BY: COLLIN SCHUCK
The lone bastion in NCAA hockey fell over the weekend in the Division I Tournament, so as we cross into the 23rd edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, we wrap up another collegiate season while seeing action in the American Hockey League (AHL) as well as multiple levels of junior hockey, including postseason play in Canada.
The Hershey Bears are the second team in the American Hockey League (AHL) to clinch a spot in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs, and a large part of that comes from their goaltending tandem of Philipp Grubauer and Pheonix Copley (’10-’11), who have allowed the second-fewest goals in the AHL thus far with eight games left. Copley added another win on Sunday to help clinch playoffs in a 4-3 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The former IceRay stopped down 31 of 34 shots including at least ten each period. In his four appearances during March, Copley recorded a 4-0-0 record with a 2.44 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. He has now won six-straight decisions and is without a regulation loss in 15-straight games. He also improves to 14-3-3 on the season.
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.
The Frozen Four is set to take place this weekend to determine the NCAA Division I National Champion, however the University of Denver will not be one of those teams vying for the crown. In the East Regional Semifinals, the Pioneers pushed through 11th-ranked Boston College 5-2 from the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, R.I., on Saturday afternoon. They came through the first period with a 2-1 lead and added three more in the third period, two coming from Grant Arnold. Forward Emil Romig (’12-’13) failed to register a point in the contest and would watch Denver’s season come to an end in the East Regional Final against Providence, dropping a 4-1 decision. Joey LaLeggia netted the lone goal for the Pioneers, who end with a 24-14-2 record and just short of the Frozen Four. Romig ends his sophomore campaign with four goals and three assists through 31 games.
With the playoff picture shaping up in the United States Hockey League (USHL), forward Jake Durflinger (’13-’14) has been starting to factor in at the right time for the Sioux City Musketeers. As part of a 4-1 victory over Team USA, the 17-year-old helped the Musketeers jump out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period with an assist. Sioux City scored four goals in that game before Team USA found an answer in the third period. Durflinger has three assists in his last four games and now has seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 56 games.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) is on the hunt for the President Cup, and teams with IceRays alumni are on opposite sides of the spectrum following their first two games last weekend. On the losing end, the Victoriaville Tigers dropped back 2-0 in the series against Rimouski Océanic with losses on the road. The Tigers came close on Friday night but fell 4-3 in overtime, just short of a series lead. The following night wasn’t better for Victoriaville in a 5-3 loss, but defenseman Phil Pietroniro (’11-’13) had a good weekend for individual production, earning one goal and two assists in those games with the goal and one assist coming on Saturday night. This is his second trip to the postseason, with his other coming last year with Val d’Or in their President Cup Championship. In 26 games of President Cup play over two seasons, the Quebec native now owns six goals and five assists for 11 points. Victoriaville heads back home this weekend for games three and four.
On the other side, his younger brother, Chad Pietroniro (’11-’12), may be on his way to the second round thanks to two wins for Baie-Comeau Drakkar over the Saint John Sea Dogs last weekend. Baie-Comeau grabbed the higher seed, and the home-ice advantage paid off with a 3-1 win on Friday night and 4-1 victory on Saturday night. Though he didn’t register on the scoreline in Friday’s game, Saturday was a different story thanks to a primary assist on the latter of Drakkar’s two third period goals to finish the scoring. That’s his second-career QMJHL assist coming in the same season he earned his first. At 18 years of age, the experience will come a long way heading into next season. Baie-Comeau can end the series this weekend when they travel to Saint John.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.