It's nothing more than a Sunday of relaxation for me as I gear up for Game One of the Western Conference Final between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks. It's been a long time since these two long-time rivals squared off in the playoffs, and even longer since they squared off for a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. In being that it's a lazy Sunday for me, however, I didn't bother to look up any of that info. My memory seems to indicate that 1994 would have been the last time these two teams met in the playoffs, but I could be wrong. In honour of me not doing anything of note today, it's time for a quick glance around the hockey world before we focus back in on the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.
- History was made at the USHL draft on May 13. I had been emailed this story earlier in the week, and full credit goes to Drew of IllegalCurve.com for breaking the info. USA Under-18 women's team goaltender Alex Rigsby became the first female player drafted into the USHL as she was picked 199th overall in the 16th round by the Chicago Steel. The former Milwaukee Junior Admirals goaltender is a stand-out female player, and has verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin for 2010-11 season. The USHL has produced a number of players for the NCAA, and Miss Rigsby looks to be the next in the a long line of collegiate-bound players. Congratulations to Miss Rigsby on being drafted!
- Game Two of the AHL Western Conference Final went last night in Winnipeg as the Houston Aeros and Manitoba Moose tangled again. This one was over quickly as the Aeros really looked tired. Manitoba used three goals in a 6:49 span in the first period to jump on the Aeros quickly, and they lead the series 2-0 after a 5-2 win last night. It is the ninth-straight win for the Moose who really look like a well-oiled machine. Jason Krog, Michael Grabner, and Raymond Sawada put the Moose up 3-0. Cory Hodgson, who I am thoroughly impressed with, notched his first professional goal 1:55 into the second period before Grabner added his second of the game to stake Manitoba to a 5-0 lead. JP Testwuide and Marco Rosa cut the deficit back to three goals before the end of the second before a scoreless third period led to the Moose win. Game Three goes tomorrow night in Houston and Game Four goes Wednesday.
- In the AHL Eastern Conference Final, the Providence Bruins drew first blood as they held on for a 3-2 win over the Hershey Bears. The Bruins became the first team to win at the Giant Centre this postseason, ending the Bears' six-game home winning streak. Jeff Penner opened the scoring for the Bruins at 8:03, and Jordan Knackstedt doubled lead just over eight minutes later. Oskar Osala of Hershey cut the lead to one goal when he beat Tuukka Rask in the second period, but Zach Hamill restored the two-goal lead minutes later. Osala struck again in the second period, leading to a tense third period. With goaltender Michal Neuvirth on the bench late in the third period, Alexandre Giroux made an incredible pass to Keith Aucoin who was open at the side of the net. And not just open, like he had minutes-to-make-a-sandwich-and-eat-it open before scoring the goal. It appeared to even catch him off-guard because once he got the puck off his stick, Rask slid across with his pad to preserve the win. Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final goes tonight in Hershey before Game Three goes Friday, May 22 in Providence.
- The ECHL's Kelly Cup Finals are set, and this year's combatants are the Alaska Aces and the South Carolina Stingrays. The Aces defeated the Utah Grizzlies 4-1 in the first round, defeated the Victoria Salmon Kings 4-1 in the second round, and then knocked off the Las Vegas Wranglers 4-0 in the Western Conference Final. South Carolina kocked off the Charlotte Checkers 4-2 in the first round, defeated the Florida Everblades 4-2 in the second round, and then swept through the Cincinnati Cyclones by a 4-0 count in the Eastern Conference Final. Game One of the Kelly Cup Final is scheduled for Friday, May 22 in Anchorage, Alaska.
- The Canadian men's sledge hockey team brought home some hardware from the 2009 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship, but it wasn't the colour of a title defence. Team USA, one of the teams that I had noted as being an up-and-coming team, wrestled the right to go to the gold medal game with a 2-1 shootout win over the Canadians. Adam Page of the USA opened the scoring early in the second period, but Marc Dorion tied the game with 1:41 left to play. Overtime solved nothing, so a shootout was needed. Bradley Bowden scored the lone Canadian goal in the shootout as American goaltender Steve Cash was brilliant all game. The American shootout goals were scored by Taylor Lipsett and Adam Page. Congratulations to the Americans on their win, and good luck to them in the gold medal game!
- Canada, on the other hand, would play for bronze against the Japanese squad after they lost 2-1 to Norway. Todd Nicholson opened the scoring against the Japanese just 4:53 in to give Canada a 1-0 lead. Graeme Murray added a second Canadian goal at 6:19 of the second period. That would be all that Canada needed as goaltender Paul Rosen shut the door on the Japanese to preserve the 2-0 bronze medal win. It wasn't a gold medal, but Canada still brings home some hardware. Congratulations to the Canadian team for an outstanding tournament once again!
- The upstart Americans had a date with the Norwegians in the final, and they come in confident. Both teams battled hard throughout the game, but goaltenders Steve Cash and Roger Johansen kept the game scoreless. It wasn't until a late face-off in the Norwegian zone that things changed. At 14:46 of the third, Taylor Chace won an offensive zone draw and slid the puck back to Andy Yohe. Yohe made no mistake as he ripped a slapshot over Johansen's right shoulder to give the Americans a 1-0 lead with only 11 seconds to play. Norway could not capitalize in those last few seconds, and the American squad won their first World Sledge Hockey Championship. Congratulations to the Americans for an outstanding tournament, and your first gold medal at this event!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!