All good things...
After some initial success in the 2015 NCAA Men's Division I hockey tournament, St. Cloud State and the University of Denver saw their seasons come to an end in their respective regional finals.
On Friday, the Huskies had a tight contest against former WCHA foe Michigan Tech. SCSU would force overtime on a Jonny Brodzinski (21) goal with less than 40 seconds remaining in regulation. Judd Peterson notched his fourth tally of the year at the 8:11 mark of the first overtime session to send the Huskies to the West Regional Final.
On Saturday in Fargo, ND, SCSU found some early success against North Dakota as Jimmy Murray recorded his fifth goal of the season just 1:29 into the contest. By the end of the opening frame, UND had tied the game. The Huskies were held to just 20 shots in the game and could not overcome three unassisted goals by North Dakota.
With the 4-1 win, UND will face Boston University in the second of two semi-final games in the Frozen Four on April 9th. Ben Storm finished with two goals and three assists in 33 games this season. Storm started his career with St. Cloud State as a defenseman, but as this season went along spent more time in the lineup as a left-winger. Depending on who the Huskies bring in as recruits next year, Storm could continue to play a similar role.
The Denver Pioneers exacted some revenge on Saturday afternoon by defeating Boston College 5-2. A year ago, the Eagles had pounded Denver 6-2 in the opening round of the national tournament. The hero of the contest on Saturday turned out to be captain Grant Arnold, who scored his first two goals of the season. Joey LaLeggia (14), Trevor Moore (22) and Will Butcher (4) also scored for the Pioneers. Tanner Jaillet stopped 22 shots for Denver.
After Providence College held on to upset Miami 7-5 in the second East Regional semifinal, the Pioneers despite being the higher seed, were playing in the backyard of the Friars. Sunday's East Regional Final was a tight checking affair. Friars netminder Jon Gilles stopped every shot he saw and the skaters in front of him had an excellent day blocking shots.
Denver's top line of Trevor Moore, Daniel Doremus and Danton Heinen looked to lead the Pioneers to victory. While Moore was active, Heinen had a relatively quiet tournament. After a scoreless first period, a Larkin Jacobsen elbow gave Providence their second power play of the game and PC would take advantage.
Noel Acciari on an angle, beat Tanner Jaillet to opening the scoring for the Friars on the power play. Denver was unable to convert on their power play opportunity later in the second period and failed to score on a man advantage early in the third. However, another power play gave Denver a chance to tie up the game. Hobey Baker finalist Joey LaLeggia was credited with his 15th goal of the season to draw the Pioneers even.
After some chances on both ends, the game began to take on a feeling of an overtime affair. Skating with the puck into the neutral zone, Steven McParland was the recipient of a hard check by the Denver goal scorer Joey LaLeggia. One could argue that McParland was skating with his head down, but LaLeggia made contact to the head.
After a brief discussion, LaLeggia was assessed a 5-minute major and a game disqualification. Devastated, Denver found early success in killing off the major, but did not come away unscathed. Tom Parisi (4) beat Tanner Jaillet to give the Friars a 2-1 lead. With the loss of LaLeggia and momentum, the Pioneers were unable to overcome the deficit and PC would cap off the game with two empty net markers to give the Friars a 4-1 win and most importantly a trip to the Frozen Four.
Will Butcher, who assisted on LaLeggia's goal, finished the season with four goals and 14 assists in 38 games. It's important to note that had Denver somehow managed to win the game, LaLeggia would have been suspended for the Frozen Four semifinal.
In addition to Joey LaLeggia, Denver will lose seniors Daniel Doremus, Zac Larraza, Ty Loney, Larkin Jacobson, Matt Tabrum, and Josiah Didier. There is of course always the threat that drafted players, with remaining eligibility, will sign contracts with their NHL clubs. Denver fans will be holding their breath about Danton Heinen, Quentin Shore and Will Butcher, but it's likely all three will return next season.
Heinen has all the makings of being a collegiate star and with returning junior Trevor Moore, the Pioneers offensive attack will be very potent. Yet, things could even get better for Denver next season with the possible addition of Auston Matthews. Matthews is expected to be the top overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and the future star is weighing playing in the WHL for the Everett Silvertips or the NCAA. Denver is one of a handful of teams to be on his short list.
What Denver has in their favor is location and the possibility of having Mathews centering Danton Heinen and Trevor Moore. Larraza, a fellow Arizona native, will certainly be used to help recruit the young man. It is certainly a tantalizing possibility and the Pioneers will have their work cut out for them in order to nab the prized center.
Despite the disappointment in losing to Providence College, the Pioneers made a positive step this season and as they say...the future is bright.
Boston University, North Dakota, Providence College, and Nebraska Omaha will participate in the Frozen Four; beginning on April 9th in Boston, MA. It's Hockey East versus the NCHC.
Avs CHL Prospects Playoff Stats
|Chris Bigras||Owen Sound||OHL||D||2||1||1||2||2||2|
|Conner Bleackley||Red Deer||WHL||C/RW||2||0||0||0||-1||4|
|Kyle Wood||North Bay||OHL||D||2||0||2||2||1||0|
The OHL announced finalists for their season awards this past week. Chris Bigras was named a finalist for defenseman of the year. Despite missing half the season, Spencer Martin played well enough to snag a finalist selection for goaltender of the year.
The league will announce award winners throughout the 2015 OHL Playoffs.
Playoff series are well underway in the Canadian Hockey League. Here is a brief look at where the series featuring Avalanche prospects stand:
North Bay (Kyle Wood) leads Kingston 2-0.
London leads Kitchener (Nick Magyar) 2-0.
Guelph and Owen Sound (Chris Bigras) are tied at one game a piece.
Val-d'Or (Alexis Pepin) and Rouyn-Noranda (Julien Nantel) are tied at one game a piece.
Medicine Hat leads Red Deer (Conner Bleackley) 2-0.
And one final note...Mason Geertsen signed his ELC with the Avalanche last week, so we can all relax now.