Saint John scoring its way to the top of QMJHL

The Saint John Sea Dogs are on fire, winners of eight straight games to streak to the top of the QMJHL standings. The Sea Dogs efforts were recognized in the most recent CHL rankings, shooting up from eighth to fourth, eclipsing Rouyn-Noranda as the top team from the ‘Q’ in the rankings.

The winning streak moved to eight games on Wednesday with a 3-2 win over Acadie-Bathurst. While the Sea Dogs won, the three goals was the second-lowest offensive output of the streak for Saint John, the lowest coming in a 1-0 win over Chicoutimi on January 20th.

The Sea Dogs have made goal scoring look easy. Saint John has scored 40 goals over the course of the streak, 46 if you include the 7-6 loss the Cape Breton on January 15th, the last time the team has come out on the losing side.

Tampa Bay prospect Mathieu Joseph has led the way with 11 points playing in seven games during the streak, including five goals. He’s on a 27-game point streak going back to October 22nd, and has 61 points in 38 games, his 1.61 points-per-game the highest on the team. Fellow Bolts prospect Bokondji Imama, amidst a breakout year in his second full season in Saint John, has five goals over the eight games to up his season total to 32, which leads the team. Montreal prospect Simon Bourque has 10 points in six games.

Bruins prospect Jakub Zboril has 10 points from the back end, with one-goal, two-point performances in each of his last three games. Ottawa prospect Thomas Chabot, who was the defensive ace of World Junior runner-up Team Canada last month, has six points in six games over the streak and has 27 points in 22 games this season.

Saint John is currently second overall in Quebec with 211 goals, eight goals behind league leader Charlottetown. The Sea Dogs have done so with a strong, balanced scoring attack, with 12 players posting 20 points and 17 with at least 10. Just two players sit in the top 20 of the QMJHL scoring list, none higher than Matthew Highmore, whose team-high 73 points are sixth-highest in the league. The Sea Dogs are also the best in the league on the powerplay, clicking at 31 percent.

It should also be noted the Sea Dogs defend well, with the third-lowest goals allowed in the league at 137.

Amateur Hour: How Harvard could (but probably won’t) win the Beanpot

One of these years it’s going to happen. Either Harvard or Northeastern is going to win the Beanpot.

The last 24 Beanpots have gone to either Boston University or Boston College, the silver chalice not leaving Commonwealth Avenue since 1993, the last time Harvard took home the trophy. Northeastern hasn’t won since 1988.

We were guaranteed at least a 50 percent chance of the title returning to Harvard Square or Huntington Avenue, as Harvard and Northeastern faced off in the Beanpot semifinal on Monday night. The Crimson won, 4-3, and will represent the two historic have-nots of the tournament, which combine for just 14 of the 64 titles and carry a collective 53-year Beanpot drought. Harvard will play for the title for the first time since 2008 against BU, which has an event-high 30 titles but has won just once since 2009. The Terriers punched their ticket with a 3-1 win over BC in Monday’s nightcap.

While neither Harvard or Northeastern have won in generations, the two schools have been knocking on the door for years. One of the two schools have appeared in the final in six of the last nine years, with three of those title games going to overtime. Both schools have been fairly competitive over that span, in and out of the national rankings, winning conference championships, and making appearances in the NCAA Tournament.

This Harvard squad has the goods to bring the Beanpot across the Charles River to Cambridge for the 11th time in the tournament’s history. The Crimson run four solid forward lines, with two exceptional top trios of Ryan Donato-Alex Kerfoot-Lewis Zerter-Gossage and Luke Esposito-Sean Malone-Tyler Moy. On the back end, Adam Fox has been one of the top rookies in the nation, his 26 points fourth among defensemen in the country.

The Crimson play a strong north-south game, with a good deal of speed and skill up and down the lineup. They’re strong on possession, with a 54 percent even strength Corsi-for, according to collegehockeynews.com, with the fourth-best powerplay nationally, at 26.5 percent.

Of course, it’s no secret what Harvard is up against. BU is the most talented team in the country. The Terriers are also the youngest, at 20.5. That’s a full year younger than the Crimson, whose roster averages out at 21.5.

The BU roster is highlighted by four players selected in the first round of the NHL Draft in Kieffer Bellows, Dante Fabbro, Clayton Keller, and Charlie McAvoy. Netminder Jake Oettinger could be a fifth this June, a favorite to be among the first 31 names called in the upcoming draft in Chicago. Eleven players of whom are property of NHL teams dot the roster.

This Terriers team isn’t unlike any other of years past. The team plays an up-tempo style. Defensemen like to hop into the rush. Up front, there’s plenty of playmakers, led by Keller, an Arizona prospect that might be the team’s best player. Oettinger has been among the standard bearers of goaltending – a position BU has always taken seriously – with a .937 save percentage, 1.75 GAA, and four shutouts in his rookie campaign.

BU has an upper-hand in the season series with Harvard this season, with a 5-3 win on November 22nd. The Crimson haven’t beaten BU since November 2014, the Terriers winning the last three of the meetings, including a double-overtime win in the Beanpot semifinal two years ago.

Three of the last four meetings have been decided by one goal, two have gone to overtime. Given the Beanpot’s history of one-goal games and extra sessions, there’s a good chance we’ll see another one of these affairs between the two teams.

And we might even witness something that hasn’t been done in nearly a quarter-century.

Other tidbits..

*Lacrosse numbers are being put up in Erie. Alex DeBrincat has 23 points in a nine-game points streak, in which he’s scored eight goals and 18 points over his last five. He has points in 39 of 45 games. Dylan Strome has points in 16 of 17 games. He has 17 points in his last five games, and 41 overall in 17 contests.

*Charlottetown Islander Filip Chlapik scored his 200th QMJHL point with a five-point weekend, including a hat trick in a 13-2 smackdown of Moncton.

*10 goals in 13 games out of the holiday break for Flint Firebird Nicholas Caamano, with four two-goal games in that span.

*Second overall pick of the 2016 NHL Draft Pierre-Luc Dubois had four points on Saturday and has 21 points in 12 games since being traded to Blainville-Boisbriand.

*Atte Tolvanen stopped all 75 shots he faced in Northern Michigan’s weekend sweep of Bowling Green, upping his shutout streak to three games. He’s gone 215:49 without allowing a goal.

*Trent Frederic has 23 points in 18 games for surging Wisconsin, which is up to 17th in this week’s USCHO.com poll. He’s second on the Badgers in scoring behind Luke Kunin (26 points).

*As for the Badgers, they’ve won five in a row and are tied with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten, with 8-2 record in conference play. Wisconsin hasn’t lost in regulation since December 11th.

*In the Nolan-Nico sweepstakes: Nolan Patrick had four assists on Friday night and has points in six of eight games since returning to the ice. He has 23 points in 14 games overall for Brandon. Hischier had five points in a 7-2 Halifax win over Moncton on Sunday. He has point in eight consecutive games and has 14 goals and 28 points in 12 games since returning from World Juniors.

*Minnesota-Duluth retained the top spot in the USCHO.com men’s poll while Denver and BU were second and third, respectively, for the second straight week. Minnesota moved up two spots to No. 5 while Penn State dropped from six to 10. Air Force broke into the poll at No. 20.

*On the women’s side, Wisconsin is the top-ranked team once again, while Minnesota-Duluth follows at No. 2.

Three Stars of the Weekend: Carter Hart Continues Strong Season in WHL

Carter Hart was the first goaltender taken in the 2016 NHL Draft, selected by Philadelphia with 48th overall pick.

If he’s a success, Hart will be the answer to the generations-long problem that is the Flyers goaltending; a large reason the Stanley Cup hasn’t paraded down Broad Street since 1975. If he’s the latest to come up short in the Philly crease, he’ll be further proof of why goalies aren’t worth the risk atop the draft (Ilya Samsonov, taken 22nd overall in 2015 by Washington, is the only goalie to go in the first round in the last four drafts).

Of course, the jury remains out on the type of netminder Hart will be, and will remain that way for a long time. But if his first year of hockey as property of an NHL organization is any indication, the Flyers have something to look forward to in net.

In 20 games for Everett, the 18-year-old is 13-3-3, with a 1.67 GAA and .937 save percentage, both WHL highs. He has a shutout streak of two-plus games, having not allowed a goal since a 2-1 loss to Lethbridge on November 19, when Tyler Wong beat Hart with 8:25 left in regulation.

He followed up the loss with a pair of shutouts; 37 saves in a 3-0 win over Seattle on Wednesday before stopping 26 of 26 in a 3-0 win over Prince George on Friday.

In 115 games since making his WHL debut in February 2014, the 6-2, 180-pound Hart has 66 wins, a 2.12 GAA and .920 save percentage. His clean sheet on Friday was his third of the season and 13th in major junior.

Other CHL Stars

Alexandre Goulet, Victoriaville: The 20-year-old had a pair of four-point games this weekend to extend his point streak to five games. His 38 points lead the Tigres, and is fourth in the Quebec League.

Keanu Yamamoto, Spokane: Yamamoto had six assists in the Chiefs 10-1 thrashing of Vancouver on Friday. He has 14 points in his last nine games and is third on Spokane with 26 overall. Keanu’s brother, Kailer, leads the team with 31.

AHL

Teemu Pulkkinen, Iowa: The right winger had three goals and five points over the weekend for the Wild. He has points in 10 of his last 11 games.

Kyle Wood, Tucson: The rookie had two goals and six points over the weekend. His 16 points leads all AHL rookie defensemen. Only Jake Guentzel (7-10=17) has more points among all rookies in the American League.

Dan DeSalvo, Manitoba: DeSalvo had four points on the weekend, including his third multi-point night of the season on Saturday, with three points in a 4-3 overtime win against Milwaukee. He has five goals and 10 points in the eight games.

NCAA

Stefanos Lekkas, Vermont: The freshman goaltender stopped 73 of 76 shots over the weekend at the Friendship Four in Belfast, Ireland, including 40 of 41 in a 5-1 Catamounts win over Quinnipiac in the championship game. He’s ranked fourth in the nation in both save percentage (.940) and GAA (1.72). He’s allowed nine goals in his five games, stopping 165 of 174 shots that have come his way.

Dylan Sikura, Northeastern: The junior forward had three goals and an assist on Friday night as the Huskies beat 11th-ranked Minnesota, 6-4. He’s tied with teammate Zach Aston-Reese for fourth in the nation with 22 points. Northeastern has three players in the top 10 for points.

Alex Kerfoot, Harvard: The senior had four assists in the Crimson’s lone game this weekend, a 5-2 win over Bentley.

USHL

Gabriel Mollot-Hill, Bloomington: The Providence recruit stopped all 32 shots that came his way in Bloomington’s 2-0 win over Green Bay on Saturday. He has a .932 save percentage and 1.91 GAA for the Thunder this season.

Jacob Hamacher, Dubuque: The RIT recruit had three goals and five points on the weekend as the Fighting Saints picked up a pair of wins.

Reggie Lutz, Chicago: Lutz, committed to Minnesota State, had two goals and four points over the weekend. He’s 13th in the USHL with 18 points.

Women’s NCAA

Cassidy MacPherson, Providence: Had four assists for the Friars on Sunday, assisting on all three goals Blair Parent scored, as PC took the Mayor’s Cup against crosstown rival Brown.

Heather Schwarz, Syracuse: The junior had two goals and an assist on Friday as the Orange shutout seventh-ranked North Dakota.

Kelly Pannek, Minnesota: Pannek had two goals and four points on the weekend for the second-ranked Gophers. She leads the nation in points (32) and assists (24).

Three Stars from the Weekend: Cam Johnson Posts Back-to-Back Shutouts

It was a show-me weekend for North Dakota.

After roaring out to a 6-0 start in its national title defense to the season, the Fighting Hawks suddenly found themselves on a winless skid of a similar length in a tough three-weekend stretch that featured double-headers with Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota, and Denver. All of a sudden North Dakota was ranked eighth in the national poll, going into another challenging weekend with 12th-ranked St. Cloud State.

The Fighting Hawks answered with a weekend sweep, winning 4-0 and 3-0 in dispatching the Huskies.

It all began with Cam Johnson in net, who posted back-to-back shutouts on the weekend, stopping all 62 shots he faced on the weekend. He made 36 saves for NoDak on Saturday night in leading the visitors to a 3-0 win.

Johnson, who was sensational between the pipes last year in leading North Dakota to its first national title since 2000, has a 2.07 GAA and .915 GAA. The shutouts were numbers two and three of the year for the netminder.

Other NCAA stars

Adam Huska, UConn- Another big-time goaltending performance, this time from the Huskies netminder, who made 37 saves in a 4-0 shutout win over BU on Saturday. Mike Cavanaugh is the envy of many with Huska and Robbie Nichols on his roster. UConn is tied with BU for ninth in the country with a .921 team save percentage.

Mike Marnell, St. Lawrence: Marnell had four goals for the Saints on Saturday, a 7-2 win over Brown.

CHL

Alexis D’Aoust, Shawinigan: The 20-year-old forward had six goals on the weekend, five on which came on Friday night, a 6-2 win over Gatineau.

Alexander Katerinakis, Blainville-Boisbriand: Katerinakis went into the weekend with a goal and eight points in 14 games. He left with five and 15 in 16, as he put up four goals and seven points in two games over the weekend.

Reid Duke, Brandon: Duke had five goals in two games for the Wheat Kings, four coming in Friday’s 8-1 win over Saskatoon. The Minnesota prospect has 12 points in his last six games, picking up the slack in the absence of Brandon ace centerman and presumptive 2017 first overall pick Nolan Patrick, who has been limited to six games with an injury.

 

Thoughts Are My Own: Prayers For Craig Cunningham

Some thoughts as the short week begins:

*The hockey world was shaken to a halt on Saturday night with the news of Craig Cunningham collapsing during pregame warmups prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game against the Manitoba Moose. The game was postponed and reports on Cunningham’s condition have been mum beyond that he ‘suffered a medical emergency.’ Thoughts and prayers for Cunningham and his family. No worse time for something like this to happen (cliche, I know).

*The outpouring of tweets and well-wishes from players and people around the game speak to the type of guy Cunningham is, and the reputation he’s built for himself.

*Meanwhile..back to hockey. The Arizona Coyotes decided to send Dylan Strome back to juniors, where he’ll play for Erie. Strome, the third overall pick in 2015, had just an assist in seven games with the Coyotes while averaging 13:41 per night. He’ll play on an Otters team that features the OHL’s top two scorers in Taylor Raddysh (20-28–48) and Alex DeBrincat (20-21–41), in a league Strome has put up 250 points in 124 games over the last two seasons. It won’t hurt him. The consensus in many circles is that Strome has highest ceiling among the crop of young talent Arizona has.

*Big blow for the Rangers losing Mika Zibanejad f0r 6-8 weeks with a broken fibula. Zibanejad, traded to New York from Ottawa in the offseason, had five goals and 15 points in 19 games. His fifth goal came in Sunday night’s 3-2 shootout loss to Florida, in which Zibanejad was injured crashing into the end boards and hitting his leg at a weird angle, something seen far too often in hockey.

*Zibanejad was a valuable piece for the Rangers in the early goings. He was third among forwards behind Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello in ice-time among forwards at 16:40 per game. He centered the go-to powerplay unit with Chris Kreider and Zuccarello. At the faceoff dot, Zibanejad has been the Blueshirts best on the draw. Of the three players (Zibanejad, Stepan, Kevin Hayes) that have taken nearly 80 percent of the Rangers 1,075 faceoffs, according to puckbase.com, Zibanejad is the only one winning more draws than he loses, at a success rate of 52.4 percent. He’s taken a team-high 37 percent of offensive zone draws, winning 59.8 percent. The 23-year-old has taken 27 percent of defensive zone draws (third on Rangers), winning 51.9 percent.

*RANGERS DOWNFALL WATCH: The Rangers have four goals in their last two games while peppering 59 shots on net. That equates to a shooting percentage of 6.7 percent.

*Four straight wins for the Hurricanes. Has the trendy surprise team among preseason forecasters arrived?

*Great read in the Boston Globe on the post-hockey life of Marc Savard. He was rated ‘suicidal’ by a psychologist at Mass General, but says he never harbored suicidal thoughts. He’s back in the game, coaching the AAA Minor Bantam team his son plays for. It’s good to see he has his life back on track.

*Regina finally lost a game, falling to Victoria on Saturday in game No. 19 for the Pats. They rebounded Sunday with an 8-3 win over Vancouver. The Pats, first in the CHL rankings, set the standard in major junior for offense, with 115 goals. Defending WHL scoring champ Adam Brooks, a Toronto prospect, has eight goals and 32 points in 14 games, his 2.29-per-game output up from 1.67 last season, when he had 120 in 72. Sam Steel, who was selected 30th overall by Anaheim in this past draft, leads the Pats with a WHL-high 41 points in 18 games.

*How about Miami? The young RedHawks went into Denver for a weekend doubleheader with the top-ranked Pioneers, and came away with two ties. Freshman goaltender Ryan Larkin was plenty busy, stopping 84 of 87 pucks that came his way on the weekend. He made 49 saves on Saturday night.

*That likely means Minnesota-Duluth will take back to the top spot in the poll, going into Omaha and coming out with four points.

Game to Watch Monday Night

New York at Pittsburgh: Rare Monday night of NHL action, and lots of pretty good games at that. But this is likely the best one. Put aside the rivalry, the divisional matchup, and the fact these teams played each other in the playoffs last season. It’ll be interesting to see what the Rangers look like minus Zibanejad, if they continue to show signs of falling back to earth offensively, as the Rangers have suggested in the past few games. The Penguins are 7-1-1 at home this season.

Hat Trick Pick

Artemi Panarin: Just two goals in his last eight games. He’ll be playing Connor McDavid, whom many claim would have won the Calder Trophy over Panarin last season had he not broken his collarbone early in the season (full disclosure: not an unreasonable claim).

Thoughts Are My Own: Hey, guys, there’s good Canadian teams this year

My thoughts as we get into the mind-numbing chatter of the possibility of a Montreal-Edmonton Stanley Cup final.

*So how about those Edmonton Oilers? Just keep chugging along, tossing aside the Capitals en route to a 6-1 start.

*A group is reportedly exploring options of building a 20,000-seat arena in Scottsdale, Arizona, a potential new home for the Arizona Coyotes. This would be huge for the future of the Coyotes franchise, which now appears to be there to stay after years upon years of relocation rumors. They’d be in the thick of things, closer to Phoenix, than they are currently in Glendale.

*Another stinker for the Bruins. Two nights, two losses by a score of 10-2. Chalk it up as a combination of bad defense and shaky goaltending. That combination is no way to go through life.

*Last time a team started four goalies in four consecutive games? That would be the 2010-11 New York Islanders, according to Elias.

*The more you watch Montreal, the more you realize just how good they are.

*Montreal in the first seven games over the last three seasons: 19-1-1 (6-1, 7-0, 6-0-1).

*Corey Perry passed Paul Kariya on Anaheim’s all-time points list.

*Brendan Leipsic had three more points on Wednesday for AHL Toronto, a 4-3 overtime win over Providence. The 22-year-old has 12 points in six games.

*The Albany Devils finally lost a game, denied the 6-0 start no AHL franchise in Albany has ever accomplished. The Devils fell to 5-1 with a 3-1 loss at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

*A pair of four-point nights for Stockton Heat forwards Daniel Pribyl (1-3–4) and Morgan Klimchuk (2-2–4), as the Heat beat San Diego, 7-5. Klimchuk is a former first round pick by the Flames.

*Nice little night for 2017 draft hopeful Nico Hischier, who had three goals and six points in Halifax’s 6-4 win over Acadie-Bathurst.

*Carolina prospect Spencer Smallman had his first career hat trick in the QMJHL on Wednesday, a 5-2 win by Saint John over Charlottetown.

*Kole Lind had a goal and three assists in Kelowna’s 6-4 win over Victoria. Both of Calvin Thurkauf’s goals were assisted by the 17-year-old.

*Still no Nolan Patrick in the Brandon lineup. He hasn’t played since Oct. 11.

Links

A profile on Maxime Comtois of QMJHL Victoriaville, who a scouting director of an NHL team said ‘reminds (him) of Rick Nash at that age.’

A look at how the OHL’s top prospects are faring after about a month of action.

The evolution of Brad Marchand into an elite hockey talent.

Kings sign Anders Lindback to a tryout contract.

Oilers sending shockwaves through the NHL as they race out to a 6-1 start.

A ‘golden era’ of Canadian NHL franchises on the horizon.

 

Three Stars of the Weekend: Max Jones Continues Stand-out Season

A 6-foot-3 and 203 pounds, Max Jones is built like a freight train. He plays like one, too.

It’s why the Anaheim Ducks made him a first-round pick in this past June’s NHL Draft, taking him with 24th overall pick.

A power forward whose size is complemented by his strength on the puck, Jones is an impact forward with a net drive and presence in the house that is paralleled by few his age. After putting up 28 goals and 52 points in 63 games last season, helping OHL London to its first Memorial Cup title in 11 years, Jones has followed it up with a blazing start to 2016-17.

With Aaron Berisha, Christian Dvorak, Mitch Marner, and Matthew Tkachuk gone to challenge the waters of pro hockey, Jones is now one of the centerpieces of what remains a strong London team, which also includes Toronto prospect and 30-goal scorer J.J. Piccinch, and Cliff Pu (second round pick by Buffalo in 2016) up front while fifth-overall pick Olli Juolevi and Montreal prospect Victor Mete lead the charge on the back end.

Playing just six of London’s 11 games this season, Jones has five goals and 15 points, his 2.5 points per game tops in the OHL.

The 18-year-old played two of the Knights three games this weekend, putting up two goals and seven points; a three-assist performance on Thursday before posting a pair of goals and two assists on Friday.

The other two stars from CHL play this weekend:

Dylan Wells, Peterborough: The Petes netminder and Edmonton prospect had a rough go of things on Thursday, allowing four of 13 shots to go in during a 6-1 loss to Sarnia, but came back and willed Peterborough to victory on Friday, stopping 49 of 51 shots as the Petes stole a 4-2 win from Sudbury, despite being outshot 51-20. Despite his inflated GAA (3.15), Wells’ .920 save percentage is tied for fourth in the OHL.

Alexandre Alain, Blainville-Boisbriand: The 19-year-old, who leads the Armada in scoring, had four goals and six points this weekend, including a 3-2-5 performance against Sherbrooke on Friday night.

AHL

Charlie Lindgren, St. John’s: The 22-year-old stopped 73 of 76 shots this weekend, including 50 of 51 in a win over Providence on Friday.

Sven Andrighetto, St. John’s: The forward, who played 44 games with Montreal last season, scored three goals and assisted on three others in three games for the IceCaps.

Gabriel Dumont, Syracuse: The AHL veteran, in his seventh season in the American League, had three goals and an assist on Friday for the Crunch, who fell to Utica, 5-4.

NCAA

Brock Boeser, North Dakota: The Canucks prospect had five goals in two games this weekend, including a hat trick in Friday’s 3-2 win over Bemidji State.

Jake Oettinger, Boston University: The 2017 draft prospect stopped all 46 shots he faced this weekend for BU, which beat Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac to the tune of a combined 10-0 margin. His .947 save percentage is fifth in the nation, one of five freshmen ranked in the top six of that category.

Mike Vecchione, Union: The senior had four goals and an assist on Saturday against Niagara, a 5-2 win for Union. He currently leads the nation in scoring with 8-5–13 totals through six games.

Women’s NCAA

Sarah Nurse, Wisconsin: The senior had four goals for the top-ranked Badgers in Sunday’s 5-2 win over North Dakota. She’s scored goals in four consecutive games.

Sarah Potomak, Minnesota: The sophomore forward had a hat trick on Friday night against Ohio State, following up the performance with another goal on Saturday.

Katie Burt, Boston College: The junior was airtight in net as the sixth-ranked Eagles secured a win and tie in the weekend doubleheader with third-ranked Quinnipiac. She stopped 39 of the 40 shots that came her way.