Finally, in a command performance as The Grinch, Morgan Cey.
Morgan Cey stopped, get this, 59 of 61 shots in the game. Are you kidding me? Goaltender Gerald Coleman did not dress as the Chiefs signed emergency goaltender Chris Cuppett (AKA some guy from the rink) for this short pre-holiday road trip. Radek Smolenak led the Chiefs offense with 1 goal and 1 assist and now has 9 goals and 16 points in 21 games in the ECHL this season. One of the small organizational dramas to be played out in the second half of this season will be if and when Smolenak, as one of the organization's most important forward prospects, makes the transition up to the AHL. Adam Henrich, Jean Desrochers, Ryan Gibbons and Brandon Elliot (shorthanded, shawty) had the other Johnstown goals. Individual helpers went to Dimitri Tarabrin, Bryan Nathe, Doug Andress, Eric Przepiorka and Geoff Waugh. Cey and Smolenak were named first and second stars of the game. The Chiefs were outshot an eye popping 61-27 in the game.
Additionally, RW/C Andre Deveaux was tossed from the game in the first period after earning 31 minutes in penalties via a slashing minor, a roughing minor, a fighting major, an instigation minor, a match misconduct for intent to injure and another 10 minute misconduct just for good measure. Expect a suspension to be handed down. The Chiefs improve to one game over .500 at 12-11-3 with the win for 27 points putting them 3 points behind division leading Cincinnati in the brutal parity that is the ECHL American Conference North Division where 6 points seperate 1st and 6th place.
JHN Henrich, (7) (Smolenak), 15:08
JHN Desrochers, (5) (Tarabrin, Nathe), 5:36
JHN Gibbons, (4) (Andress, Przepiorka), 10:16
JHN Smolenak, (9) (Waugh), 10:58
TOL Blight, (6) (Burke, Tardif), 13:57 (PP)
TOL Zultek, (8) (Blight, Parillo), 15:33 (PP)
3. JHN Elliott, (4) , 18:18 (SH)
Game sheet from ECHL.com.
And, playing the role of The Savior, Dan Boyle.
Marc Denis stopped just 13 of 16 shots before being pulled at the second intermission. Johan Holmqvist was strong stopping 12 of 12 shots in the final frame to take the win. Dan Boyle scored the first hat trick by a Lightning defenseman since Doug Crossman all the way back at the start of the innagural season in 1992 single handedly kick starting the comeback effort in the third period with an incredible individual effort on a one man rush for his first of 3 goals and 1 assist. Henrik Lundqvist FEARS Dan Boyle. Brad Richards had a pair of assists in the comeback while Vincent Lecavalier had the other Lightning goal. Holmqvist, Nikita Alexeev and Ryan Craig had individual helpers in the contest.
If the Ottawa game wasn't the turning point of the season, that third period would have to be considered a strong candidate for the title. This team looked dead in the water down 3-0 after 40 minutes and it looked to be a lock to be heading into Christmas 2 games under .500 possibly tied for dead last in the Southeast (the Panthers were winning for some time this evening against Carolina before falling in overtime). Instead, the Lightning will be celebrating their short vacation time off sitting at .500 with a 3 game winning streak having kept pace with the 7 and 8 teams in the conference just 3 points out. I was ready to write this team's obituary and Dan Boyle single handedly resurrected them. Incredible.
NY Rangers 16:37, Martin Straka 18 (power play) (Brendan Shanahan, Michal Rozsival)
NY Rangers 19:08, Blair Betts 5 (unassisted)
NY Rangers 8:17, Aaron Ward 3 (Martin Straka, Michael Nylander)
Tampa Bay 1:02, Dan Boyle 6 (power play) (Brad Richards, Johan Holmqvist)
Tampa Bay 2:29, Dan Boyle 7 (Nikita Alexeev, Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 5:56, Vincent Lecavalier 21 (power play) (Dan Boyle, Ryan Craig)
Tampa Bay 11:03, Dan Boyle 8 (unassisted)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Eric Healey plays the role of Santa Claus.
Karri Ramo stopped 24 of 26 shots faced for the win as Steve Stirling gave the Finnish netminder the nod after a strong game against Hartford last night. Ramo moves to 9-7-0 this year with the win. But the real story was veteran Eric Healey who had a pair of goals including the winning marker with 4:12 left in the third period. Daniel Corso had a pair of assists in the game. Sylvain Dufresne had the other Falcons goal, his first point of the year. Norm Milley, Marek Kvapil, Blair Jones and Jay Rosehill each had individual assists. Rosehill is now +2 in 21 games this year, which is tied for team best with Corso.
With the win, the Falcons avoid falling to .500 for the holidays and in knocking off Portland they now move within 5 points of the division lead. Springfield moves into 8th in the Eastern Conference with 33 points.
POR Konopka, (9) (Rome, Genoway), 12:05 (PP)
SPR Healey, (12) (Corso, Milley), 16:28 (PP)
SPR Dufresne, (1) (Kvapil, Jones), 17:04
POR Ferguson, (3) (Moran, Salcido), 19:48 (PP)
SPR Healey, (13) (Rosehill, Corso), 15:48
Game sheet from TheAHL.com.
Three days away from the opening of the U20 World Junior Championships and exhibition tune up games are well underway. Slovakia defeated Belarus today 5-3 in their second tune up match in Sweden. Both defenseman Vladimir Mihalik and left wing Marek Bartanus were scoreless in the match for Slovakia. Mihalik played on the team's first pairing and received 6 minutes in penalties in the matchup. Bartanus played on Slovakia's second line and had 6 penalty minutes as well. Both players were involved in an ugly scrum in the middle of the third period which led to double roughing minors for each.
Bartanus had Slovakia's only goal in their 4-1 exhibition loss to Finland on Friday.
Red Line Report writes in their latest column in USA Today their top seven recruiting classes in the country for college hockey and the University of Michigan checks in at #3. Michigan, of course, is the destination of Lightning prospect Kevin Quick who is currently playing his finally season of prep hockey in Connecticut before moving on to the college ranks. Red Line's take on Quick: "a smooth puck mover". Quick was the unofficial MVP of the Lightning's prospect orientation camp last summer.
Forward Maxime Boisclair, currently on recall to Springfield of the AHL, has been named to the ECHL American Conference All-Star team. The right winger leads all ECHL rookies in scoring with 11 goals and 30 points in 25 games. Boisclair will serve as the Chiefs' lone representative in the game as defenseman Doug Andress, who is currently 4th among all ECHL defensemen in scoring, was snubbed.
With the recalls of leading scorers Randy Rowe and Maxime Boisclair, the Chiefs today signed former Johnstown standout forward Dimitri Tarabrin. Tarabrin was second on the Chiefs in scoring last season with 21 goals and 50 points in 62 games. He had been playing in the UHL with Bloomington this season where he posted 4 goals and 5 points in 25 games before coming back to the ECHL.
As a part of Bolt Prospects' midterm player evaluations, I will be live blogging this game while watching via the B2 Networks feed. Check this blog post between periods for updates.
Here's the big news tonight in pregame. Not only will Maxime Boisclair be making his AHL debut in this matchup but defenseman Andy Rogers will be returning to the lineup after missing two months due to injury. John Adams and Zdenek Blatny are healthy scratches and Justin Keller and Mike Egener (upper body injury) will be out due to injury.
1. HFD- Weller, (Ortmeyer, Korpikoski)
2. SPR- Kvapil, (Rogers, Jones)(PP)
3. HFD- Ortmeyer, (Degon)
That felt like a turning point to me.
Marc Denis stopped 16 of 18 shots faced for the win in a game where the Lightning outshot a very skilled and very fast Ottawa team 30-18. Impressive. Paul Ranger and Vincent Lecavalier each had 1 goal and 1 assist with the other Lightning goals coming from Martin St. Louis and Ruslan Fedotenko. Brad Richards added an individual helper.
Tonight felt like a turning point for the Lightning, in my opinion. The Lightning played an incredibly solid game against a team they traditionally struggle with more than any other club in the league. To hold a team as loaded as Ottawa to 18 shots is simply amazing, and with the exception of the Lightning's usual impotent power play performance they crossed every T and dotted every I in this game and all those details you address over the course of 60 minutes will inevitably add up to a win. It was 100% appropriate the game winning goal by Ranger came off a little thing like a faceoff win. This team has lost a slew of one goal games this season because they haven't managed the details this year. Tonight showed when they do, they can beat even their most formidable nemesis soundly.
In my opinion, this was a very critical game for both Ottawa and Tampa. Neither team is playing well right now and I had a feeling going into this one that the winner had a chance to springboard and get well positioned in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt while the loser could be reeling for at least another week or two. Fortunately, the Lightning put forth one of their best efforts and if they can knock off a talented by struggling Rangers squad on Saturday they can pull into Christmas at .500. That seemed impossible just a week ago. .500 on December 25th sets this team up nicely to break out strong once they get back to work.
By the way, if this team does break out after Christmas, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis will both be MVP candidates down the stretch of this season. They've been incredible this year and easily a couple of the best kept secrets in the league, if that's possible. 9 out of 10 games this season they've been the two best players on the ice not just for the Lightning but both teams on the rink. The only serious question to me isn't whether or not they're worthy of consideration to get the hardware, but rather which one is Batman and which one is Robin?
Ottawa 2:21, Dany Heatley 20 (power play) (Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza)
Tampa Bay 5:46, Martin St. Louis 23 (Vincent Lecavalier)
Ottawa 13:53, Antoine Vermette 13 (Patrick Eaves)
Tampa Bay 3:30, Ruslan Fedotenko 9 (Paul Ranger)
Tampa Bay 8:53, Paul Ranger 1 (Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 19:07, Vincent Lecavalier 20 (empty net) (unassisted)
Game sheet from NHL.com.