Well, that broke the mould for the Halifax Mooseheads-Océanic semifinal. After three tight games in a row, Straka and Rimouski hammered Halifax 9-0 in Game 5 of their semifinal series. In front of a national TV audience, the former Quebec league rookie of the year counted four points (1G-3A), including back-to-back primary assists in the opening period when the 'Nics took advantage of Halifax's sleepwalking. Straka, 19, who's a Columbus Blue Jackets fifth-rounder, set up the 2-0 goal with a well-threaded centring pass that linemate Jean-François Plante wired into the net.
Straka set up Scott Oke later in the frame and then got on the scoresheet twice more in the second period with another primary assist and his seventh goal of the playoffs.
It was the Mooseheads' worst playoff loss since a 12-3 setback in March 1998 that was coincidentally also against Rimouski. The 'Nics will have to wrap up the series on the road with Halifax due to host Game 6 and Game 7 (if required), but they have already won there twice during the series. The junior hockey-following portion of the country saw why Rimouski is a tough team.
No. 2 star: Laurent Brossoit, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Brossoit, already a shoo-in to be selected most valuable player of the WHL Eastern Conference playoffs, made sure his application was ship-shape by leading the Oil Kings to a 5-1 series-clinching over the Moose Jaw Warriors. He vexed Warriors shooters such as Florida Panthers first-rounder Quinton Howden — who was shut out in the series though hardly for lack of trying — time and again while bouncing back from a rare so-so night in a Game 4 loss. Brossoit finished with 37 saves on 38 shots, improving his pristine playoff stats (1.62 average, .945 save percentage).
Edmonton Oilers-drafted defenceman Martin Gernat scored two power-play goals to help the Oil Kings reach their first championship series. The Ed Chynoweth Cup final between the Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks opens May 3 in the Alberta capital.
No. 3 star: Brett Ritchie, Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
The Dallas Stars second-rounder's defensive work earned him first-star honours as Niagara shaded the Ottawa 67's 3-2 to seal a five-game win in the Eastern Conference series. On a team with so much scoring punch, Ritchie has had to don a checker's costume. The 6-foot-3 right wing's brute force and tenacity made him a good fit on Niagara's de facto shut down line, as he helped keep Ottawa's rambunctious Dalton Smith from wreaking too much havoc. Meantime, his linemates Andrew Agozzino and Alex Friesen helped slow down the other two-thirds of Ottawa's top line, Sean Monahan and two-time 100-point scorer Tyler Toffoli. The big 67's line counted only once on Friday, when Toffoli set up a power-play marker.
San Jose Sharks prospect Freddie Hamilton (1G-1A) factored in the first two IceDogs goals. He made a centring pass to Ryan Strome for a one-timer that opened the scoring and also deked Petr Mrazek for a tally late in the first that put Niagara ahead to stay. The OHL final will also open on May 3 in London.
Honourable mention: Jake Cardwell, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
The fourth-year defenceman scored what turned out to be Ottawa's final goal of the season and played a strong all-around game in a losing cause. Cardwell, along with blueline mates Cody Ceci and Michal Cajkovsky, logged heavy minutes throughout a playoff run in which the 67's played 18 games in a 37-day span.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
- Ice Hockey
- Sports & Recreation