We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Prospect of the Week for April 3 is … Matthew Peca, W, Quinnipiac (NCAA – USA).
Matt Peca made sure his Quinnipiac Bobcats would advance to the Frozen Four in their first national tournament last week.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have acquired left wing Philippe Paradis (pair-ah-DEE) from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Kirill Gotovets today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced. He will be assigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.
Paradis, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, has played in 36 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League this season, recording a goal and eight points with 100 penalty minutes. He ranks fourth on the team for penalty minutes. Paradis has also played in five games with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.
A native of Dolbeau, Quebec, Paradis has played in 102 career AHL games with the IceHogs and the Toronto Marlies, recording seven goals and 27 points. He recorded a career-best five goals and 16 points in 58 games last season. Paradis made his professional debut with the Marlies on April 2, 2010.
Paradis was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round, 27th overall, of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed defenseman Luke Witkowski to a two-year contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Witkowski, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, appeared in 38 games as a captain with the Western Michigan University Broncos in 2012-13, recording two goals and 10 points to go along with 46 penalty minutes while being named Second-Team All-CCHA. He led the Broncos with 53 blocked shots and ranked second for penalty minutes. Witkowski also added two power-play tallies.
A native of Holland, Michigan, Witkowski played in 152 games during his four-year career at Western Michigan. He accumulated seven goals and 38 points with 235 penalty minutes. He won the 2010-11 Bill Saunders Plus/Minus Award for finishing with the Broncos’ best plus/minus rating at plus-13.
Prior to attending Western Michigan, Wikowski played for the Fargo Force and the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets of the USHL. He amassed nine goals and 26 assists in two USHL seasons. Witkowski was named to the 2009 USHL All-Star Team.
Witkowski was drafted by the Lightning in the sixth round, 160th overall, of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Since being drafted he has attended four Lightning Development Camps.
(Midwest-4) St. Cloud State Huskies 4 vs (Midwest-2) Miami RedHawks 1
Midwest Region Finals
F Jimmy Mullin, MIA: Did not play
Season totals: 38 GP, 6-8-14, E, 14 PIM
Jimmy Mullin missed the game after injuring his knee in the regional semifinals against Minnesota State. His Miami teammates could not advance to the Frozen Four, losing to the Huskies, 4-1. Mullin finishes his sophomore season with 14 points, 12 fewer than his freshman totals. He is expected to return to the RedHawks for his junior season.
(East-3) Union Dutchmen 1 @ (East-1) Quinnipiac Bobcats 5
East Region Finals
F Matthew Peca, QU: 3-1-4, +4, 2 PIM, 3 SOG, *First Star*
Season totals: 37 GP, 15-15-30, +16, 34 PIM
Lightning prospect Matt Peca had a natural hat trick in the first period and was named first star as the Bobcats advanced to their first Frozen Four on Sunday. Peca has nearly doubled his goal output as a freshman (8) and is chasing his career high for points (39). Quinnipiac, the top ranked team in the country, will play WCHA regular season champ St. Cloud State on April 11 in Pittsburgh for the right to advance to the national championship game. Yale and UMass-Lowell will play in the other national semifinal.
(Midwest-3) Minnesota State Mavericks 0 vs (Midwest-2) Miami RedHawks 4
Midwest Region Semifinals
F Jimmy Mullin, MIA: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 38 GP, 6-8-14, E, 14 PIM
Adam Wilcox’s former goaltending partner Ryan McKay stopped all 20 shots he faced to lead the RedHawks to the Midwest Region Finals on Sunday. Jimmy Mullin was scoreless in the match, and took a nasty knee-on-knee hit on Saturday. Miami will face Midwest No. 4 St. Cloud State.
(West-4)Yale Bulldogs 4 vs. (West-2) North Dakota 1
West Region Finals
F Brendan O’Donnell, UND: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 29 GP, 2-8-10, E, 20 PIM
North Dakota allowed four third period goals to Yale – alma mater of Lightning radio play-by-play voice Dave Mishkin – in what turned out to be North Dakota’s final game of the season. After starting the last handful of games on the first line, O’Donnell was on the fourth line on Saturday. The Lightning prospect was in and out of the lineup all year, but had found a place recently. He will enter his junior season next fall. Yale will play UMass-Lowell in the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
(East-4) Canisius Griffins 3 @ (East-1) Quinnipiac Bobcats 4
East Region Semifinals
F Matthew Peca, QU: 1-0-1, +1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Season totals: 36 GP, 12-14-26, +13, 32 PIM
Cinderella Canisius College – alma mater of the Lightning’s Cory Conacher – held a 3-1 lead on the top team in the country eight minutes into the third period before Peca scored his 12th of the season. The Bobcats scored two just over two minutes later then again three and a half minutes after that to advance to the East Region Finals on Sunday vs. third-seeded Union College, which beat Boston College. Cory Conacher’s brother, Shane Conacher, will play for the Griffs next season.
(West-3)Niagara Purple Eagles 1 vs. (West-2) North Dakota 2
F Brendan O’Donnell, UND: 0-0-0, E, 2 PIM, 0 SOG
Season totals: 28 GP, 2-8-10, E, 20 PIM
Brendan O’Donnell started on North Dakota’s first line as the team in green beat the Purple Eagles, 2-1 in the West Regional Semifinals. North Dakota entered the third period down 1-0, but by the 3-minute mark had the lead they needed. They will play Yale in the regional finals for the right to go to the Frozen Four.
(West-4)Yale Bulldogs 3 @ (West-1)Minnesota Golden Gophers 2 (OT)
G Adam Wilcox, MIN: OT Loss, 23 saves on 26 shots
Season totals: 39 GP, 25-8-5, 1.88 GAA, .921 sv%, 3 SO
Minnesota fought back from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime, but the Bulldogs completed the upset of the Gophers with an overtime-winning goal nine seconds into the extra period. Minnesota’s defenseman turned over the puck behind Wilcox’s net and the Yale’s Kenny Agostino – traded to Calgary in the Jarome Iginla deal earlier this week – fed Jesse Root in the slot for the winning goal. Wilcox had no chance at the game-winner. He finished his freshman season among the best goalies in the conference, and will be a big part of the Gophers’ season next year – its first in the new Big 10 hockey conference.
While there were no Lightning NCAA prospects in action on Sunday, the 2013 NCAA tournament field was set and involved four Tampa Bay draft picks:
Quinnipiac (Matt Peca) earned the top overall seed and will play 16-seed Canisius College in the East Region's first round. Of course, Canisius is the alma mater of current Lightning rookie, Cory Conacher.
Minnesota (Adam Wilcox) got the second overall seed and plays 15th-seeded Yale in the first round in the West.
Miami (Jimmy Mullin) is the 5-seed and will play 11-seed Minnesota State in the Midwest.
North Dakota (Brendan O'Donnell) is No. 8 in the tournament and will face off against 10-seed Niagara in the first round of the West. The winner will play the Minnesota-Yale winner.
Left out of the tournament is Luke Witkowski and Western Michigan, who had a fine season but were beat out of the CCHA tournament early by Michigan. Notre Dame and Canisius making the tournament knocked them out as an at-large. That means Witkowski is available to sign his pro contract with the Lightning, something Tampa Bay General Manager Steve Yzerman has said he interested in doing. Witkowski's defense partner, Danny DeKeyser, is the NCAA's top available free agent and is reportedly traveling to Toronto on Tuesday to meet with potential suitors. The Lightning were a supposed finalist for his services last year before he decided to go back to school. The Red Wings are considered the favorite to land DeKeyser, with the Ducks and Oilers also making strong pushes. Expect the Lightning to be involved also, but it's unclear if the signing of Andrej Sustr and the firing of Guy Boucher will affect things.
Witkowski could join the Syracuse Crunch upon his signing.
Michigan Wolverines 6 vs No. 3 Miami RedHawks 2
F Jimmy Mullin, MIA: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 37 GP, 6-8-14, -1, 14 PIM
Michigan continued their improbable run in the CCHA playoffs, scoring four times in the second period en route to a 6-2 win over the RedHawks. Michigan will play Notre Dame in Sunday’s championship game. Jimmy Mullin was minus-1 in the game, which came when he was in front of the opposing net on the power play as Michigan created a turnover and scored on the ensuing break. He showed some good stick work creating space in the offensive zone, but wasn’t able to hit the scoresheet. Miami will now await an at-large bid to the national tournament.
Brown Bears 4 @ No. 1 Quinnipiac Bobcats 0
F Matthew Peca, QU: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Season totals: 34 GP, 10-12-22, +10, 32 PIM
Brown’s 5-9, undrafted goaltender Anthony Borelli stopped 29 shots and the Bears had four goals in the first two periods to upset top-ranked Quinnipiac in the ECAC semifinals. The Bobcats won the regular season conference title long ago with a remarkable campaign, but still chose not to touch their conference trophy as they had the tournament title in mind. It was not to be. They will play Yale in the Third Place Game on Saturday before their place in the national tournament is announced on Sunday.
Colorado College Tigers 2 vs No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers 0
WCHA Final 5 Semifinals
G Adam Wilcox, MIN: Loss, 18 saves on 20 shots
Season totals: 38 GP, 25-7-5, 1.85 GAA, .922 sv%, 3 SO
Colorado College got two goals against Adam Wilcox, and goaltender Joe Howe (undrafted) made them stand up to propel the Tigers to the WCHA Final 5 championship game against Wisconsin. The Badgers upset top-seeded St. Cloud State. On Friday, Wilcox was beat first by a wrist shot from the circles that appeared to be deflected on its way into the upper corner of the net above Wilcox’s blocker. The second goal was a sweeping shot from the low right circle that may have been hard to read as a defender got a stick on it at the time it was released. The puck found it’s way through Wilcox, who made several strong saves to keep the game close in the final period. Nevertheless, he took his seventh loss of the season in 37 decisions. Minnesota will get an at-large bid to the national tournament.
Colorado College Tigers 4 vs. No. 4 North Dakota 3 (OT)
WCHA Final 5 Quarterfinal
F Brendan O’Donnell, UND: 0-1-1, +1, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Season totals: 27 GP, 2-8-10, E, 18 PIM
Brendan O’Donnell had an assist on UND’s first goal, but he and his teammates won’t be advancing in the WCHA Final 5 after their overtime loss on Thursday. O’Donnell’s assist came when he won a battle in the right wing corner, using his skate to knock a puck to Habs prospect Danny Kristo, who swung around the net and roofed a wrist shot into the net. North Dakota later battled back to force overtime, but a CC shot banked off a UND defenseman and into the net in overtime to send the Tigers on to face the top-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers and Lightning prospect Adam Wilcox in the semifinals on Friday. North Dakota will now wait for an at-large bid to the national tournament, to be announced on Sunday.