April 15, 2012
No. 1 star: Jordan DePape, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
The Blazers have promises to keep and miles to go before they sweep the last four games of the Western Conference final, but the way they have fought off match point twice against the Portland Winterhawks is admirable. DePape, the veteran who missed nearly the entire regular season due to shoulder season shouldered the load by notching four points (2G-2A) in the Blazers' 7-2 pounding of Portland in front o a crowd of 10,135 in the Rose City.
Only one Western Hockey League team has ever surmounted a 3-0 deficit. DePape factored into both first-period Blazers goals as they took a 2-0 lead, receiving an assist on Marek Hrbas' opener after Portland's Mac Carruth played a puck rather than freeze it and then scoring the second. The Winnipegger had a secondary helper when Brendan Ranford got a dagger goal with 42 seconds left in the second period to re-open a three-goal lead and make it all but official there will be a Game 6 in the B.C. Interior on Monday.
From Jim Beseda:
The Blazers ... moved a step closer to becoming only the second team in WHL history to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
The Spokane Chiefs were the first to do it — in the first round of the 1995-96 West Division playoffs against the Winterhawks.
"It was do or die tonight," DePape said. "I think our guys were obviously all ready. We were kind of blazing out there and we were lucky enough to get the win." (The Oregonian)
Kamloops goalie Cam Lanigan stopped 34-of-36 shots as his team shut down Portland, which had Ty Rattie back in the lineup from injury. The 7-2 margin represented Portland's worst home playoff loss in 23 years.
The Montreal Canadiens prospect's one-goal, two-assist night helped shepherd Tri-City through a tough 5-3 Game 5 win over the Spokane Chiefs, who went all out to try to take a pivotal game on the road. The Americans thrice erased Chiefs leads before 18-year-old rookie rearguard Justin Hamonic got his first Western league goal with 3:16 left in the second period for the game-winner. The Brendan Shinnimin-Adam Hughesman-Holland line supplied the first two Americans goals. Holland got the first and got the secondary helper on a Shinnimin power-play marker in the second period. Later, he did the grunt work to clear the puck, setting up the Americans' empty-net clincher.
No. 3 star: Olli Määttä, London Knights (OHL)
Määttä wrapped up his superb series for London by getting first-star honours with two points in the 5-3 Game 6 win at Saginaw that sent the Knights to their first conference final since 2009. The potential NHL first-round pick, who leads all Ontario league defencemen in playoff scoring with 12 points in 10 games, scored his first playoff goal with 6:19 to play to ice the game, not long after the Spirit had nearly tied it. Määttä also got an assist on a big second-period goal when he fired a suitable-for-tipping shot that Nashville Predators prospect Austin Watson redirected in, putting up the Knights up two and making the Spirit swim upstream for the rest of the night.
Honourable mention: Tom Wilson, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
With Ottawa Senators first-rounder Stefan Noesen sidelined, the Whalers' future NHL first-rounder is picking up the pace. Wilson got two third-period goals, giving him six in 11 playoff games, to help Plymouth pull away for a 3-0 win over the Kitchener Rangers and a 3-2 series lead. The power winger and linemates Rickard Rakell and Matt Mistele — a depth player who's truly shored up the Whalers lineup in this series — took advantage of a Rangers turnover to get a backbreaker goal with 8:32 to play. Wilson then added the empty-netter.
Whalers goalie Scott Wedgewood was named the game's first star after recording a 32-save shutout. Anaheim Ducks goaltending prospect John Gibson stopped 45-of-47 shots for the Rangers, raising his playoff save percentage to a ridiculous .950.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.