One of the Lightning's youngest guns helps to bring Johnstown's playoff hopes back from the dead. And no, I don't mean Radek Smolenak  (4GP, 1-6-7). And, of course, there was Ryan Munce  and his 3-0-0 record with a 1.00 GAA, 1 shutout and a .960 save percentage. But, this week's winner set it all in motion on a Tuesday morning somewhere in Southern Ohio.
RW Marek Kvapil , Johnstown (ECHL)
Rarely does a single transaction change the complexion of a season the way Marek Kvapil's assignment to Johnstown has changed the fortunes of the Chiefs. A week and a half ago, prior to receiving Kvapil from Springfield of the AHL, the Chiefs were three points behind Reading for the final playoff spot in the ECHL's North Division. Also, arch rival Wheeling, a basement dweller for most of the season, had caught the Chiefs from behind to pull even in the standings. Things looked grim heading into a Tuesday morning (3/27) game against one of the division's best teams (2nd place in the standings) on the road in Cincinnati. Enter Kvapil. In his first career ECHL game Kvapil lit up the Cyclones for 2 goals and 1 assist and was named first star of the game in Johnstown's 3-1 win. Three nights later (3/30) Kvapil helped knock off the division's 3rd place team in beating Toledo 6-1. With a trifecta of assists Kvapil was named third star of the game. The following night, Kvapil and the Chiefs completed a rare "hat trick" in defeating the 1st place team in the division, the Dayton Bombers, in a 2-0 nail biter. Kvapil contributed an assist on Rob Lehtinen's insurance goal midway through the third period to salt away the win. Although Kvapil failed to score on April Fool's day in Johnstown's 2-1 overtime win against the Cyclones, his impact is as clear as the ECHL standings. The Chiefs, once circling the drain of what looked like a lost season, have climbed back to one game over .500 and 3 points ahead of Reading for the final playoff spot in the division. Kvapil's speed and stickhandling skill were no doubt what helped pull the team out of their tailspin. It may not be the ending to his year Kvapil had hoped for, but in helping to save Johnstown's season he may have saved what looked like a lost year of his own personal development.
Kvapil's Statistics 3/26-4/1
4 GP, 2-5-7, 2 PIM, +3