Double-Deflection Gives Vancouver Game 7 OT Win; Eagles Come Up Short in Quebec

N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/14

Two prospects going home ... one moving on.

QMJHL Playoffs – Conference Semi-Finals

Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 0 @ Quebec Remparts 3
Quebec wins Best of 7 series 4-3
D Michael Ward, CB: 0-0-0, -3, 2 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff totals: 11 GP, 1-5-6, +3, 14 PIM
Season totals: 65 GP, 7-27-34, +9, 105 PIM

Quebec scored in the first two minutes of the game, added an insurance marker late in the second, and sealed it late with an empty netter to complete an improbable comeback and eliminate the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. The Eagles held a 2-0 series lead heading home to Sydney for three games, yet dropped their first two at home. They would win Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead back to Quebec City, but never scored again. Quebec goalie Charles Lavigne (undrafted) shut them out for the last 137 minutes of the series.

Ward was one of Cape Breton’s best players in the playoffs, despite the fact they were without leading scorer and recent Maple Leaf signee Robert Slaney. When Cape Breton pulled their goalie with about 2 minutes remaining in Game 7, they went with five skaters and one defenseman and it was Ward who was that defenseman. He made a few nice end-to-end rushes to carry the puck into the offensive zone, and dove to stop the empty net shot from Quebec – but was unsuccessful. As the puck sat in the net, Ward knelt in the corner with his head down.

Hopefully an NHL contract this summer will lift his head up and continue his career.

(Pictured: Ward embraces Quebec goaltender Lavigne after Quebec eliminated the Eagles)

WHL Playoffs – Conference Semi-Finals

Spokane Chiefs 0 @ Vancouver Giants 1 (OT)
Vancouver wins Best of 7 series 4-3
G Dustin Tokarski, SPO: OT Loss, 41 saves on 42 shots, 2 PIM (interference), *Second Star*
Playoff totals: 12 GP, 7-3-2, 1.70 GAA, .947 sv%, 1 shutout, 1 assist, 4 PIM
Season totals: 54 GP, 34-18-0-2, 1.97 GAA, .937 sv%, 7 shutouts
C James Wright, VAN: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 11 GP, 3-5-8, +5, 4 PIM
Season totals: 71 GP, 21-26-47, +26, 54 PIM

The storied junior career of Dustin Tokarski has come to an end, but Dustin certainly went down fighting. The Chiefs lost a 1-0 overtime heartbreaker to James Wright and Vancouver in Game 7 when the Giants Garry Nunn scored 1:56 into the first extra session – though Nunn told the Vancouver Sun the puck was deflected in off a Chiefs defenseman. The Spokane Spokesman said the puck was first touched by Chief forward Mitch Wahl, then hit Nunn and ricocheted over Tokarski’s shoulder as he went to the butterfly.

This was the third straight game in this series to go to overtime as the teams combined for just under 94 minutes of OT in the series. Tokarski made 41 saves in the game, as the Chiefs were outshot for the sixth time in seven games, 42-29. Tokarski stopped 261 in the series, averaging just under 40 saves a game, good enough for a 1.64 GAA and .949 save percentage in the series.

Vancouver was the No.1 seed in the West and Spokane the 4, and the prevailing thought was only Tokarski could keep this series between the last two Memorial Cup champs close. He certainly did that, taking it all the way to Game 7, and if not for his team being unable to score, may have pulled off the upset.

Spokane scored 13 goals in the 7 games, with 5 coming in a Game 3 win.

Wright was also outstanding in this series for Vancouver, and if not for a shrewd coaching move by Giants Coach Don Hay in Game 6, Spokane may have been the one moving on to play Kelowna in the Conference Finals. Trailing 1-0 in the third period of the sixth game, Hay moved Wright, who was playing admirably on a checking line for the Giants, up to the first line with probably 2009 top-10 pick Evander Kane. Wright scored two goals and set up Kane’s double overtime winner to send the series back to Vancouver.

Wright may see more time on the top line as Vancouver begins their series Saturday night, hosting the Rockets. Tokarski will watch – likely from his home in Saskatchewan – before training for his pro debut next year.

“He’s a competitor. He’s been a champ at numerous levels,” Hardy Sauter told the Spokesman of Tokarski. “In my mind he’ll be an outstanding goaltender in the future and we wish him well wherever that future takes him.”

With an NHL contract already in hand, Tokarski’s future looks to take him to Norfolk of the AHL next season. Congrats on an outstanding season and junior career, Dustin.