Player of the year favourite Vincent Trocheck had five points for Plymouth, while underdogs Guelph and Saginaw had to mercy-pull their star goalies. On with the post-game questions:
Kitchener 5 Guelph 2 (Rangers lead 1-0) — Four power-play goals from the league's 15th-ranked PP, what was that? The makeup of the Rangers' first power play was compromised at various points by injuries (Matt Puempel and Radek Faksa), the world junior (Faksa, Ryan Murphy and Tobias Rieder) and NHL call-ups (Murphy). Every good junior team goes through that to some extent so it does not excuse all. For one night at least, they got the drop on Guelph, which had a respectable PK in the regular season, by going 4-for-10 with the extra skater(s).
“I think during the last stretch through the season we were finally figuring it out," Murphy (two goals) told the Waterloo Record's Josh Brown.
Is it fair to say the Storm unravelled in their first exposure to playoff pressure? A 10-4 disparity in power plays — that's never happened to a visiting team at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, ha — got to Guelph. The Storm had a short-lived lead in the third period, but blunted any momentum with a string of penalties, including one on the shift after the 2-2 goal by Murphy and another by their No. 1 defenceman, Andrei Pedan, which led to go-ahead-to-stay goal. Guelph compounded that by taking three misconducts in the third period.
The upshot for Guelph is the game got away from it so quickly that the disappointment cannot possibly linger until Sunday night. Recently signed Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending prospect Garret Sparks was hooked after allowing five goals on 29 shots, but he might not seen four of the shots.
London 5 Saginaw 2 (Knights lead 1-0) — How do the Spirit regroup for Game 2 on Sunday? The Spirit, who also had to rest their star goalie Jake Paterson rather than expose him to further grilling in the third period, don't have the depth or quickness of London. The Knights also, predictably, threw a blanket over Saginaw scoring leaders Eric Locke and Garret Ross, who combined for one paltry point. But Saginaw, which stretched London to six games in the second round in 2012, has at least had a game to see how it might (stress, might) be able to move the puck against the Knights' pressure. Figuring out how not to shoot right into the shot blockers could also help.
Does London winning buy time for star defenceman Scott Harrington to heal? Gamesmanship proscribes London broadcasting when Harrington will return from the upper-body injury he suffered on Feb. 24. But London has the luxury of being able to hold the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect out as long as possible.
London Knights captain Scott Harrington will “probably not” play in Sunday’s Game 2, says assistant coach Dylan Hunter.
— John Matisz (@Metro_JMatisz) March 23, 2013
Plymouth 11 Sarnia 2 (Whalers lead 1-0) — Is this an example of where the 2-2-1-1-1 format could really hurt? Under the old alternating home-and-away format, the beleaguered Sting could at least hightail it home and regroup for Game 2. The rub is the Whalers have won 10 of their last 11 away games, so getting back home might not help Sarnia.
This game got out of hand quickly, with Plymouth showing it's an AHL-calibre team by scoring five goals in the opening 20 minutes.
Oshawa 5 Niagara 2 (Generals lead 1-0) — How quickly could this be over if Scott Laughton repeats that performance? The centre who played five games for the Philadelphia Flyers in January seemed to be in a higher gear than almost everyone else. Friday, he scored twice, including a bar-down blast off the rush in the second period that stood up as the eventual winning goal. His most impressive play might have been a non-scoring one; after making a between-the-leg moves to create a shot on goal, Laughton ended being the first General back to break up an IceDogs rush.
What chance do the IceDogs have if their two best players cannot stay out of the penalty box? The Generals, who like to play chippy and chirpy, got to 94-point man Ryan Strome, who took four minor penalties on the night. The IceDogs' second-best player, Dallas Stars prospect Brett Ritchie, also fought Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Tyler Biggs with 6:45 left and his team down 4-2. Niagara nearly scored a minute later, so obviously, the outcome was still in doubt.
Day 3 docket — Sarnia-Plymouth, Game 2, 7 p.m.; Mississauga-Belleville, Game 2, 7:05 p.m.; Kingston-Barrie, Game 2, 7:30 p.m.; Sault Ste. Marie-Owen Sound, Game 2, 7:30 p.m.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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