Lloydminster 6 at St. Albert 7 OT (Saints win 4-3)
The miracle is complete. The defending 1997-98 AJHL Champion St. Albert Saints have become the first team since the 1993 Sherwood Park Crusaders and only the second team in the AJHL’s entire history (the other team was Calgary Canucks in 1975) to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Akinsdale Arena was packed to the brim (you couldn’t fit another soul in there. There were 640 people sitting and probably another 700 standing) as Saints fans anticipated their home team making history.
The Saints did not make it easy, however – far from it. It looked as if they might cruise their way to victory early on, however, as Ron Grimard scored his fifth of the playoffs from Joey Bastien and Pavel Beranek only 4:58 into the game. Seven minutes later Brent Robertson broke in along the left side and rifled one past a stunned Ray Fraser. The Saints were up 2-0 and well in command of the game. However, up to that point the Blazers had been carrying the play although the Saints were the ones that capitalized. Lloydminster did not roll over and die – in fact, they pressured even more after the Saints goal. It eventually paid off in a pair of goals just under a minute apart during a four-on-four situation in the dying minutes of the first period. Travis Barnes shot a laser that eluded Saints’ starting netminder Kirby Millar and shortly after that, Brad Hutchinson netted his first of the post-season. The two teams went to the intermission knotted at two.
Player: Sven Butenschon
Born: March 22, 1976 Itzehoe, Germany
Height: 6′ 5″
YEAR TEAM LGE GP G A PTS PIM
1993-94 Brandon WHL 70 3 19 22 51
1994-95 Brandon WHL 21 1 5 6 44
1995-96 Brandon WHL 70 4 37 41 99
1996-97 Cleveland IHL 75 3 12 15 68
1997-98 Syracuse AHL 65 14 23 37 66
1997-98 Pittsburgh NHL 8 0 0 0 6
1998-99 Houston IHL 57 1 4 5 81
The Rangers picked Stefan Cherneski as their first pick in 1997. The Rangers didn’t have a franchise player on their hands, but a hard working kid who was destined for the NHL. Two years later, Cherneski’s career has been filled with triumph and tragedy and his hockey career lays in question.
Cherneski’s life started out a battle. The second child born to his family, Stefan was born 8 weeks premature and doctors were concerned for him. They wouldn’t allow him to go home for another 8 weeks as they placed his tiny body in an incubator to increase his chances for survival. Growing up Stefan became involved in local midget clubs but was never seen as a knock over prospect and thus he never heard his name called in the WHL draft. After signing with the Brandon Wheat Kings prior to the 95-96 season, Cherneski’s rookie year was not the most memorable. Stuck primarily in a third line left winger’s role on a deep and talented Brandon team, Cherneski finished with only 8 goals. Only 5’11 and 185 pounds at the time Cherneski didn’t have the raw ability to crack the Wheat Kings top line, or so everyone thought.
To say the 1998-99 season has been a dramatic turnaround for the Toronto Maple Leafs would be vastly understated. The team has finished out of the playoffs since the 1995-96 season. With nine regular season games to go and a playoff run awaiting them, the team has already shattered the last two years’ performance in wins, points and goals scored. They have transformed from the league’s third lowest goal-scoring club in 97-98 to leading the league in scoring this year. The Toronto Maple Leafs may not yet be on the brink of bringing home the Stanley Cup, but they have taken several quantum leaps in the right direction.
POS HT WT AGE
Eric Nickulas C 5-11 190 24
GP G A PTS PIM
98-99 Prov 67 27 25 52 79 (AHL)
98-99 BOS 2 0 0 0 0 (NHL)
Strengths- Hands, Hockey Sense
Weaknesses- Inexperience, 2-way Play.
Eric Nickulas has been an important contributor to the success of the AHL’s number one team. Nickulas has always been a gifted goal scorer at every level he has played, and the AHL has been no exception. He has made his mark on the power play, where he has 14 tallies with the man-advantage. Nickulas doesn’t seem to possess much speed, but he is a deceptive skater who has the ability to get open in close, where he does the most damage. Not the most diligent of back-checkers, he will need to sharpen his skills if he wants a regular shift in Boston.
Nickulas has the tools to make it to the NHL, but Boston has quite a few players with similar attributes. Between Randy Robitaille, Shawn Bates and Andre Savage, Nickulas will need to continue to put the puck in the net if he is to get another shot in the NHL after a limited audition for 2 games in December.
Projection at NHL level- 3rd-line Winger.
Current Stock Status- On the Rise
POS HT WT AGE
John Grahame G 6-2 210 23
GP W L T AVG Sav%
98-99 Prov 41 32 7 1 2.79 .900 (AHL)
Strengths- Mobility, Athleticism, Mental Game. Read more»