Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Justin Hickman, Seattle Thunderbirds maintain mastery of Spokane: Wednesday’s 3 StarsNo. 1 star: Justin Hickman, Seattle Thunderbirds

Hickman had an actual hat trick and missed the Gordie Howe hat trick by an assist while helping the Thunderbirds top the Spokane Chiefs 4-0 in a game with some semi-halfway significant playoff race implications.

The 19-year-old captain had never had a hat trick in the Dub. After cooling his heels for five minutes following a first-period fight with Cole Wedman, Hickman opened the scoring with 4:10 left in the first.

A redirect goal by Hickman stretched the lead to 3-0 in the second, then the Kelowna, B.C., native scored off a Mathew Barzal setup 2:39 into the third to cap off the scoring. Hickman also hit the cross bar in the first period; an inch lower and he might have had a four-goal night.

The win brings Seattle within three points of third-place Victoria and four clear of Spokane in the Western Conference. Seattle is also 6-0 vs. the state rival Chiefs.

No. 2 star: Marvin Cüpper, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

Anything can and usually does happen in the Q, like the worst team in the league beating the best team in the league. Cüpper, who has played valiantly for many an outgunned team over the past two years with the Cataractes and with Germany during the world junior, stopped 42-of-43 shots to break the Baie-Comeau Drakkar's 10-game win streak with a 2-1 victory. The win moved the Cataractes out of the QMJHL cellar and into a tie for the last playoff spot. Just like that.

Cüpper made 17 of his saves in the middle period, when the Cataractes were badly outplayed but broke out to the lead on a tally by Giovanni Fiore. From that point, Cüpper made the 1-0 lead look like 3-0, making 15 more stops in the final frame. Félix-Antoine Bergeron, one of the few holdovers from two seasons ago when Baie-Comeau coach Éric Veilleux took Shawinigan to a Memorial Cup, scored the clincher with 1:52 left. Baie-Comeau only had time to pull one goal back; its frustration evidently boiled over, judging by how often star forward Charles Hudon appeared on the game sheet. Hudon got a game misconduct for deliberately removing a helmet, which is an automatic one-game suspension in the QMJHL.

No. 3 star: Pavel Padakin, Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

Come from four goals down to beat the Victoria Royals, who had came into Wednesday having allowed a WHL-low 125 goals? Sure, why not? Padakin (2G-1A, +3), best known as the Teddy Bear Tallier, scored 86 seconds into OT to give Calgary a 7-6 win in a contest that it trailed 5-1 after 31 minutes of play.

Padakin, who scored the first Hitmen goal, assisted on Chase Lang's goal with 1:41 that drew Calgary to within a pair after two periods. Victoria's Steven Hodges got the first goal of the final frame, but the Royals got sloppy defensively and Calgary was opportunistic as Brady Brassart (1G-2A, +1) factored into three goals in a 7½-minute span. That set the stage for Padakin to do the honours in overtime.

Honourable mention: Émile Poirier, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)

Speaking of four-goal nights, Poirier (4G, +4) did just that as the 'Piques dropped the Sherbrooke Phoenix like a sack of ashes, rolling 7-2. The Calgary Flames first-rounder now has 36 on the season after getting the mortarboard trick. Poirier certainly set a tone for the night, since he scored the first goal in each stanza — 23 seconds into the first, 5:11 into the second and a short-handed snipe 1:46 into the third.

Potent notables — Owen Sound linemates Holden Cook (1G-3A, +3), Kyle Hope (2G-1A, +3) and Kurtis Gabriel (2A, +2) helped the Attack beat Barrie 5-1 in the lone OHL game. The Attack, who scored five goals in a game for the first time since Dec. 28, lost Detroit Red Wings second-rounder Zach Nastasiuk to an undisclosed injury ... Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Jean-Sébastien Dea scored his 100th career QMJHL goal.

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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