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Barrie Colts’ Mathias Niederberger stops 42 on a night of great goaltending: Friday’s 3 Stars

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Niederberger was critical to Barrie wresting home-ice advantage from London with its Game 1 win (OHL Images)

No. 1 star: Mathias Niederberger, Barrie Colts (OHL)

To watch him is to be converted into a Niederbeliever. Barrie's overage goalie made 42 saves to help the Colts, whom very few have picked to knock off the colossus that is the London Knights, swipe home-ice advantage with a 4-2 Game 1 victory at Budweiser Gardens.

The Edmonton Oil Kings' Laurent Brossoit (35 saves in a 4-1 win at Portland) and Halifax Mooseheads' Zach Fucale (28-save shutout in the opener of the QMJHL final) also had low-goal games. Niederberger earns the nod since among the three goalies' teams, his is the one thought to have the least chance of reaching the MasterCard Memorial Cup. On Friday, the symbiosis between Niederberger and his defence corps gave Barrie the edge, as they forced the Knights to repeatedly settle for shots from the perimeter.

When the Knights earned premium chances, Niederberger stepped up. The 20-year-old Düsseldorf native, who is seeking a pro shot somewhere/anywhere in North America next season, denied Miles Liberati on a clean break late in the second period to keep Barrie ahead 2-1 through 40 minutes. The teams traded power-play goals in the first 10 minutes of the third and London levelling at 3-3 seemed inevitable. However, Niederberger showed some swagger with a flashy glove save on Boston Bruins prospect Seth Griffith, then made another easier-than-it-looked glove stop moments later on London captain Scott Harrington. The Knights barely threatened over the duration and Mark Scheifele eventually put it away with an empty-netter.

No. 2 star: Stephane Legault, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

Legault (3A, +3) did all the setup work as the Oil Kings showed why they are the Dub's defending champions by shutting down the Portland Winterhawks with a 4-1 Game 1 win. The line of speedy Curtis Lazar (1G, +2), burly Henrik Samuelsson (2G, +3) and the astute Legault stole the show, outshining Portland's big guns.

Edmonton needed Brossoit to keep Portland at bay for the opening 20 minutes but gradually muted the crowd of 10,097. In the second, the Legault cannily cut off Portland captain Troy Rutkowski's clearing attempt and zipped the puck to Samuelsson, who buried a shot for a 2-0 lead.

Portland pulled a goal back in the third period, but Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal came back with the Samuelsson-Legault-Lazar line. It took all of 47 seconds for the trio to restore the two-goal spread, with Samuelsson scoring on a spinning shot from the high slot. Legault got the only assist on that goal, then picked up his third apple when Lazar added an insurance goal with 9:57 remaining.

No. 3 star: Zach Fucale, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

A national Sportsnet One audience saw why Fucale will be the first goalie taken in next month's NHL draft. The sophomore netminder made 28 saves for his third shutout of the playoffs to back Halifax to a 4-0 Game 1 over the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. (His effort earned him the Mooseheads' manfur.) Fucale probably wasn't under as much pressure as Brossoit and Niederberger, but still looked awfully difficult to beat.

The game was marked by a kind of a slow-building dominance for Halifax. They didn't score until San Jose Sharks prospect Konrad Abeltshauser banged in a power-play goal with 3:40 left in the second period. That seemed to relieve the tension among a Halifax Metro Centre crowd of 10,595. Captain Trey Lewis' first goal of the post-season 5:52 into the third put the game away.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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