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NCHC Frozen Faceoff: March 22-23, 2019

NCHC Tournament Semifinals – March 22nd @ Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul
Colorado College Tigers 2 vs #1 St. Cloud State Huskies 5
#5 Denver Pioneers 0 vs #4 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 3
St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth advance to tournament finals

NCHC Tournament Finals – March 23rd @ Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul
Colorado College Tigers 1 vs #5 Denver Pioneers 6 (consolation)
#4 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 3 vs #1 St. Cloud State Huskies 2 (2OT) (championship)
Minnesota-Duluth are the 2019 NCHC Conference Champions

D Nick Perbix, STC: 2 GP, 0-0-0, +2, 4 PIM, 3 SOG
Season Totals: 38 GP, 5-15-20, +25, 16 PIM

F Cole Koepke, UMD: 2 GP, 2-0-2, +2, 0 PIM, 9 SOG
Season Totals: 38 GP, 7-10-17, +9, 14 PIM

F Cole Guttman, DEN: 2 GP, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 4 SOG, 17/33 FO
Season Totals: 38 GP, 12-11-22, +14, 18 PIM

The 2019 NCHC Frozen Faceoff featured Lightning prospects on three of the four represented teams, all ranked in the Top-5 by the USCHO.

On Friday night, the top-ranked Huskies cruised to a berth in Saturday’s finals handily dispensing with the Tigers after St. Cloud reeled off four-straight goals. Kings prospect David Hrenak (LAK, 2018 5th round pick) made 31-saves, allowing just a pair of power plays, and Patrick Newell (undrafted) leading the way for the Huskies with a goal and an assist.

In the other semifinal match, UMD goalie Hunter Shepard (undrafted) pitched a 25-save shutout to blank Denver while Bolt prospect Cole Koepke scored twice for the Bulldogs to lead Minnesota-Duluth in the finals berth against St. Cloud State. The two teams played a scoreless first 40 minutes before Koepke wristed the first goal of the game just 42 seconds into 3rd period. Koepke and Louie Roehl (undrafted) both scored empty netters in the last two minutes of the game to put the UMD victory on ice. Koepke also led the game with five shots on goal. Denver netminder and Red Wings prospect Filip Larsson (DET, 2016 6th round pick) allowed just one goal on 31 shots in defeat, but it was one goal too many.

The Pioneers rediscovered their offense Saturday night in the consolation game against cross-state rival Colorado College. Blackhawks prospect Ian Mitchell (CHI, 2017 2nd round pick) and Liam Finlay (undrafted) both scored twice and Devin Cooley (undrafted) allowed just one goal on 22 shots as Denver claimed 3rd place in the conference tourney.

In the finals Saturday night, UMD bested the #1 St. Cloud squad in a dramatic double OT thriller when Wild prospect Nick Swaney (MIN, 2017 7th round pick) fired home the game-winner for the Bulldogs. Both teams scored even-strength in the first, and the both teams added special teams markers in the 3rd – a power play goal by the Huskies and shortie by the Bulldogs – to force the extra sessions. Shepard made 37 saves to give UMD its second conference championship in three years, while Hrenak made 27 saves in defeat.

All three of the teams will certainly earn a berth in the NCAA tournament when the tournament selections will be televised on ESPNU Sunday night, March 24.

*USCHO poll used for rankings

CHL Game Night: 3-23-19

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

First Round

No. 13 Moncton Wildcats 5 @ No. 4 Baie-Comeau Drakkar 2
Best-of-7 series tied, 1-1

C/W Gabriel Fortier, BC: 0-0-0, -3, 0 PIM, 2 SOG, 3/9 FO, 2 Hits
Playoff Totals: 2 GP, 0-0-0, +1, 0 PIM
Season Totals: 68 GP, 35-48-83, +41, 27 PIM
17-18 Totals: 66 GP, 26-33-59, -11, 59 PIM

Francis Leclerc (undrafted) stood on his head again for Moncton, stopping 39 shots en route to a 5-2 Game 2 win over the Drakkar. Leclerc was first star in both games. He stopped 47 shots Friday. Fortier and Baie-Comeau will hope to solve him in Moncton on Tuesday in Game 3.

No. 12 Chicoutimi Sagueneens 2 @ No. 5 Rimouski Oceanic 3 (3OT)
Rimouski leads best-of-7 series, 2-0

C Jimmy Huntington, RIM: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 6 SOG, 5 Hits, 24/51 FO
Playoff Totals: 2 GP, 2-1-3, -1, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 66 GP, 40-52-92 +41, 52 PIM
17-18 Totals (Vic): 68 GP, 18-40-58, +5, 42 PIM

D Radim Salda, RIM: 0-0-0, +1, 2 PIM, 4 SOG, 2 Hits
Playoff Totals: 2 GP, 0-1-1, E, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 48 GP, 10-20-30, +17, 36 PIM
17-18 Totals (SJ): 62 GP, 10-31-41, -37, 78 PIM

The Sags took a 2-1 lead late in the third period only to have Rimouski storm back and tie the game with 1:04 left in regulation. From there the game went to three overtimes before D'Artagnan Joly (Flames) scored to put Rimouski up in the series, 2-0. Both games went to overtime as Lightning prospect Jimmy Huntington scored in the extra session in Game 1. In Game 2, Chicoutimi goaltender Alexis Shank (undrafted) made 80 saves. Rimouski goalie Colten Ellis (undrafted) made 53. The winner was scored when a point shot was blocked at the top of the circles and Joly spun around and threw a wrister on net that found the far side of the net. Shank was not helped out by his defenseman, who skated in front of him as the shot was being taken and Shank had to adjust his sight line. Radim Salda was on the ice for the winner, manning the weakside point. Game 3 is Tuesday in Chicoutimi.

NHL Game Night: 3-23-19 Lightning at Blues

Two minutes worth of lapses cost Lightning in frustrating road trip finale.

TB-3
STL-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the loss.

First Period
11:30 STL Thomas (8), (Dunn, Bozak)(PP)
12:08 STL Steen (8), (Sanford)
12:45 STL Tarasenko (29), (O'Reilly, Schenn)

Second Period
0:27 TB Killorn (17), (Cirelli)(SH)
7:24 TB Point (40), (McDonagh)
14:24 STL Schenn (15), (Tarasenko, Barbashev)

Third Period
4:46 TB Stamkos (39), (Miller)

Brayden Point was the game's third star.

That was a frustrating loss. St. Louis was clearly up for this game as a measuring stick contest and they came out hard on the Lightning, which the Lightning managed well until they allowed a PP goal allowed to snowball into a 3-0 deficit in a 75 second span toward the middle of the period. Shame on the Lightning for that. From the First Intermission on, though, you saw the complete domination of a very good Blues team that could've easily gotten a result for the Lightning but ultimately didn't. The team outshot St. Louis 42-26, out-attempted them 74-48, and outchanced them 23-14. They even narrowly won the faceoff battle 32-31 which doesn't sound impressive except for the fact the Blues are stocked with some faceoff aces, including Ryan O'Reilly. The Lightning did a lot of things right, but beyond that 75 seconds of mental lapses they can also point to a handful of other frustrations on the evening:

First, Ivan Barbashev clearly slashed McDonagh on the hands to create the turnover that led to the eventual GWG in the Second Period. No question about it, that infraction led to the scoring chance that Schenn eventually potted. Second, Nikita Kucherov hit three posts and missed a wide open net with the extra attacker on late in the Third Period. He could've easily had a hat trick in this game. Third, Steven Stamkos scored an apparent tying goal on the PP in the Third Period only to have it called back on review due to an offside. Annoying.

And so, hand-in-hand with a frustrating defeat is the bizarre narrative that again keeps cropping up out west that the Lightning are somehow vulnerable against the Western Conference style and "struggle" against the Central Division. Mind you, the Lightning will have to get to the SCF before that little pearl of wisdom rears its ugly head again, but it's still a damned disrespectful narrative given what the Lightning's record is this regular season.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 3-23-19 Comets at Crunch

Syracuse punches their postseason ticket.

UTI-2
SYR-6

Eddie Pasquale allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the victory.

First Period
6:19 SYR Conacher (20), (Andreoff)(PP)
6:44 SYR Conacher (21), (Dumont, Volkov)
15:10 UTI Boucher (28), (LeBlanc, Kero)
19:29 SYR Volkov (17), (Conacher, Labrie)

Second Period
6:27 SYR Thomas (2), (Dumont, Katchouk)(SH)
11:05 SYR Barre-Boulet (31), (Raddysh, Foote)(PP)
11:42 UTI Kero (24), (Graham, Boucher)

Third Period
12:12 SYR Volkov (18), (unassisted)(SH)

Cory Conacher, Alexander Volkov and Alex Barre-Boulet were the game's three stars. Volkov continued his late season march toward the 20 goal plateau while Barre-Boulet set the Syracuse single-season record for goals by a rookie.

Syracuse, after the night's other games shook out, went ahead and clinched a playoff berth by night's end. They're 5 points up on Rochester for first in the North Division and 4 points back of Charlotte for tops in the Eastern Conference (and the entire league) with 10 games left to go for all teams involved.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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