0-0 record after their first two games. But after a second period dominated by the Slovakians, the US had just a 3-2 lead. Goaltender Jon Gillies was forced to make two big stops at the start of the frame, and the US was just holding on before Boston University Terrier (and Boston Bruins draft pick) Matt Grzelcyk banged home a rebound from a Connor Carrick shot to make the score 4-2 midway through the frame. The States would score twice in the next 7:01 of action to take an obvious advantage.

    Read More »from World Junior championship 3 Stars: Czechs complete upset with goaltending, Sweden escapes Finland
  • World Junior Championship: Canada cuts Felix Girard, final roster set?

    Felix Girard (CP)Knowing that the Hockey Canada brass often likes to bring an extra "energy" forward for the fourth line to international tournaments, perhaps it should come as a bit of a surprise that coach Brent Sutter made his last forward cut Felix Girard of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, and 4th round pick of the Nashville Predators in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

    Girard has 20 points in 28 games so far this season, which in the wide-open QMJHL, are not exactly the numbers of a top scorer. He also has 70 penalty minutes, and admitted at the start of selection camp that he "wasn't the most skilled guy, but [he] could always bring the energy."

    Canada's selection camp roster for the upcoming IIHF U-20 World Championships, beginning Boxing Day in Malmo, Sweden, is now down to the maximum 22-man limit. However, while the forwards are set, the final roster doesn't have to be in until Christmas Day. It's plausible that Canada still cut defenceman Griffin Reinhart or Mathew Dumba should Dumba be suspended for his knee-on-thigh collision with Sweden's Erik Karlsson in the second pre-tournament game. With Reinhart serving a suspension for a high-sticking incident from last year's semifinal and not eligible to return for New Year's Eve, we'll see if Sutter is willing to go with five defencemen for multiple games.

    Read More »from World Junior Championship: Canada cuts Felix Girard, final roster set?

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