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This Week in Avalanche Prospects

Michael Sgarbossa (photo by Gino Donato)
Michael Sgarbossa (photo by Gino Donato)

The Lake Erie Monsters earned three very important wins over the weekend. The playoffs are now upon us for college hockey teams. Michael Sgarbossa is on a hot streak and was rewarded with an important Ontario Hockey League honor. Duncan Siemens is set to return to the Saskatoon lineup. Prospect signing season is nearly at hand and there are six Avalanche prospects who are looking for their first professional contracts. Sit back and get ready to enjoy another edition of TWIAP!

The AHL regular season is in its final quarter and the Lake Erie Monsters are in desperate need of points. The Monsters played three games this past weekend and came away with six valuable points. On Friday, Lake Erie earned a 2-1 shoot-out win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. In the game, Cedrick Desjardins had 29 saves and stopped all five Hamilton opportunities in the shoot-out. Ryan Stoa turned out to be the only goal scorer for Lake Erie in the shoot-out.

On Saturday, the Monsters began a two game set with the Charlotte Checkers. The Monsters earned their second straight shoot-out win, defeating the Checkers 3-2. David van der Gulik and Luke Walker scored for the Monsters in regulation. Gerald Coleman had 20 saves for Lake Erie. Mike Connolly and Patrick Rissmiller scored in the shoot-out.

On Sunday afternoon, the Monsters played host once again to Charlotte and defeated the Checkers in overtime 2-1. Cameron Gaunce was the overtime hero, scoring his fourth of the season. Cedrick Desjardins had another stellar performance with 34 saves. Greg Mauldin scored a short-handed goal in the second period.

Though there are teams chasing the Monsters with games in hand, the club is currently in ninth place in the Western Conference with 65 points. Seventh place Rochester and eighth place Peoria also have 65 points, but the Amerks have a game in hand and the Rivermen have one more win than the Monsters. Lake Erie begins an important three game road trip this week with games in Oklahoma City (2) and San Antonio.

The regular season has concluded for men's college hockey (Division I), but some teams have already begun conference tournament action. In the ECAC, Yale played Princeton in the opening round of the conference playoffs. Yale came away winning the series 2-1. Gus Young had two assists in the deciding game three on Sunday, in which Yale prevailed 7-3. The Bulldogs will face Harvard in the second round.

Boston College clinched the Hockey East regular season title and will face Massachusetts in the opening round of the Hockey East Tournament. The Eagles ended the regular season with 5-1 and 4-0 wins over the Vermont Catamounts. Paul Carey recorded a point in each game and has 13 goals on the season. BC currently occupies the top spot in the PairWise.

Boston University finds themselves tied for sixth in the PairWise with the University of Minnesota, heading into their opening round conference playoff series with New Hampshire. The Terriers split a weekend set with Northeastern; winning 5-2 on Friday and dropping a 5-4 contest in overtime on Saturday. Kieran Millan made 25 saves in his final regular season appearance on Friday for BU. He also had an assist in the game on a short-handed tally scored in the second period.

The Minnesota Gophers won the WCHA regular season title over the weekend. The club split a series with the Wisconsin Badgers; falling 4-1 on Friday and winning 2-1 on Saturday. Kent Patterson was pulled for the first time this season in Friday's loss to the Badgers. On Saturday, he had 17 saves and earned his 24th win of the season. The Gophers will host Alaska-Anchorage in the first round of the WCHA Tournament.

Michael Sgarbossa last week was named the OHL Player of the Month for February. So far in March, he is off to a hot start as he had eight points in two games over the weekend. As a result, he was named OHL Player of the Week for the second time in the past three weeks.

Good news on the injury front when it comes to Saskatoon Blades defenseman Duncan Siemens. Siemens has missed the last few weeks due to a concussion. He is expected to return as early as this Wednesday against the Prince Albert Raiders.

Lastly, as the calendar turns to March and the NHL enters its final stretch, clubs prepare for a playoff run, but they also prepare for the future. As seasons wrap up in Europe, the NCAA, and the CHL, teams begin signing prospects to entry-level contracts. The deadlines in which certain players have to sign vary and can be mind numbing at times.

For the Avalanche, they will need to make decisions on six prospects this offseason. Belleville Bulls (OHL) defenseman Stephen Silas and Portland Winterhawks (WHL) defenseman Troy Rutkowski both need to be signed by June 1, 2012 or the Avalanche will lose their rights. In Europe, goaltender Sami Aittokallio will also require a contract before the same June 1st date.

The Avalanche have three college seniors in which they will need to make a decision; goaltenders Kent Patterson (Minnesota), Kieran Millan (Boston University), and forward Paul Carey (Boston College) will need to be signed by August 15, 2012 or become free agents.

The goaltending situation will be an interesting one. Calvin Pickard will likely join the ranks of the Lake Erie Monsters next season as he is already signed to an entry-level contract. Trevor Cann is a restricted free agent and is likely not to be tendered. Still, that leaves Cedrick Desjardins who is certainly worth keeping, but where does that leave Patterson, Millan and Aittokallio? That will be a story to follow throughout the off-season.

Next week, a recap of the Monsters three game road trip and where they are in the standings. Can Michael Sgarbossa continue his torrid pace? A look in on college hockey conference tournaments and also a check in on the standings in the Canadian Hockey League. Thanks for reading!