BY: COLLIN SCHUCK
This weekend coming marks the final weekend of professional and junior regular season play as we hit the 24th edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, and with just a couple games to go in the National Hockey League (NHL), American Hockey League (AHL), and the United States Hockey League (USHL), this is now the beginning of the end of the first volume of alumni look-ins.
Despite their best efforts for a late charge, a win by the Winnipeg Jets last night officially knocked out the Dallas Stars from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, but points from depth players like forward Ryan Garbutt (’09-’10) have kept hopes alive for Big D during the stretch. For the first time in just over a month, the Winnipeg, Man., native picked up a multi-point week with a goal and an assist over two of his last three games. His goal was one of five Stars tallies last night against San Jose to knock the Sharks out of the playoffs. With two games remaining, Garbutt owns eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points through 65 games. The Stars own a 39-31-10 record with 88 points, still six points back of the Jets for the second and final wild card spot, which is not enough to make the postseason.
On the other side, the Hershey Bears are now six points away from clinching the East Division Title with now six games remaining in the AHL season, and it seems like goaltender Pheonix Copley (’10-’11) does nothing but win down the stretch over the last two months. In his first game of April on Saturday evening, the North Pole, Alaska, native stopped all 25 shots for his third shutout of the year in a 2-0 blanking of the Norfolk Admirals from Norfolk Scope. It’s also just the fourth time in 13 games that he’s allowed one goal or fewer. The count of wins continues to six-straight with a 15-3-3 record, a 2.10 goals-against average, and a .926 save percentage.
Lehigh Valley Phantoms netminder Anthony Stolarz (’11-’12) hasn’t had as much luck as Copley in March, but he did see some time in net last Wednesday during a 6-1 loss to the Syracuse Crunch. After Rob Zepp let through four goals in 20 shots, the Jackson, N.J., stepped into the fray and stopped 10 of 12 shots in 17:41 minutes against a strong offensive squad. The limited time in net balloon his goals-against average to 4.36 on the month in three games with a .878 save percentage and 1-1-0 record. The Phantoms head into April with ten games remaining and 13 points back of a playoff spot.
Despite his best efforts from the blue line, defenseman Phil Pietroniro (’11-’13) ended his junior career in the President Cup Playoffs as his Victoriaville Tigers were swept in the opening round to Rimouski Océanic after back-to-back 8-1 and 4-2 losses last Tuesday and Wednesday at home. His two additional assists came over his final two games to finish third in scoring in postseason play with one goal and four assists for five points. Pietroniro concludes his junior career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with his most successful year on the ice, earning 52 points over 74 games and the highest scoring defenseman on the Tigers roster. Rimouski will take on Gatineau Olympiques starting this Friday evening.
Baie-Comeau Drakkar is through to the President Cup Quarterfinals after taking their series 4-1 over the Saint John Sea Dog last weekend. The final three games sandwiched one loss between two wins that would eventually clinch the series. Forward Chad Pietroniro (’11-’12) only claimed his one assist in game two of the series but does already average one penalty per game with 10 penalty minutes in five games. Their opponent hasn’t been determined as of yet and will depend on the outcomes of the Québec-Cape Breton series as well as the Shawinigan-Halifax series. If both Québec and Shawinigan (higher seeds) each win their final game, then Drakkar will take on the two-seed Moncton Wildcats. If both Cape Breton and Halifax (lower seeds) win Game 7, then Baie-Comeau will have home-ice advantage against the Charlottetown Islanders, which is the only scenario that gives them home ice. If one higher seed and one lower seed win, then Drakkar faces off against the reigning President Cup Champions, Val-d’Or Foreurs.
Read the IceRays Alumni Report every Tuesday on www.GoIceRays.com and hear the audio version on the IceRays Broadcast Network.
Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.