Quebec Remparts forward Nick Sorensen (The Canadian Press)
No. 1 star: Nick Sorensen, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
The Remparts power play was a scorching 5-for-6 during their 7-3 series-evening win over Rouyn-Noranda, and Sorensen (3G-2A) caught lightning in a bottle with a playoff hat trick. The 19-year-old Ducks second-rounder scored consecutive goals in the second period to give the Remparts their first multi-goal lead. Soon after Rouyn-Noranda cut into the margin, the 19-year-old Swede came back to earn the primary assist on a tally by the comeback kid, Kurt Etchegary, to restore a two-goal margin with 1:21 left in the frame. Toronto Maple Leafs pick Fabrice Herzog broke in and scored off the ensuing centre-ice faceoff, and it was pretty much game over.
A projectile (top right in frame) is hurled at London's Zach Bell (Rogers Television)
Odd, is it not, how a team trailing in a series incites a melee after it falls behind five goals and then starts to play better. It remains to be seen whether the Windsor Spitfires, who are down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series, can avoid a quick exit vs. the heavily favoured London Knights in their Ontario Hockey League playoff series, the underdogs aren't going out meekly.
Connor McDavid assisted on the OT winner for Erie on Saturday (OHL Images)
Sault Ste. Marie salvages a split by chasing Owen Sound goalie Brandon Hope during a decisive win; Erie ekes out another tight win over Saginaw on a Connor McDavid overtime assist and Barrie, Guelph and London are also out to 2-0 series lead. On with the post-game questions:
Could one imagine a U.S. college coaching icon such as Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski donating millions to upgrade the facilities at a school in his conference? Probably not; no offence to Coach K. But the economic scale of Canadian Interuniversity Sport is much different than at a major NCAA school, and institutions' priorities are often much different too. That's part of why 43-year-old Richardson Stadium fell into such disrepair, with sections of the bleachers being condemned prior to the 2013 season.
Barbashev has 5 points in his last 5 periods (Larry MacDougal, CP)No. 1 star: Ivan Barbashev, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Barbashev (1G-3A, +2) and Vladimir Tkachev (2G-1A, +3) got it started for Moncton in a must-win Game 2 vs. Blainville-Boisbriand, and they decided it by hooking up on the strike 16:58 into overtime for a 6-5 series-tying win. The effort was exactly what Moncton had in mind while it spent weeks working to bring Tkachev over from Russia at midseason to give Barbashev a winger who could get on his wavelength.
Moncton broke out to a 3-1 lead thanks the to the 18-year-old Barbashev sandwiching two primary assists around a power-play goal. However, the Armada thrive on driving opponents' top players to distraction by being chippy. That tack worked on Barbashev, who got a penalty during a skirmish following the Wildcats' fourth goal and was also in the box when the Armada pulled to within 4-3 in the third.
Two late Armada goals, including Nikita Jevpalovs' hat-trick goal with 35 seconds left in regulation, forced overtime. Moncton goalie Alex Dubeau (41 saves) hung in while the 'Cats had to kill off two Tkachev penalties in the extra session. Once the 'Cats reunited their Russians, they pulled off an eye-popping four-way passing play for the winner, with Christopher Caissy feeding Barbashev, who set up Tkachev for the winner.
No. 2 star: Simon Tardif-Richard, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
An 8 vs. 9 matchup is supposed to be tight. It was for 20 minutes in Gatineau before Tardif-Richard (3G-2A, +6) and the 'Piques treated Cape Breton to a 7-2 beatdown at The Bob. The overage centre who's hoping for one last playoff run with his hometown team scored a short-handed goal in the eighth minute after being sprung for a chance by Montreal Canadiens pick Martin Reway (2G-2A, +6). Tardif-Richard set up Reway's goal in the following frame and then he scored late in the frame. Tardif-Richard completed his hat trick 6:06 into the third as Gatineau poured it on to take a 1-0 series lead. The line of Tardif-Richard, Reway and draft-eligible Vaclav Karabacek (1G-2A, +5) combined for 12 points.
Fabbri led Guelph in points per game during the regular season (OHL Images)
The Guelph Storm might have lost first-line centre Robby Fabbri in the first game of the playoffs, which is the main story from the first busy night of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs. On with the post-game questions:
Jake Virtanen led all 17-year-olds in the WHL with 45 goals (Larry MacDougal, CP)
Jake Virtanen set the tone for his draft season early last summer.
No doubt by design, as first overall picks in their respective leagues, the Calgary Flames left wing and Barrie Colts standout Aaron Ekblad were placed on opposite teams at the selection camp for Canada's summer under-18 team. What ensued was the two 17-year-olds alternating Plexiglass-wobbling checks on each other that might have turned up on the Richter scale.
"We were battling for a spot and you got to do what you got to do," recalls Virtanen, who netted 45 goals for Calgary during his sophomre season. "Aaron and I, we're good buddies and I had to give him a bit of a hard time. He came up to me after we had both made the team. He told me in the camp he hated me and now he had to be my best friend.
"There's some guys who kind of let up on friends and I kind of think there's no friends on the ice."
Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...
Regina Pats veteran Dyson Stevenson is questionable for the start of the series with Brandon. (Regina Leader-Post)
Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Tristan Jarry is going into his first playoffs as Edmonton's starter; which goalie will put the biggest stamp on the chase for the Ed Chynoweth Cup? (Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, Medicine Hat News)
Medicine Hat-Swift Current should be tight, it's a 4 vs. 5 matchup. (Medicine Hat News)
Vancouver doesn't have overage defenceman Dalton Thrower, and Portland is the league's highest-scoring team so far this millennium. Good luck, Giants goalie Payton Lee. (Portland Tribune, Vancouver Sun, The Oregonian)
Top draft prospect Sam Reinhart (right) had a 102-point regular season (Larry MacDougal, CP)
No. 1 star: Sam Reinhart, Kootenay Ice (WHL)
Since Reinhart could conceivably be part of the Calgary Flames organization by this summer, the vaunted 18-year-old NHL draft prospect seems to be extra-beastly whenever the Ice meet the Calgary Hitmen at the Saddledome. The Ice were hardly a one-man show in their fully merited 5-2 Game 1 road win, but Reinhart (2G-1A) was a no-brainer pick for first star after getting in on three of their first four goals. It is the first time in four tries that Kootenay has won a series opener against Calgary.
Edmonton Oilers prospect Greg Chase scored on the Hitmen's first shot of the night, which turned out to be a harbinger of very little. Fellow 18-year-old Luke Philp (1G-1A) zipped a pass to Reinhart for a goal midway through the first period. In the second, Reinhart reciprocated by setting up Philp to put the Ice up for good. Kootenay was up 3-1 in the third when the North Vancouver, B.C., native won a faceoff back to defenceman Rinat Valiev, who carried down the boards and circled behind the goal and centered to Reinhart, who buried the chance.
That gives Reinhart 20 points in eight games this season vs. the Hitmen, who had the WHL's fourth-best record.
Probably shouldn't be too surprised with Reinhart's performance tonight. 17 points vs. Hitmen this season and now has 4G-7A last 4 games.
Overage Zach Franko (2G, +2) also had a big night for Kootenay, which hardly got out unscathed since an injury to defenceman Tyler King left it to finish the game with only four able-bodied defenceman. In other words, it might need even bigger efforts from Reinhart to upset the physical Hitmen.
There were only three games on Thursday night, but two involved potential NHL lottery picks. That was good, since it kept Reinhart and Barrie's Aaron Ekblad away from scouting their perhaps future teammates.
Aaron Ekblad, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl watching EDM-BUF tilt: "Please, God, no . . ."