QMJHL FIRST ROUND - EASTERN DIVISION
Game 6: (5) Lewiston MAINEiacs 1 @ (4) Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 2 (OT)
Cape Breton wins Best of 7 series 4-2
D Michael Ward, LEW:
Game: 0-1-1, +1, 5 min. major for charging + game misconduct
Series: 5 GP, 0-3-3, +3, 13 PIM (Plus a game misconduct. Was suspended for Game 1)
Lewiston will not repeat as QMJHL champions as the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles overcame a 1-0 third period deficit to force overtime, then winger Murdock MacLellan scored just his fifth goal of the year at 9:46 of the extra session to clinch the series for CB. According to the Lewiston Sun-Journal, Ward stepped into a check at the right point with 2:15 to play in the second period and leveled CBâ€™s Chris Culligan. Ward was kicked out and Culligan received a minor for roughing after the fact.
Whatâ€™s Next for Ward: After a slow start to the season offensively, Ward came on over the second half and followed that up with 3 points in 5 playoff games. The 6-3, 200 pound defenseman also displayed more of a mean streak in the final month. Primarily a defensive-defenseman, Ward could break out statistically next season in the Q much the same way Paul Ranger did for Oshawa of the OHL a season after his draft year. Ward could be a two-way minute-eater for Lewiston next year and top 35 points and 100 PIM.
Atlanta dealt a blow in their own quest for Steve Stamkos.
Mike Smith allowed just 1 goal on 23 shots for the loss. Can I just say, "Case in point?" After seeing Karri Ramo go 2-0-1 including a sterling effort against the division leading Canes, Smith got well quickly to play the Thrashers tonight and with only a smidge of goal support he would've won. That's what having two young lions competing for the starting job will do for the Lightning. You won't get that if Smith isn't being pushed because he has a sad sack retread as a backup.
19:40 of even hockey for Matt Smaby with 1 shot on goal and 3 hits. The fact Matt has been even with over 18 minutes of IT in both of these one goal nailbiters only helps his resume going into next season in pursuit of an NHL job. And I'll pose the question again: if Smaby finishes out the year continuing to garner 5-6 minutes more IT than Mike Lundin, does that mean he's passed Lundin on the depth chart? When I heard Coach Tortorella's comments about Ramo and Lundin, I obviously was strongly against sending Ramo down to the minors next season. However, if Lundin doesn't hit the weight room hard this offseason and get the upper body strength he desperately needs, Coach might have a legitimate point about the young blueliner.
WHL FIRST ROUND - EASTERN CONFERENCE
Game 6: (6) Brandon Wheat Kings 0 @ (3) Lethbridge Hurricanes 4
Lethbridge wins Best of 7 series 4-2
C Mitch Fadden, LET:
Game: 0-1-1, E, 2 PIM (hooking)
Series: 6 GP, 2-6-8, -2, 4 PIM (plus 10 min misconduct)
Fadden and Lethbridge finally put Brandon away after letting the Wheaties back into the series 3-2. Lethbridge scored twice in the first period Sunday, then added two early third period goals to cement the series win and end their two-game losing streak. This is the first series win for Lethbridge since 1997. Theyâ€™ve been 0-6 in first round match-ups since that year.
Fadden finished the series with 8 points, which is one better than the 7 he posted last year (2-5-7) in one playoff round (6 games) for the â€˜Canes.
Because of No.2 Reginaâ€™s upset loss to Swift Current, Lethbridge is the second-highest seed remaining in the Eastern Conference. They will play Kootenay in the Conference Semi-Finals. Kootenay, the 5 seed, defeated Medicine Hat 4 games to 1. Lethbridge was 1-5 vs. Kootenay this year, with their one win being a 7-1 shellacking February 12. That series will open Friday. No.1 Calgary, who defeated Moose Jaw 4-2, will host Swift Current.
In the West, the top seeded Tri-City Americans will await the winner of Tuesdayâ€™s Game 7 between Seattle and Kelowna. Vancouver will play Spokane in the other series. All 3 top seeds in the Western Conference swept their first round series.
WHL FIRST ROUND - WESTERN CONFERENCE
Game 6: (4) Seattle Thunderbirds 3 @ (5) Kelowna Rockets 4 (OT)
Best of 7 series tied 3-3
G Torrie Jung, KEL:
Game: Did not play
Series: 1 GP, 0-0, 3.82 GAA, .850 sv%
G Riku Helenius, SEA:
Game: Loss, 28 saves on 32 shots in 72 minutes
Series: 5 GP, 2-3, 2.69 GAA, .894 sv%
Kristofer Westblom was back in the Kelowna nets and the Rockets survived a late game-tying power play goal by Seattle and won the game in the first overtime to push the series to a deciding game. Lucas Bloodoff scored the winner in crease traffic when he backhanded a rebound of his own shot past Helenius. Game 7 will be Tuesday night in Seattle.
Chicago Steel 6 @ Ohio Junior Blue Jackets 7
W/C Luca Cunti, CHI: 0-1-1, -1, 2 PIM (delay of game), 1 shot on goal
Chicago has played Ohio three straight games and four of their last six. They play them one more time before seasonâ€™s end. Ohio will not make the playoffs.
Note: Kevin Wey of McKeen's Hockey, an old friend of the Bolt Prospects staff, recently published an interview he had with Luca. Wey addresses such issues as Cunti's struggles with the NCAA earlier this year, the NCAA's decision to forbid Cunti to play college hockey, Cunti's future, and which scorer he most admirers at the NHL level.
To read the interview, click here: McKeenâ€™s Hockey: Q & A With Luca Cunti