By: Collin Schuck – IceRays Staff
Apr. 5, 2016
Most teams are in the final stretch or in the final weekend of regular season play, including across American junior hockey and some professional ranks. The 24th edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, Vol. II not only looks at some of the playoff races still remaining and the Frozen Four this weekend in NCAA Division I hockey but also celebrates two new additions to the professional ranks following the end of different collegiate careers this month. And already, they’re gaining points.
With five games to go in the American Hockey League (AHL) season, it’s almost a safe bet that the Chicago Wolves will not be making the Calder Cup Playoffs this year. They sit sixth in the Central Division with a ten-point gap from the Charlotte Checkers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, so the Checkers only need one point over their final six games to eliminate the Wolves. The week didn’t help their cause thanks to three losses, and it seems like the tank is empty. Goaltender Pheonix Copley (’10-’11) played in one game on Saturday night though couldn’t help in their 4-1 loss to the Lake Erie Monsters. The Alaska native stopped 27 of 31 shots in the loss, and his struggles reflect that of his team. He’s dropped four of his last five starts since the start of March and has conceded three or more goals in four of his last six games. Based on goaltender rotation, Copley may have three more games remaining this season, but that could always fluctuate.
The Utah Grizzlies have punched their ticket to the Kelly Cup Playoffs in the ECHL with just two games to go in the regular season, and though they’ll have to be the road team for the opening round their actual position could change though being tied for fifth at this point. With the Grizzlies picking up their production, that has allowed defenseman Phil Pietroniro (’11-’13) to do the same, earning two more assists over the weekend in three games. The Quebec native helped teammate Charles Sarault in the lone goal of Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Idaho Steelheads and did the same for Bryan Moore in Saturday’s 2-0 shutout of the Alaska Aces. He has points in three of his last five games and is finding more ways to get on the scoreboard, now sitting at two goals and 14 assists for 16 points. They’ll round out their season in Rapid City.
The professional ranks gained two new players in their pursuit of full-time hockey careers. Following their final games in collegiate hockey, defensemen Mychal Monteith (’10-’12) and Colton Saucerman (’10-’11) signed amateur tryout contracts with different teams in the ECHL with Monteith joining the Evansville IceMen, the ECHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators, and Saucerman signing with the South Carolina Stingrays, the ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins. Monteith joined the Double-A hockey franchise on March 19 and has already logged eight games with the IceMen as well as his first professional assist. That came on Sunday against the Fort Wayne Komets in a 5-4 overtime win just 35 seconds into the second period. Saucerman made his professional debut on Saturday against the Orlando Solar Bears and scored his first professional goal. During their 5-4 overtime loss, Saucerman scored the Stingrays’ first goal coming late in the first period despite being down 3-0 at that point. The pair becomes the fourth and fifth players in junior franchise history to earn professional contracts in affiliated hockey and will close out their seasons this weekend.
Forward Emil Romig (’12-’13) will continue his quest for his first NCAA Championship starting on Thursday night as his Denver Pioneers head to the Frozen Four against third-ranked North Dakota. All four teams in the semifinals earned a weekend off to regroup before the weekend in Tampa Bay, Fla. to determine this year’s champion. The Pioneers have taken down two ranked teams on their road to the Frozen Four and will most likely have to topple two of the best teams in the country. They face-off at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2 and, if they advance, will play for the title on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN. The Pioneers have not won the NCAA Championship since their back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.
There’s no better way to help your team’s hunt for the postseason than earning points in as many games as possible. Forward Ronnie Hein (’13-’14) has been consistently producing points for his Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States Hockey League (USHL), and that continued last weekend. In back-to-back games separated by two non game days, the Chelsea, Mich. native earned an assist with both games resulting in wins: a 5-0 shutout of Des Moines on Tuesday and a 5-4 edging of Lincoln on Friday. Both helped start the scoring, and in turn the Black Hawks climbed to a share of second place in the Western Conference with two games remaining. While they wait to see the result of the game in-hand for the Sioux Falls Stampede, they have virtually locked themselves into postseason play. Hein owns 14 goals and 34 assists for 48 points through 56 of the team’s 58 games.
Speaking of helping playoff hopes, the Tri-City Storm are the only team to have clinched a spot in the Western Conference and own home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference bracket. Among others, they can thank forward Nico Sturm (’13-’14) for his contribution over the weekend to clinch their positioning, earning points in all three games in their homestand. Though they didn’t win all three, the Austrian assisted in their 6-2 win over Sioux City on Tuesday, scored the team’s second goal during their 4-3 overtime loss to Fargo on Friday, and assisted again on the final goal of a 4-1 win over Fargo the next night. The Storm also has two games remaining, and Sturm owns 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points through 55 games.
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.