No. 1 star: Cam Lanigan, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Lanigan was splendid while helping the upstart Tigers wrench home-ice advantage away from the Memorial Cup host Saskatoon Blades with a 4-1 victory, stopping 42 shots, including 22 in the second period. The 19-year-old did the who-was-that-masked-man? bit to some critical acclaim last spring when he stepped in for the Kamloops Blazers against the Portland Winterhawks and helped his team fight off elimination three times before losing in Game 7. The overage goalie had some help from his posts on Thursday, but he imbued the seventh-seeded Tigers with a certain giant-killer confidence as they played a perfect road game.
Lanigan did his best work in the middle period when the Blades were trying to cut into a 2-0 deficit. Saskatoon only pulled one back in that period and The Hat recovered, as the line of Trevor Cox (1G-1A, +2), Trevor Cox (1G-1A, +2) and Miles Koules (2A, +2) connected for a dagger goal 6:17 into the third period.
Lanigan later stoned Calgary Flames prospect Michael Ferland on successive chances, as the Tigers made sure the Blades ran out of rocks.
Ferland stopped twice on the doorstep by Lanigan. His best saves of the third come with 2:26 left.
— Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBsports) March 22, 2013
Journeyman goaltender Cam Lanigan was thrown into a series against Portland last year. Is the difference for MH in G1 vs. Saskatoon.
— Cam Charron (@camcharron) March 22, 2013
Last time Cam Lanigan was in S'toon, Blades scored 6 on 34 shots. He's been terrific tonight, 42 saves. And a little help from the post.
— Andy Neal (@AndyNeal_Vic) March 22, 2013
Blades ring one off the post in the dying minutes, the 4th one of the night for Saskatoon. Still 3-1 Tigers with 1:50 to play.
— Saskatoon Blades (@bladeshockey) March 22, 2013
No. 2 star: Brady Brassart, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Judging by the outcome, Brassart was cut to the bone by going pointless in five playoff games last spring. The 19-year-old from Vernon, B.C., scored his first playoff goals since he was with Spokane two seasons ago, helping the Hitmen escape with a 6-5 Game 1 overtime win over the Swift Current Broncos despite fiddling away a four-goal lead.
Brassart (3G, +2), who had a 35-goal, 78-point regular season, scored twice in the game's first 30 minutes to help Calgary build that ill-fated lead. He struck again early in the third period, which Calgary needed since the Broncos' Cody Gordon, a Calgary Flames selection visiting his NHL organization's home arena, factored into two late goals that forced overtime. The Hitmen pulled it out on a bad-angle goal by Alex Roach, putting Swift Current in a bind with a short turnaround before Game 2 on Friday.
No. 3 star: Francis Ménard, Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Ménard (1G-2A, +2) showed why the Battalion added him at the trade deadline, earning first-star honours in Brampton's 4-1 Game 1 victory over the Sudbury Wolves. The overage centre from Embrun, Ont., helped furnish the modicum of offence that's all the Battalion need to get by in early-round playoff series, factoring into their final three goals. Ménard set up Barclay Goodrow in the opening minute of the second period, then got in on a Dylan Blujus tally in the period's penultimate minute to open a three-goal lead. Sudbury was showing signs of a comeback when Ménard scored his goal 7:33 into the third.
Honourable mention: Holden Cook, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
It's not tough to ignore Vancouver Canucks first-rounder Brendan Gaunce getting four points since (a) the Belleville Bulls are expected to roll over the Mississauga Steelheads and (b) it would be un-Ontarian not pass on trolling Canucks fans. Cook made the play that allowed the Attack to take a 2-1 series-opening win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, getting the overtime assist 4:56 into the sudden-victory session.
The third-seeded Attack survived a 'Hounds power play that bridged the third period and overtime. On a rush down left wing, the Cook went wide around Soo defenceman Chris Buonomo and went behind the net. The 18-year-old eschewed his first read for a centring pass after Ryan Sproul tied up the Attack forward, but then delivered some backhand sauce to the trailing Daniel Milne, who one-timed the pass home a handclap before diving backchecker Nick Halagian could break up the play. It was a game-ending play worthy of an evenly played game.
Potent notables — Mark Scheifele scored the winning goal in Barrie's opening 3-1 win over Kingston ... Christopher Clapperton (2G-1A, +2) and Marc-Olivier Roy (1G-2A, +3) helped Blainville-Boisbriand bury Acadie-Bathurst 6-1 in the lone QMJHL game.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.