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Kootenay Ice’s Mackenzie Skapski’s 42-save shutout stands with big wins by Blades and Oil Kings: Wednesday’s 3 Stars

Mackenzie Skapski had his 7th shutout this season on Wednesday (Larry MacDougall, The Canadian Press)No. 1 star: Mackenzie Skapski, Kootenay Ice (WHL)

Skapski stole two more big points for Kootenay with 42 saves, many of them on gold-edged chances, in a 1-0 road win over the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Ice, who are within range of sixth-place Medicine Hat, made an early power-play salvo by Brock Montgomery stand up for 55-plus minutes. Much of that was thanks to Skapski, the 19-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., who has been a workhorse for the Ice, recording a 2.65 average and .913 save percentage while playing in 57 of the Ice's 63 games.

Skapski, who now has seven shutouts this season, helped preserve the Ice lead with a big glove save on Tigers defenceman Tyler Lewington early in the third period. Skapski also thwarted a dangerous chance generated by Tigers scoring leader Curtis Valk later in the final frame. He made 17 stops in all over the final 20 minutes, when the Tigers were looking to take the win and get separation from the Ice in the standings.

The win kept Kootenay within one point of seventh-place Swift Current and three of the Tigers in the WHL's Eastern Conference. Coach Ryan McGill's Ice are not only going to make the playoffs after languishing in last place early in the season, but they might not go in as the 8 seed.

No. 2 star: Dylan Wruck, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Wruck (1G-1A, +1) was The Man in the co-game of the night, as he took over in the later stages to help Edmonton beat Portland 4-3 in the big WHL final rematch. He delivered in his long-awaited chance to beat the Winterhawks; remember, he missed the league final last season due to injury.

It looked like the Oil Kings would be up a creek without a paddle after league-leading Portland took a 3-1 lead late in the second. In the closing seconds of that period, though, Wruck and teammate Curtis Lazar forced rookie defenceman Kirill Vorobev into a giveaway, which gave Wruck the chance to make a great move to beat goalie Mac Carruth to pare the deficit to one goal. Evidently, Oil Kings assistant coach Steve Hamilton knew what Edmonton needed to hear before the third period.

Trevor Cheek, the veteran Edmonton is counting on to be their soft-handed, big-bodied finisher during the playoffs, levelled just 83 seconds into the third period. The Oil Kings titled the ice from that point on, outshooting Portland 17-6 and finally getting their just desserts when Wruck took a low, hard shot that New York Rangers-drafted centre Michael St. Croix redirected in for the winner with 1:03 remaining.

No. 3 star: Brett Stovin, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

Goalie Andrey Makarov (41 saves, plus 5-for-5 in the shootout) was brilliant as the Blades notched their club-record 17th win in a row with a come-from-behind 3-2 shootout win over the Calgary Hitmen. But Saskatoon also needed to score at some point to extend its streak. The unheralded Stovin (2G, +2), an unheralded 19-year-old from Stony Mountain, Man., took care of that by scoring both Blades goals.

Saskatoon's 'Toba Trio — Winnipeg Jets second-round pck Lukas Sutter flanked by Headingley, Man.'s Nick Zajac on the left and Stovin on the starboard side — bailed out the Blades. Stovin opened the scoring 12:40 into the second period. Sixteen seconds into the third period, Sutter took a Zajac pass and deked goalie Chris Driedger but hit the post. Stovin crashed the net to pick up the loose change.

Calgary came back to earn a Bettman point, staying two points ahead of the Blades for second overall in the WHL's Eastern Conference. Stovin was given a chance to during the shootout; he tried a spinnerarm on Driedger and almost scored. Saskatoon won in the next round.

Honourable mention: Austen Brassard, Belleville Bulls (OHL)

There was a Brass Bonanza in Bellevegas, as the Winnipeg Jets selection factored into the first three Bulls goals in a 4-0 blanking of the Brampton Battalion. The line of Vancouver Canucks first-rounder Brendan Gaunce (1G-2A, +2) centering Minnesota Wild selection Tyler Graovac (1G, +1) and Brassard (2G-1A, +2) controlled the game, helping Belleville win despite having only 16 skaters dressed.

Brassard opened the scoring by rapping in a centering pass from Graovac. It was still 1-0 4:19 into the third period when the 19-year-old right wing lifted a Battalion defender's stick to get possession and dished to Gaunce for a goal that broke the game open. In the final five minutes, Brassard took a pass while trailing on a 3-on-2 rush and buried his chance. That secured Belleville's 11th win in February, a team record.

Speaking of Gaunce, he has 12 points during his crrent six-game point streak. Malcolm Subban (knew you would ask) had 25 saves on his way to his fourth shutout of the season.

Honourable mention: Jean-Christophe Laflamme, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)

Laflamme got both goals in the Phoenix's 2-1 road overtime win over the slumping Rimouski Océanic, including the winner 29 seconds into the sudden-victory session. The 5-foot-7 right wing has only 12 goals all season, but he was vital for Sherbrooke as it beat one of the division leaders in the Quebec League.

The Phoenix had difficulty breaking through against Océanic goalie Philippe Desrosiers, who played his first full game since suffering an injury on Jan. 18. But Laflamme tied the game 1:20 before the end of the second period to get the likely playoff-bound expansion Phoenix the regulation point, then scored again to earn an extra point for Sherbrooke.

Honourable mentions: Connor Donaghey and Matthew Highmore, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

Well, isn't that special. The two birthday boys on the Sea Dogs were the game's first two stars in a 4-2 win over lowly Cape Breton. Donaghey (1G-2A, +3) turned 19, while rookie Highmore (2G-1A, +3) marked his 17th by getting his first multi-goal game in the QMJHL.

Potent notables — The Vancouver Giants' Brendan Rouse got two goals in the 5-3 win over Kamloops that helped the WHL cellar dwellers avoid a season-series sweep at the hands of the Blazers ... Lethbridge's Jamal Watson scored twice, including a short-handed clincher in the third, to help the Hurricanes win 5-4 at Victoria and stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race ... Spokane's Todd Fiddler got his 40th goal of the season, while Chiefs captain Brenden Kichton, a New York Islanders selection, became the third WHL defenceman to hit the 20-goal mark ... In the OHL, Boone Jenner reached 39 goals on the season with a pair in Oshawa's win at Kingston ... The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds clinched a playoff berth by losing in a shootout to Sudbury. Greyhounds rookie Sergey Tolchinsky had two goals, giving him 10 points in his past five games ... In the QMJHL, overage Stephen MacAulay got his 30th goal of the season in Halifax's 4-2 win at Shawinigan.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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