For many Kings fans in Southern California, Eric Belanger was just a prospect that people heard about from the local drivetime radio guy. Belanger was the answer to any question about the Kings farm system, even after injuries put his future as a King in doubt. Now, as the Kings have shown some life in the playoffs, Belanger is listed among the reasons for the Kings resurgence.
Eric Belanger was thought to be the playmaking center that the Kings wished for. He was a point-a-game plus as a junior and his skill was talked as he rose through the Kings farm system. Then a series of bizarre injuries and illnesses caused many to consider his slight build (6’0, 177) and his bad luck a precursor to a lack of durability. When Belanger finally resurfaced in Lowell last season his start was unspectacular at best. As Belanger got back into playing shape and his injuries were healed, he showed a new side of his game- a side that would take him to the NHL.
In camp last fall, the Kings saw the new Eric Belanger. Not the playmaking center but rather a hard-nosed, two-way center who could handle the puck and even deliver checks. Belanger’s versatility got a quick workout. In a one-month period, he was the Kings first line center, Lowell’s second line center, a healthy scratch for the Kings to the checking center alongside Stu Grimson and Ian Lapperriere.
Ever since the opening month, Belanger has been a mainstay in the Kings lineup. Belanger finished the regular season with 21 points in 62 games and was a +14. He saw time on all special teams a Read more»
The Admirals came on Easter Sunday leading the series of QuarterFinals against the Cincinnati Might Ducks 2-1. They captured the “W” Friday thus winning 6-3. Saturday night, despite out shooting their opponents by twenty-five, ill advised passes lack of solid defense and lagging behind in the first rounds gave Norfolk lose 3-4.“ We are fighting for our lives out there,” said Center Geoff Peters who has been 3-0 in the series. This statement became a theme for the next two games and so was excitement.
And for the 2,000 roaring fans they got all their money’s worth. The Admirals came back from three-goal deficit and won the series in overtime 4-3.
Norfolk went to the locker behind by three goals after the first. Within minutes, goalie Michel Larocque had two goals that were both driven into the right corner of the net. What seem to be a devastating first period for the boys in the blue, they returned to their dressing room again after the second with a total of eighteen shots which three goals were capitalized. “Once we got our momentum, things kept going and going. We got the puck in the net and we were rewarded in the second for it,” said Ajay Baines who had an assist on the tying goal. And that reward paid handsomely.
With over 23 home victories in the regular season, home ice has been a problem in the last three games. But with their come from behind win over the Ducks, Norfolk has proved that they will not go down with out a fight. Mark Bell cashed in two of the three goals and defense arose out of sleep. “We were down by th Read more»
Only 2 are left standing in the USHL playoffs. One mild surprise visitor and the team everyone expects to win it. Can you say drama? Two teams separated by less than 100 miles and neither team likes each other one bit, especially when the Clark Cup Title is at stake. The top seeded Lincoln Stars handled the 6th seeded Tri-City Storm easily by sweeping them 3 games to none while the 4th seeded Omaha Lancers pulled a mild upset in beating the 3rd seeded Sioux Falls Stampede 3 games to 1. Both the Lancers and Stars dominated their series against their respective opponents. Now they face each other, this matchup has definitely got the makings of a great series. The winner not only gets the Clark Cup trophy but they also stamp their ticket to the National Junior “A” Championships where they will compete for the coveted Gold Cup.
The Stars and Lancers are two teams that are stockpiled with talent from top to bottom. On offense for the Stars you have the likes of Brandon Bochenski and Chris Fournier. The Lancers will bring forth Dan Welch and Riley Riddell. All 4 are in the top of the scoring list and each has extraordinary talent. Defensively the Stars have the edge from the physical standpoint but both the Lancers and Stars have very solid defense. The Stars have physical bruisers such as Lee Marvin, Andy Schneider and of course, Nick Fouts. Omaha answers with the likes of Keith Ballard, Jason Krischuk and Bryce Lampman. What all of this means is that we could be in for a stalemate as both teams high powered offenses could be grounded by the Read more»
The building of a strong defensive corps is a never-ending job for a NHL GM. Having a solid group of defensemen coupled with good goaltending will virtually ensure that a team will be competitive in most every game, but getting the right mix of players is truly a challenge.
The recent draft history of the Buffalo Sabres is a perfect example of the difficulties of assembling a solid, cohesive defensive unit. In the NHL drafts of 1989-1999, Buffalo used their top pick in the draft 6 times to select a defenseman (Kevin Haller, Phillipe Boucher, David Cooper, Denis Tsygurov, Jay McKee, Dimitri Kalinin). Of those 6 picks, only McKee and Kalinin have shown better than average ability at their position, with Kalinin being a rookie this year. The only other player from that group to log substantial time in the NHL is Kevin Haller, who would probably qualify as a journeyman defenseman.
Of course, the blueline contingent is rarely built with top draft picks, alone, as a team can find good defensive talent in the later rounds of the draft. This is true in the case of the current Sabres’ defensive group, as Alexei Zhitnik (LA-4th Rd., ’91), Jason Woolley (WAS- 4th Rd., ’89), Richard Smehlik (BUF- 5th Rd., ’90), and Rhett Warrener (FL- 2nd Rd., ’94) were all selected after the 1st round (James Patrick was a 1st rounder for the Rangers in ’81). What this also points out, however, is that building the defense often means having to go outside the organization to fill in the gaps, whic Read more»
Daniel Corso, C -Corso has played extremely well for the Blues every game he has played this year, in 28 games with the Blues he has had 10 goals and three assists with an even +/- rating. Corso has also allowed the Blues to once again have three scoring lines, while his is also often out against the other teams top line. Centering a unit of himself, Dallas Drake, and newcomer Cory Stillman. Corso looks to be the real deal, as he has consistently worked extremely hard and played a well rounded game filled with grit and skill, not to mention plenty of speed. Despite playing 28 games with the Blues, he has still managed to stay 4th in scoring for the Worcester Ice Cats, with 16 goals and 36 assists for 52 points in 50 games.
Barret Jackman, D -Jackman played in the WJHC’s, just as his shoulder had started to heal. He played close to 30 mins in each game too, in 7 games he had no goals, one assist and 8 penalty minutes. In 43 games for the Regina Pats, Jackman had 9 goals and 27 assists plus 138 PIM’s. He could be a real help again this year to the Worcester Ice Cats after the Pats are out of the playoffs.
Mike Van Ryn-D-Van Ryn in many people’s eyes has not lived up to his expectations, but he has regained his confidence, and will be a big part of the Ice Cats team in the playoffs, as will Jackman.
Andrei Trochinsky-C/RW-In his first season in North America, as a member of the Worcester Ice Cats, he now has 76 games uner his belt along with 17 goals, and 28 assists for 45 points.
Marc Rycroft-RW-Rycroft finis Read more»