March 29, 2012
No. 1 star: Lucas Lessio, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Here is a suggestion for Niagara IceDogs fan: try the kill-him-with-kindness tack with Lucas Lessio. The way the dangerous left wing has helped the Generalstie the series vs. the heavily favoured IceDogs at 2-2 suggests that booing Lessio each time he touches the puck is bouncing off him like raisins off an Oldsmobile. (Brownie points in heaven if you get that reference.)
The Phoenix Coyotes prospect played perhaps his best game as a Gen, scoring two goals and one assist and getting the goal that put the 'Shwa ahead to stay the second game in a row, leading them to a 5-3 win. During an intermission interview on Rogers Television, Lessio averred that the Generals are better on paper than the the team who finished 28 points ahead of them while playing in a tougher division. Just 3:15 into the frame, he backed up his talk by taking a feed from captain Boone Jenner (1G-2A) and going into to beat Mark Visentin for the tiebreaking tally.
Jenner scored the eventual game-winner less than four minutes later and Los Angeles Kings prospect Andy Andreoff iced the win with a late goal. Rookie goalie Daniel Altshuller was busy and brilliant again; he's stopped 90-of-97 shots across the two Oshawa victories.
Lessio is Public Enemy No. 1 to Niagara fans because he declined to report to the team after it drafted him in 2009. During the Generals' season-ending loss to the IceDogs last season, he snapped late in the game and made an obscene gesture at the crowd, resulting in a suspension. Now that he's a year older and wiser, it looks like he's figuring out how to channel it. Lessio was locked in from the moment the national anthem finished tonight. His first goal came in the first minute of the game.
No. 2 star: Jonathan Lessard, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
The overage forward, who missed nearly a quarter of the season with a 15-game suspension for kneeing, has totally redeemed himself. Lessard capped off what has to be one of most stunning sweeps in recent Quebec league history, getting the tying and winning goals in the Drakkar's 5-4 Game 4 win over the Victoriaville Tigres.
The Drakkar were presumably set back after learning before the game that power winger Raphaël Bussières had been suspended for a late hit on Tuesday. Victoriaville had a chance to get out of dodge when league scoring champ Yanni Gourdi scored his first (and last) goal of the series with 4:19 to play for a 4-3 lead. Just 24 seconds later — and the fact the Drakkar could respond so rapidly might speak volumes about Victoriaville's lack of killer instinct — Lessard levelled off a setup from fellow overage forward David Rose. Then it was on to OT, where Lessard scored on the power play to send the Tigres packing.
No. 3 star: Kyle Hope, Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
When all else fails, believe in Hope. Deciding which overtime goal scorer to recognize as the third star was a toss-up, but Hope gets the nod since he extended the Attack's season for at least another 48 hours while playing out of position.
With just nine able-bodied and eligible forwards, Attack coach Greg Ireland moved Hope up from his defence spot. It ended up looking like a genius move when the 18-year-old scored his second goal of the night 5:49 into overtime to give Owen Sound the 6-5 Game 4 win over Kitchener. On the winner, Hope used his quick feet to win a puck battle with an overage defenceman, Cody Sol, carried in on goal and deked goalie Franky Palazzese.
Honourable mention: Braden Point, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
The youngest man on the ice — two weeks removed from his sweet 16 — made the biggest play for Moose Jaw. Point, playing just his ninth game for the Warriors since coming aboard when his AAA midget season wrapped up, scored 6:14 into the second overtime for a 4-3 win over rival Regina and a stranglehold 3-1 series lead. The Calgary native was also responsible for the game going to overtime, since he assisted on Eric Arnold's late third-period equalizer with 4:09 to play in regulation. Point has hardly looked out of place with the Warriors since joining their lineup. That's no mean feat considering it's such a veteran team. Pats goalie Matt Hewitt made 47 saves in a losing cause.
Honourable mention: Cameron Wind, Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Wind (1G-1A, +2 plus/minus) was indispenable throughout Brampton's sweep of the Sudbury Wolves so it was only fitting that he scored the series winner in the Battalion's 4-3 double-overtime win. The shutdown defenceman was a pillar of strength on the back end throughout the series for the Battalion, who probably were not expected to be the first team to advance to Round 2.
The 20-year-old Barrie native had a large part in helping Brampton contain league scoring champion Michael Sgarbossa, who had three points in four games. (To put it in perspective, that still tied for the Wolves' team lead.) With 5:13 left in the second OT, Wind fired a seeing-eye slapshot by Sudbury goalie Joel Vienneau, ending a marathon game.
Honourable mention: Christopher Clapperton, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
Yep, another OT goal scorer who deserves some attention. The rookie Clapperton, who's been a go-to scorer for the Armada despite his slightness of frame (5-foot-9 and 166 pounds), scored the series-winner 6:51 into sudden-victory time for a 4-3 Game 4 win over the Gatineau Olympiques. It was his third goal of the series; Clapperton also had a power-play tally in regulation time.
Potent notables — Ottawa Senators prospect Darren Kramer and Spokane Chiefs teammate Mitch Holmberg each had two points in their team's series-tying 3-2 overtime win over the Vancouver Giants. The home team has won all four games ... Winnipeg Jets pick Zachary Yuen did the honours in Tri-City's series clincher, a 4-3 OT triumph over Everett ... Anaheim Ducks first-rounder Emerson Etem finished with 12 points in Medicine Hat's four-game sweep of Saskatoon ... Dylan Willick's two goals helped Kamloops complete a sweep of Victoria for its first playoff series win since 1999 ... Draft-year centre Henrik Samuelsson scored in his first WHL playoff game and rookie Curtis Lazar (1G-2A) also led the Edmonton Oil Kings to a 6-3 win at Kootenay and 3-0 series lead ... In the OHL, Josh Shalla (two goals, including the OT winner) and Brandon Saad (1G-2A) led Saginaw to a series-tying 4-3 Game 4 win over Sarnia, which got 44 saves from San Jose Sharks netminding prospect JP Anderson ... Kitchener Rangers captain Michael Catenacci, with four assists, has an league-best 12 points in the playoffs ... In the QMJHL, Minnesota Wild prospect Charlie Coyle finished with nine goals in Saint John's four-game sweep of Cape Breton, which managed only eight goals in the series. Coyle's teammate, Washington Capitals prospect Stanislav Galiev, finished with 12 points in the series to become Saint John's career leader in playoff scoring. Buffalo Sabres prospect Jérôme Gauthier-Leduc got the series-winning goal with 27 seconds to play in Rimouski's 4-3 Game 4 win over Val-d'Or ... Rouyn-Noranda Huskies goalie Antonio Mastropietro made 47 saves in his final game, a 6-2 loss to Shawinigan.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.