Wed Apr 11 12:32am EDT
The Niagara IceDogs reach for the handle to the broom closet door, the third period was where the Plymouth Whalers roared and the Barrie Colts soared even though several players are ever so sore. On with the post-game questions.
Plymouth 4 Kitchener 3 (Whalers lead Eastern Conference semi 2-1) — How will Rangers goalie John Gibson recover from the soft goal that aided and abetted Plymouth's third-period comeback? Plymouth's comeback from a two-goal deficit began when Tom Wilson broke the goose egg 70 seconds into the final period on what Josh Brown called "a dribbler from the point that went five-hole."
Some practitioners of dollar-store sports psychology would pinpoint that as a moment where the Rangers gave up the ghost. But it took 12-plus minutes before Plymouth broke through to tie the game on a goal by the game's first star, defenceman Austin Levi. That would suggest Kitchener somewhat rolled with the punch and just wore down against Plymouth's death. Speaking of which ...
So the Whalers are 2-for-2 with No. 1 pivot Stefan Noesen out of the lineup? Whalers coach-GM Mike Vellucci's temporary Rickard Rakell-J.T. Miller-Wilson first line, which might well consist of three first-round NHL picks depending on how high Wilson is selected in June, scored the first three Whalers goals. Make no mistake, though, they were reaping the reward from Plymouth keeping perpetual pressure on Gibson and the Rangers defenders. The Whalers had 40-plus shots for the third consecutive game, firing 41 on the Anaheim Ducks second-round pick.
Kitchener, meantime, was as reliant as ever on their 1-2 punch of Michael Catenacci (natural hat trick for a playoff-best 19 points) and Tobias Rieder (three assists to give him 17 points, second behind his linemate). Centre Radek Faksa returned but it is likely not at 100 per cent match fitness.
Niagara 6 Brampton 3 (IceDogs lead Eastern Conference semi 3-0) — Is Brampton's perhaps best player, right wing Philip Lane, going to be suspended for Game 4? Lane got a head-checking major and game misconduct in the second period after a collision with IceDogs forward Alex Friesen, who was able to return to the game. Lane, listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, is five inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than Friesen, but size differences usually aren't accepted as an alibi. At the very least, the play will be reviewed. A suspension would leave Brampton without a power winger who has four goals in seven post-season contests. The IceDogs scored the go-ahead-for-good goal on the ensuing 5-on-3 power play.
From Jim Wallace:
As Friesen was skating back into his own end during a Brampton penalty, Lane delivered an elbow to the Niagara-on-the-Lake native that left him prone on the ice for a couple of minutes. He went off under his own power and took a regular shift after a short stint with athletic therapist Peter Dobbin.
"The league has to look at that hit — it's targeting the head, it's everything the league doesn't want in it," [IceDogs coach-GM] Williamson said. "It's a careless play by them."
"We've been penalized all year (suspensions to Dougie Hamilton and Tom Kühnhackl) and we've seen other guys penalized. The fortunate thing there doesn't seem to be any lingering effects. I hope they don't relate it to injury .… It's an elbow right to his melon and it was careless." (St. Catharines Standard)
Is Niagara hitting their stride or have the Battalion just reached their limit? Under Column A, one could point out to the IceDogs getting breakout nights from San Jose Sharks signed draft pick Freddie Hamilton (hat trick) and linemate Tom Kühnhackl (two goals, including the one that cut into an early 2-0 Brampton lead). The Ryan Strome-Kühnhackl-Hamilton trio was in full flight with 11 points.
At the same time, Brampton's vaunted blueline has hit some rough spots. Veteran blueliner Cameron Wind is minus-6 in the series. Draft-eligible defender Dylan Blujus, who was so strong in Round 1 vs. Sudbury, had a minus-3 night, including a turnover for a Friesen short-handed goal that evened the game early in the second period. There could be a bit of a Peter Principle at play for the Battalion, who should come out with a honest effort in Game 4 on Thursday.
Barrie 5 Ottawa 2 (Colts lead Eastern Conference semi 2-1) — How will Ottawa's top guns respond to the not-so-subtle message they got in the endgame? The 67's contrived to lose in regulation for the first time in the post-season to a barely two-line Barrie team. The Colts' Mathias Niederberger (27 saves) had life a little too good for much of the night while Ottawa scoring leaders Sean Monahan, Shane Prince and Tyler Toffoli combined for one point and a minus-5 on the night.
Down three late in the game, Ottawa coach-GM Chris Byrne sent out the shock troops for a late power play rather than put out his stars. The implied message might have been that they hadn't earned the chance to improve their stats. Ottawa's best will need to be sharper in Game 4. That would include star goalie Petr Mrazek (five goals on 37 shots, including one that went off his trapper).
What is this secondary scoring you speak of, Barrie? The Colts got one regular back with Gregg Sutch returning and also got goals from forwards not named Mark Scheifele or playing on a line with Mark Scheifele. (The line also works with Ivan Telegin.) Overage forward Daniel Erlich scored Barrie's first two goals.
Who knows how long Barrie can hold out with five regulars ailing. The Colts were more than the sum of their parts on Tuesday.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.