The Lake Erie Monsters continue to fight for a playoff spot, but their real enemy is games played. The 16-team field for the upcoming college hockey tournament has been set and the Avs are well represented. The Canadian Hockey League has concluded its regular season, but one Avs prospect will be missing out on the postseason fun. It's time for an exciting playoff edition of TWIAP!
The Lake Erie Monsters have 11 games left in the regular season. The Monsters are currently in ninth place of the Western Conference with 71 points. Eighth place Rochester also has the same number of points, but has two games in hand. The Monsters find themselves in a similar position to the Avalanche, in which they have played more games than several teams also chasing a playoff spot.
The Monsters had a tough weekend, losing to Milwaukee in overtime on Friday and being shutout by Chicago 1-0 on Saturday night. While players who could help in Mike Connolly, Tyson Barrie, and Stefan Elliott warm the bench in Colorado, the Monsters must make do with their current roster. The club will face Toronto twice this week, along with another rematch with the Chicago Wolves.
The conference tournaments in college hockey wrapped up over the weekend and the tournament bracket for the national tourney was announced on Sunday. All the Avs collegiate prospects, save for Gus Young, will be participating in the tournament. Perhaps the most intriguing opening round match-up, to Avs fans, will be in the West Regional in St. Paul, MN; where Kent Patterson and the Minnesota Gophers will face Boston University and goaltender Kieran Millan.
Patterson had a rough outing against North Dakota on Friday evening, as his club blew a 3-0 lead, and ended up losing 6-3 to the Sioux in the WCHA Final Five semifinals. Boston University lost in the semifinals of the Hockey East Tournament to Maine. Millan however had a strong performance with 39 saves. For one of these two senior goalies, Saturday afternoon's match-up will be their last collegiate game.
Boston College is the top ranked team going into the national tournament and beat Maine 4-1 to take the Hockey East Tournament crown. Paul Carey had three points over the weekend for the Eagles. BC will face Atlantic Hockey champion Air Force in the opening round on Saturday.
Michigan fell to Western Michigan in the CCHA Tournament championship game 3-2. The Wolverines will be in the Midwest Regional and will face Cornell on Friday evening. Luke Moffatt had an important goal in the CCHA tournament, as he scored the double overtime winner against Bowling Green that put Michigan in the CCHA championship game. He also had an assist in the loss to the Western Michigan Broncos.
Be sure to check out the complete tournament bracket here and find information about TV broadcasts through this link.
While the college boys are getting ready for the national tournament, players north of the border wrapped up the regular season in the Canadian Hockey League. Michael Sgarbossa finished the regular season on a high note. He recorded four points, including a hat trick, on Sunday against Kingston to give him 102 points on the season and the OHL scoring title. His Sudbury Wolves will play the Brampton Battalion in the quarterfinals.
The Belleville Bulls ended the regular season on a three game winning streak. They will face the Ottawa 67's in the opening round. Defenseman Stephen Silas had six goals and 26 assists in 67 games; a four point drop from his previous season.
In the Western Conference, the Plymouth Whalers draw the Guelph Storm as their opening round match-up. Garrett Meurs had his most productive season as a junior with 20 goals and 33 assists in 67 games. He did however leave Plymouth's regular season finale on Saturday, a 6-2 loss to Sarnia, due to an undisclosed injury.
In the Western Hockey League, the Saskatoon Blades and Portland Winterhawks have playoff spots secured. The Blades find themselves in a first round match-up with the Medicine Hat Tigers.It was in a game against the Tigers in which Blades captain, Duncan Siemens, suffered a concussion which kept him sidelined for a few weeks. Siemens, who saw a drop in his offensive production, had 28 points in 57 contests.
The Portland Winterhawks will face the Kelowna Rockets in the quarterfinals of the Western Conference. Troy Rutkowski finished with 45 points in 72 games; two off his total from last season. He had a goal and an assist in Sunday's regular season finale, which was an 8-2 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. Unfortunately for Seattle, the loss ended any hopes of the club making the playoffs.
The Thunderbirds finished with a 25-45-1-1 record and an ninth place finish in the Western Conference. Calvin Pickard gave up all eight goals to Portland, in what was likely his last game as a junior. He was credited with all 25 wins the Thunderbirds earned this season and finished with a goals against average of 3.59. His 0.906 save percentage was 11th best in the league.
Pickard can join the Lake Erie Monsters for the remainder of their season on an amateur tryout. He'd likely get some valuable practice time with the club, but unlikely to see any playing time with the team as they are currently fighting for a playoff spot. Plus, the team currently has a nice goaltending rotation with Cedrick Desjardins and Gerald Coleman. However, there is no doubt that Pickard will factor heavily in Lake Erie's plans for the 2012-13 season.
A bit of a sad note to end this edition, but good things are ahead for young Mr. Pickard as he embarks on his professional career. Next week, a recap of the Monsters games against Toronto and Chicago. Can they gain any ground in the standings? How are some of the Avs junior prospects faring as the playoffs get underway in the Canadian Hockey League? Which college clubs will make it to Tampa and the 2012 Frozen Four? Find out next week!