World Championships Day One: 4/24

Steven Stamkos potted a pair of goals and was +1 for Canada in their 6-1 victory over Belarus. Martin St. Louis had 1 assist and was +1 for the Canadians in the match.

Lackluster Giants Drop Game 4

N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/23

WHL Playoffs – Conference Finals

Vancouver Giants 0 @ Kelowna Rockets 3
Best of 7 series tied 2-2
C James Wright, VAN: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 15 GP, 3-7-10, +1, 6 PIM
Season totals: 71 GP, 21-26-47, +26, 54 PIM

Vancouver had 8 shots on goal in a scoreless first period, then managed just 6 (4, 2) the rest of the game for 14 total. That’s not the effort you want when you can sweep a team on the road and bring a 3-1 lead back home to potentially close out the series. As it was, Minnesota native Mark Guggenberger (undrafted) stopped those 14 shots for a shutout and Jamie Benn (Stars) had a goal and an assist to lead the Rockets to a 34-14 shot advantage and a 3-0 win. Game 5 is Saturday in Vancouver.

Fargo Steals Game 1; Rimouski Done ... For Now

[b][i]N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/22[/b][/i] Fargo wins again in Nebraska ... Drummondville bullies the Oceanic ... John Tavares and other CHL notes.

Elmira Advances in ECHL Playoffs

The playoff seasons of Lightning prospects Riku Helenius and Kevin Quick will last at least another week as Elmira defeated Trenton in a decisive Game Seven matchup in Trenton 5-3 on Tuesday night.

Helenius lost Game Two, allowing 6 goals on 38 shots in a 6-5 defeat. He has spent the rest of the series backing up Michael Teslak.

Quick joined the club for a 5-0 shutout win in Game Three after finishing up the regular season with the Lightning in Atlanta. Quick is scoreless in 5 games with a -3 rating.

Elmira now moves on to face Cincinnati in the second round of the playoffs, beginning Friday night. The Cyclones survived a 7 game encounter with Wheeling in their opening round playoff series. They were the top team in the ECHL's North Division during the regular season.

Volts Too Strong for Oceanic; Giants Take Lead

[b][i]N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/21[/b][/i] Drummondville has Oceanic on ropes … Giants get late goal to lead series … Cunti and Wright continue to get points … Note on Vancouver-Kelowna rivalry … Fargo begins Lincoln series Wednesday.

Two More Bolts at Worlds

A current Lightning player, a prospect, and a recent prospect will be suiting up for their respective countries at the upcoming World Championships in Switzerland.

Harju Named to Team Sweden

According to the IIHF web site, Tampa Bay Lightning forward prospect Johan Harju has been named to the preliminary roster of the Swedish team for the 2009 World Hockey Championships. Harju recently announced that he had signed a contract to play with the Moscow Dynamo of the KHL for the 2009-2010 season, foregoing a possible pro contract with the Lightning. Harju finished the 2008-09 SEL season scoring 27 goals and 22 assists in 55 games for Lulea.

Prospect phenom Victor Hedman, the likely 2009 1st round draft pick by the Lightning, was omitted from the Team Sweden preliminary roster.

Giants Survive in OT

N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/19

Wright and Cunti get assists, but only one prospect can enjoy a victory.

Tampa Bay Lightning 2008-2009 Season Wrap-Up

I hope some lessons were learned this season in the OK Hockey hierarchy. After spending the entire summer pointing the finger at the previous coach, GM, and scouts and slinging money around the free agent market like three drunken sailors on shore leave, I hope Oren Koules, Len Barrie, and Brian Lawton learned it takes more than flash to build an elite organization. Defense and coaching, for instance, are two very important components to any hockey team that OK Hockey neglected to adequately address heading into the season. When the club traded Filip Kuba to Ottawa for Andrej Meszaros, thereby making Paul Ranger the grizzled veteran of their d-corps, even Stevie Wonder could see trouble on the horizon for the Lightning. Lawton and Company’s reticence to address the obvious deficiency was puzzling, and turned out to be one of the ultimate downfalls of the season. And, of course, there was the unmitigated disaster of naming Barry Melrose the team’s Head Coach. Melrose could barely coach his way out a wet paper sack 13 years ago before he became a talking head on ESPN. What on earth possessed Oren Koules to believe his buddy had become Scotty Bowman in over a decade of inactivity, I’ll never know.

There's More

Rockets Strike First

N.A. Juniors Playoff Game Night: 4/18

WHL Playoffs – Conference Finals

Kelowna Rockets 4 @ Vancouver Giants 2
Kelowna leads Best of 7 series 1-0
C James Wright, VAN: 0-0-0, -3, 2 PIM (hooking)
Playoff totals: 12 GP, 3-5-8, +2, 6 PIM
Season totals: 71 GP, 21-26-47, +26, 54 PIM

Kelowna strikes first in the Western Conference Finals, gaining a 3-0 lead in game one and hanging on for the win. James Wright was a team-worst minus-3 for Vancouver, one of those being on the ice with likely top-5 pick Evander Kane and Conference MVP Casey Pierro-Zabotel (Penguins) in the game’s final minute for the empty net goal. Mikael Backlund (Flames) had two goals and an assist for First Star honors. Kelowna has won 5 straight games. Game 2 is Sunday in Vancouver.

Lightning co-owner Len Barrie was reportedly set to be in attendance for the game. His son, Tyson, was scoreless for the Rockets. Tyson was drafted one spot ahead of Kane in the WHL Bantam Draft a few years ago.

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