Although they were all likely absorbed in their current team’s 7-2 romp of the Florida Panthers Thursday night, there was plenty for Winnipeg Jets fans to like in the NCAA men’s hockey semifinals.
One of their draft picks turned in a celestial performance in each game, one as a bright spot in a tough losing effort, the other the tone-setter in a convincing victory.
To a lesser extent, Calgary Flames fans had multiple prospects in their organization giving noteworthy individual efforts. Ironically, those two players were skating at the home of the team that just traded their rights to Calgary in exchange for Jarome Iginla.
Yale squeaked past UMass-Lowell, 3-2, in overtime before in-state and in-conference rival Quinnipiac joined them on the final frontier with a 4-1 triumph over St. Cloud State. This will bring a total of seven players drafted by an NHL team back to Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center for Saturday’s title tilt.
Five of them, along with three of the shortcoming participants, are worth a mention as we pick up the ice chips from Thursday. Here is an assessment of the top eight performances by an NHL draftee in the 2013 Frozen Four semifinals.
8. Ben Hanowski (Calgary, St. Cloud)
Of the 34 shots directed at Quinnipiac goaltender Eric Hartzell, a team-leading eight were off the stick of Hanowski, whose college career came to an end with the loss. He was also one of the few Huskies to record a blocked shot, getting in the path of a Matthew Peca attempt.
7. Scott Wilson (Pittsburgh, Lowell)
Wilson was credited with the secondary setup on the Riverhawks’ icebreaker, which cut a 2-1 deficit in half at 14:38 of the second period. That marked the first of many momentum swings, which continued when teammate Joseph Pendenza drew a 2-2 knot at 14:52.
6. Kellen Jones (Edmonton, Quinnipiac)
During the previously alluded Quinnipiac power play, Jones landed a shot on goal. Moments prior, a mere 20 seconds before that man advantage was awarded, he had deposited his team’s fourth goal with 5:29 left in the middle frame.
Jones was one of three Bobcats to test St. Cloud State stopper Ryan Faragher with three or more shots and has now amassed a 2-3-5 scoring log in three NCAA tournament games.
5. Gus Young (Colorado, Yale)
In the opening frame, teammates Mitch Witek and Antoine Laganaire sculpted a 2-0 lead for Yale with a power-play conversion and an even-strength strike shortly after another man advantage expired.
Young kept the momentum going early in the second when he drew the Bulldogs’ third straight power play at 2:55. Whilst stepping into a slap shot from the far circle top, he impelled Lowell’s Zack Kamrass to throw an illicit hit and take a two-minute minor for elbowing.
One mild blight in Young’s performance, though, came on the subsequent power play when his pass, intended for Andrew Miller, was picked off by Riley Wetmore, who bolted on a short-handed breakaway.
4. Matthew Peca (Tampa Bay, Quinnipiac)
He did not cultivate any points, but he was a noticeable threat and at times and important grunt-work contributor. The first of Peca’s highlights was a breakaway in the sixth minute of action, so soon after his team had already jumped ahead, 2-0.
Late in the second period, Peca’s Bobcats went on a continuous, 80-second power-play swarm with no whistles and no clears of the zone in between. During that flurry, Peca had three attempted bids blocked, but more importantly drained the Huskies' tanks a little more with a 4-1 lead already in hand.
In the closing frame, Peca won each of the three faceoffs he took, giving Quinnipiac valuable clock-killing possession time.
3. Kenny Agostino (Calgary, Yale)
When the Bulldogs were carrying the play in the early game, particularly throughout the first half of regulation, Agostino was a constant puck-carrying pilot in countless scoring threats. The result was an output of five shots on goal in the first 60 minutes, second on the team behind the undrafted Laganiere.
He was not always rewarded for it, but he was screening Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyck on the icebreaker. He also made the feed from behind the net to Young when he drew Yale’s third unanswered power play.
Later, he was on the ice when linemate Andrew Miller slipped home the game-winner in sudden death.
2. Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg, Lowell)
His 38 saves in regulation alone were enough to give the freshman netminder a new single-game season high.
Hellebuyck did his part to slow down the Yale onslaught and keep the Riverhawks in the game after initially, and uncharacteristically, blinking twice in the opening frame. In one fashion or another, he summoned 25 whistles on the night, including three in sudden death.
By night’s end, Hellebuyck had repelled 44 out of Yale’s 47 shots, including all 13 in the second period, all 16 in the third and the first six of seven unanswered in overtime. His skating mates never tested Bulldogs’ backstop Jeff Malcolm during the bonus round.
A more consistent, 60-minute effort by one’s support group would ordinarily reward an effort like Hellebuyck’s with a win. He was one of the few Lowell players who garnered less than he deserved Thursday.
1. Jordan Samuels-Thomas (Winnipeg, Quinnipiac)
Two of his team-leading five shots on goal came within the first 5:07 of the evening action and both parented a pair of decisive goals.
It only took 102 seconds for the Bobcats to lure the Huskies into penalty trouble, with Joey Benik going off for hooking at that point. It took only an additional seven seconds for Samuels-Thomas to take a feed from Russell Goodman around the cage and lace the icebreaker between Faragher’s boots.
On a visually identical move in the sixth minute of play, Samuels-Thomas let his second registered stab bounce off of Faragher. The rebound serendipitously escaped to the porch, where Ben Arnt stuffed it home for the second unanswered strike and the eventual game-winner.