No. 1 Star - Curtis Lazar, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
It was a night of blowouts all across the Western Hockey League, unfortunately, but the top offensive performer on the night was Curtis Lazar and his four-point night against the Regina Pats in a 5-2 win. The Ottawa Senators prospect scored three consecutive goals, spanning all three periods, to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Five minutes after scoring his third, he drew an assist on a goal from Edgars Kulda.
Lazar hadn't played at home in Rexall Place since December 8. He went overseas with Team Canada for the World junior championship, and returned in January to join the Oil Kings on a five-game Western trip.
"I love playing at Rexall," the 2013 17th overall pick told the Edmonton Sun. "It's an NHL rink and it's one of those nights where it was going in for me and I thought I contributed."
That quote seems unnecessarily humble. To his credit, Kulda assisted on all three of Lazar's goals, also giving him a four-point night. In net for the Kings, Tristan Jarry stopped 20 of 22 shots for his 28th win on the season.
The Prince Albert offence hasn't clicked lately—they've had some trouble running into hot goaltenders, and despite throwing 38 shots at the Czech netminder Bartosak, couldn't beat him and dropped an important two points in a 5-0 loss to Red Deer.
The Rebels came in to the night two points up on the Raiders for the final playoff spot in the WHL's Eastern Conference, but Bartosak set the tone early on, holding down the fort in the first period as the Rebels were outshot 15-8 in the first. In the second, Red Deer got goals from Rhyse Dieno, Cole Chorney and Aspen Sterzer to take a commanding lead despite being heavily out-shot.
Two of Bartosak's four shutouts on the season have come in his last four games (he stopped all 34 faced against Swift Current on January 11).
No. 3 Star - Ryan Van Stralen, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
It's not often that an overage player, or a player from a losing team, shows up in the three stars, but Van Stralen scored two goals in a nearly-completed third period comeback against Kingston. The Fronts jumped out to a 5-0 lead before the 67's rallied with four goals in a 16:28 span encompassing the second and third periods to pull the score to 5-4 with a little over five minutes left. Van Stralen of Prescott, Ont., counted two of the goals, once on the power play and another at even strength, four minutes apart in the middle of the third period. Travis Konecny scored just three minutes later to pull the game to within a goal, and the 67's were in business in front of a home crowd of just 2,012.
The Fronts held on, with goaltender Matt Mahalak poke-checking 67's captain Brendan Bell with just seconds left in the game prior to an Henri Ikonen empty-net goal. The Frontenacs were paced offensively by their own captain, defenceman Michael Moffatt, who recorded a goal and two assists and was a +4 on the night.
Honourable Mention - Ken Appleby, Oshawa Generals (OHL) - The 95-born Appleby has played just 11 games this season as Daniel Altshuller's backup goaltender, but he recorded his first career shutout against Belleville Wednesday night, stopping 32 pucks. The Generals got a powerplay goal from Michael Dal Colle (what else is new?) and a rare tally from Justice Dundas for the 2-0 win despite being out-shot 32-25, and 24-15 through the first two periods.
Honourable Mention - Jesse Lees, Kelowna Rockets (WHL) - Kelowna haven't lost at home since Nov. 20 — granted, thanks to a road-heavy schedule, they've only played seven games in that span, but they gutted out a tough win against the Everett Silvertips Wednesday 6-3, with the score distorted by two empty-net goals by the Rockets. The big defenceman Lees recorded a goal and an assist in the contest, helping Kelowna jump out to a 3-0 lead before the 'Tips fought back late, and wasn't on the ice for a goal against.
Potent Notables: Overage Graham Black scored on a penalty shot with 25 seconds left to give Swift Current a 4-3 win over Brandon … Kamloops rode veteran Chase Souto's two goals and +4 rating to a 7-1 win over Lethbridge … Anthony Ast recorded an assist for Medicine Hat in his return to Vancouver, with the Tigers winning 6-1 … Beau McCue scored twice and Winnipeg Jets prospect Eric Comrie stopped 29 of 30 in Tri-City's 4-1 win over Moose Jaw.