Kassian scores as Windsor gets early jump

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, April 30, 2010 | 4/30/2010

Zack Kassian scored his seventh goal of the playoff season Thursday as Windsor edged Barrie 5-4 to take a 2-0 series lead in the OHL Championship. Again placed on the Spits top unit with 2010 stud Taylor Hall and Devils prospect Adam Henrique, the big wing got underneath the Colts top pairing of Nick Crawford and Alex Pietrangelo and buried a breakaway backhander to put the Spits ahead 3-1 midway through the second period. Kassian now has 16 points and a +8 rating through 17 postseason contests. Crawford finished a team-low -3 in the loss, the Colts third of the playoffs.

In Tuesday’s game one, Crawford gathered an assist as Barrie let a one-goal lead slip away to lose in overtime, 4-3. The Spits forced the OT with 3:16 to play to set-up Hall’s clutch winner at 2:35 of the extra session. The helper was Crawford’s 11th postseason point for the Colts, while Kassian finished even for the Spits despite looking dogged by bumps and bruises from the seven-gamer with Kitchener.

The Colts and Spits will square off in game three Sunday at 2:00 at the WFCU Center in Windsor.
4/30/2010 | 1 comments | Read More

Crawford named Kaminsky runner-up

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, April 25, 2010 | 4/25/2010

Nick Crawford of the Barrie Colts has finished second in voting for the Max Kaminsky Trophy, awarded annually to the OHL's top defenseman. The league's leading defensive scorer, Crawford was edged out by Soo Greyhounds overager Jacob Muzzin by a 73-45 margin for the honor. Past winners of the Kaminsky hardware include Drew Doughty, Andrej Sekera, Brian Campbell, and everyone's favorite Flyer, Chris Pronger.

Crawford, 20, scored 11 goals and 70 points in 68 regular season games split between Saginaw and Barrie. His point total was the most for a Sabres CHL defenseman since Marc-Andre Gragnani's 71 back in 2005-06 with the QMJHL's PEI Rocket. While his patience and poise have made him an excellent power play weapon for the past two seasons, the 6'1 lefty also paced the OHL with an impressive +51 rating en route to helping the Colts to a dominating 57-9-0-2 record and #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Crawford has continued his steady play into the postseason, registering 10 assists and a +6 rating through the first three rounds as the stay-back man on the Colts' #1 pair with Blues prospect Alex Pietrangelo. Barrie is currently awaiting the winner of Sunday's Western Conference game seven between the Kitchener Rangers and Zack Kassian's Windsor Spitfires for the rights to rep the OHL in the 2010 Memorial Cup.

The Sabres blueline cupboard is somewhat crowded, but it is a lock that Crawford is signed to an entry-level deal at the end of his season. Adding strength to his smart, shutdown style will make the 2008 sixth-round pick a prime candidate for quality AHL minutes in 2010-ll. From there, it'll be on Crawford to show he can handle the pro speed while doing all the other things that have made him a successful junior player over the past three seasons.

Not bad for a guy who wasn't even ranked by NHL's Central Scouting Bureau heading into the 2008 draft.
4/25/2010 | 1 comments | Read More

4/23 Recap: Kassian's Spits order game seven

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, April 24, 2010 | 4/24/2010

Zack Kassian finished +1 with a fighting major Friday as Windsor claimed a 6-4 victory over Kitchener to even the OHL Western Conference Championship at three games apiece. Kassian saw his eight-game point streak end in the win, but will gladly look to begin another when the series is settled in Sunday's game seven showdown.

Kassian, 19, failed to produce a point for just the third time this post-season while skating on the Spitfires top line with 2010 stud Taylor Hall and New Jersey prospect Adam Henrique for the third straight game. Falling behind 2-0 early, the trio mixed excellent passing plays with pressure on successive shifts to help Windsor tie the game 2-2 midway through the first period, and ultimately gain control of game six.

The Spits would keep pouring it on en route to taking a 6-2 lead before Rangers captain Dan Kelly looked to spark his team by dropping the mitts with the 6'3, 215 pound Kassian at 12:39 of the second period. The in-tight tussle featured few connections, a good thing considering Kassian is still dinged with an upper body injury (suspected to be an elbow) suffered in Thursday's win. The scrap was the banger's second of the playoffs.

The Rangers and Spitfires will now head back down the 401 for the deciding game seven Sunday at 2:00. The winner will play the resting Barrie Colts, featuring Max Kaminsky Trophy runner-up Nick Crawford, for the right to represent the OHL at the 2010 Memorial Cup.
4/24/2010 | 3 comments | Read More

Kassian continues streak; Crawford's Colts advance

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, April 23, 2010 | 4/23/2010

Zack Kassian finished +2 with an assist Thursday as Windsor shut out Kitchener 3-0 to win game five of the OHL's Western Conference Championship. The Spitfires, who trail the series 3-2, have now won two straight must-win games after disappointments in the first three.

Still babyfaced after his post-game three shave, Kassian received top line minutes alongside Adam Henrqiue and Taylor Hall for the second consecutive game as Spits coach Bob Boughner attempted to rejuvenate his troops. Midway through a quiet first period, Kassian was whistled for embellishing a cross-check with a dive. Near the close of the opening twenty, Rangers captain Dan Kelly put a solid check on Kassian that left the big wing favoring his shoulder on his way off the ice.

Returning to the bench for period two, Kassian earned an assist on the second Spits tally as he went to the net while Hall went wide to create a Henrique goal. Later, the 6'3 forward nullified a Spits power play was called for goaltender interference while claiming a spot in front of the Rangers net.

Kassian, who now has six goals and 15 points in 13 postseason contests, will ride an eight-game point streak into Friday night's game six.

On Wednesday, Nick Crawford earned an assist as Barrie won the Eastern Conference Championship with a 4-2 victory of Mississauga. Holding a 3-2 lead into the third, Crawford helped create Luke Pither's marker 4:26 into the third to put the Colts into the OHL Championship series against the winner of Windsor/Kitchener. Crawford, the OHL's leading defensive point-getter in the regular season, now has 10 assists through 13 playoff games.
4/23/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

Kassian dumps beard, scores pair as Windsor stays alive

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | 4/21/2010

Zack Kassian scored a pair of power play goals Tuesday to help Windsor stave off elimination with a 7-5 win over Kitchener. The win gets the Spits on the board in the Western Conference Championship, as the defending Memorial Cup champs now trail the Rangers 3-1 in the best-of-seven.

Kassian, who shaved his beard Sunday after Windsor's third straight loss, was promoted to the Spits top line with Adam Henrique (two goals) and Taylor Hall (game winning goal) for game four. After scoring off a defender's leg in the first, Kassian later tipped in a Ryan Ellis shot to give the Spits a 4-1 lead at the end of two periods before a wild third that featured seven goals between the two clubs. Through 12 playoff games, the physical presence has six goals and eight assists. The Spits will look to carry their 'stay alive' momentum into Thursday's game five.

On Monday, Nick Crawford posted an assist as Barrie gained control of the Eastern Conference Championship series with a 3-1 win over Mississauga. The power play helper gives the steady rearguard nine points, all assists, and a +6 rating through 12 playoff contests. The Colts will look to close out the Majors when game five goes on Wednesday.
4/21/2010 | 8 comments | Read More

4/18 Recap: Kassian finds net as Spits hit the ropes

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, April 19, 2010 | 4/19/2010

Zack Kassian scored the first Windsor goal Sunday, but the favored Spitfires were again out-gunned by Kitchener in a 5-3 loss. The defeat puts the defending Memorial Cup champs in a 3-0 series hole in the OHL Western Conference Championship.

The 6'3 Kassian scored his fourth goal of the playoffs when he banged home a rebound at 5:35 of the second period to tie the game, 1-1. The Spits and Rangers would trade goals to take a 3-3 game late into the third period before a long shot from beyond the Windsor blueline one-bounced past Troy Passingham to give Kitchener a 4-3 lead with 1:33 to go. An empty netter would seal the deal for the Rangers, setting up an opportunity for a sweep when game four drops on Tuesday.
4/19/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

4/17 Recap: Kassian in mix as Spits dig hole

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, April 18, 2010 | 4/18/2010

In game two of the OHL Western Conference Final, Zack Kassian earned an assist as slumping Windsor suffered their second straight loss to Kitchener, 5-2. Jeff Skinner ('10) scored a pair of goals and added an assist for the Rangers, who will take a 2-0 series lead back to Windsor for Sunday's game three.

Kassian, who now has a goal and four assists over his current five-game point streak, played a factor in three of the game's first four goals. The big forward found himself in the penalty box after an offensive zone cross-check as the Rangers opened scoring with a power play goal at 12:22 of the first period. On his first shift of the second period, Kassian couldn't contain his check to allow the Rangers a 2-0 lead. Later in the period, the bullish wing helped produce a goal after being moved to a line with Taylor Hall and Adam Henrique by winning a corner battle and making a nice move on the way towards the net. Henrique finished off the play for his seventh goal of the playoffs to make it 3-1 Rangers.

With Kitchener goalie Brandon Maxwell proving to be a difference maker, the key to the Spits will be Kassian getting in front of the crease and impeding the keeper's sight lines. Also worth noting is the sometimes individualistic play of the talented Windsor forwards. Their defense is showing holes, so a complete team concept in all three zones is what this hockey watcher is prescribing for the defending Memorial Cup champs to make it a series.

In Barrie, Nick Crawford was even as the Colts downed Mississauga 3-1 to take a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Championship. Barrie carried the pace throughout, out-shooting the Majors 58-35 en route to the home-ice victory. The Colts barn was rocking, and the players definitely fed off the enthusiasm after dropping their first game of the playoffs the night before. The series will now shift back to Mississauga for game four on Monday.
4/18/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

4/14-16 Recap: Kassian, Crawford facing early tests

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, April 17, 2010 | 4/17/2010

The conference final round of the OHL playoffs got underway this week, and it didn't take long for Zack Kassian's Windsor Spitfires and Nick Crawford's Barrie Colts to receive wake-up calls after each swept their way to 8-0 records after two rounds.

On Thursday, Kassian (-1) scored his third goal of the playoff year as the Spits lost game one of the Western Conference final to Kitchener, 7-6 in overtime. The 6'3 wing, who continued to see the bulk of his work on a third line with Eric Wellwood and Greg Nemisz, finished off a Taylor Hall two-on-one feed at 17:33 of the second period to knot the game at five. Kassian now has 10 points in nine post-season games.

Early on with the Spits down 1-0, the aggressive Kassian staked his spot in front of the Rangers net when he bumped into Brandon Maxwell to earn a goaltender interference call. The Kassian line will be counted on to grind the Rangers down with their cycling, puck control style as the series wears on, and it's safe to say that the hard-to-move Sabres prospect will stay familiar with Maxwell's space.

Windsor will look to avenge their first defeat of the post-season when game two fires up Saturday at 7:00 in Kitchener.

In Friday Eastern Conference final action, Crawford was -1 as Barrie was dumped by Mississauga 5-2 to even the series at one game apiece. On Wednesday, the shutdown-minded Crawford finished even as the Colts opened the series with a 3-0 shutout on home ice.

Barrie's explosive offense is being put to the test by the defensive minded Majors, and it should be expected that Crawford's even-strength patience and left-point execution on the power play will be key factors as the Colts look to rebound in Saturday's game three. Paired with St. Louis prospect Alex Pietrangelo, the 6'2 lefty has eight assists and +6 rating through 10 playoff contests.

The two series are of particular interest to fans of the Sabres as well as hockey pundits abroad. A Colts/Spitfires match-up for the J. Ross Robertson Cup will guarantee a Sabres prospect in the Memorial Cup tournament for the 10th straight season, while setting up the first Barrie/Windsor re-match since Kassian's controversial hit on Matt Kennedy that saw the banger receive a 20-game suspension.
4/17/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

4/8 Recap: Knapp knocked out; OHL duo moves on

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, April 9, 2010 | 4/09/2010

Connor Knapp earned the start for Miami Thursday, stopping six of nine shots in limited duty as the RedHawks saw their season close with a 7-1 loss to Boston College at the NCAA Frozen Four in Detroit. Knapp, who was seeing his first "front end" action of the season after serving the entire year as "Mr. Saturday Night", surrendered three goals on nine shots before getting the hook with 16:52 to play in the second period. After scoring on the power play near the end of the first period, the speedy Eagles came out of the gates in the second with another power play goal at 2:06 before forcing Knapp out with an even strength tally a minute later. The 6'5 sophomore finishes the season 10-4-4 with a 1.97 goals against average and .921 save percentage.

On Wednesday, Zack Kassian assisted on a Greg Nemisz goal with :38 to play then helped set up the eventual game winner as Windsor forced OT and eeked out a 3-2 victory over Plymouth to sweep their OHL Western Conference semifinal with four straight wins. Kassian, still showing signs of freshness after sitting for 20 regular season games, was a definite factor in the Spits dominance with his physical presence and ability to get pucks to the net. The 6'3 banger piled up four assists in the series to up his line to 2+6=8 in eight postseason games while displaying the hard nosed traits that made him a first round draft pick . The Spits will look to maintain their intensity when they battle the winner of the Kitchener/London series in the conference finals beginning next week.

Also on Wednesday, Nick Crawford continued his steady play with an assist and a +2 rating as Barrie closed out their Eastern Conference semifinal with a 5-2 win over Brampton. The left-side rearguard has racked up eight assists in as many post-season games leading up to the Colts match-up with either Ottawa or Mississauga-St. Mikes in the conference final.
4/09/2010 | 2 comments | Read More

Sabres ink Adam

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 | 4/07/2010

Sources close to both sides of the equation are indicating that Luke Adam has been signed to a three-year entry-level contract by the Buffalo Sabres. Adam, who recently finished second in voting for QMJHL MVP after a 49-goal campaign in Cape Breton, will head to Portland to join the Pirates in preparation for the start of the AHL playoffs.

Adam, 19, comes to the Sabres after a dominating second half that saw him return from Team Canada's silver medal winning performance at the 2010 World Junior Championships to score 24 goals in the Eagles' final 23 games. The 6'2 center totaled 90 points in all to finish fifth in QMJHL scoring while his 1.61 points-per-game was tops in the league.

The St. John's, Newfoundland native can play center and left wing while contributing down low on the power play. Adam, who approaches the game with "a passion for scoring goals", lit the lamp with a respectable 17.8 shooting percentage this past season to set the table for a professional entry.
4/07/2010 | 10 comments | Read More

Lagacé joins Pirates

The Buffalo Sabres have deployed forward Jacob Lagacé to their AHL affiliate in Portland via an amateur tryout. Recently completing his third season in the QMJHL, the 20-year old is slated to jump right into a Pirates sweater for the final weekend of the regular season beginning this Friday at Manchester.

Lagacé, the Sabres fifth round pick in the 2008 draft, arrives in the "A" after a 35-goal, 73-point performance split between Chicoutimi and Cape Breton. Leading the "Q" through December with 30 goals in 35 games, Lagacé joined fellow Sabres prospects Luke Adam and Maxime Legault in Cape Breton at the January trade deadline where he scored five goals in 25 games before going 0-3-3 and -6 in the Eagles' first round loss to Moncton. The 5'11, 196-pound right wing has produced 90 goals and 114 assists in 191 games of major-junior play.

Consider this exactly what the deal states - an amateur tryout. With Adam's agent still in negotiations with the Sabres while Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis are getting NHL minutes in Buffalo, the Pirates have an obvious forward need that can be filled by a prospect looking to earn an entry-level deal.
4/07/2010 | 1 comments | Read More

4/5 Recap: Things lining up for possible showdown in the "O"

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 | 4/06/2010

Zack Kassian earned an assist Monday as Windsor took a stranglehold on their OHL Eastern Conference semifinal with a 5-0 shutout of Plymouth. The bullish forward remained at his right wing spot on a steady line with Gteg Nemisz and Eric Wellwood, pounding a few slapshots on net while pulling his two-way weight.

In the OHL's Western Conference semis, Nick Crawford finished -1 as Barrie defeated Brampton. The Colts victory gives them a commanding three-ganes-to-none lead in their best-of-seven.

In Sunday's game two, Crawford was even as the Colts edged the Troops, 3-2, in overtime. Manning the left side of Barrie's the top pair with blues prospect Alex Pietrangelo, Crawford was solid defensively while exhibiting good poise with the puck in all three zones. At one point in the middle period, he showed excellent vision and awareness by making a stretch pass from his own corner to his partner breaking towards the Battalion blueline.

Kassian's Spits and Crawford's Colts will look to complete second round sweeps on Wednesday. Both clubs have dominated their sides of the postseason bracket, setting the stage for a possible heavyweight showdown in a couple of weeks if each can lock up their conference with another series win.
4/06/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

4/3 Recap: Kassian clicking; Adams ends well

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, April 4, 2010 | 4/04/2010

In the OHL playoffs, Zack Kassian (+1) earned an assist Saturday as Windsor held off Plymouth, 5-3. The Spitfires victory gives them a 2-0 series advantage with the Eastern Conference semifinal match-up heading back to Windsor for Monday's game three.

Stationed in front of the net, Kassian drew the attention of Plymouth defenseman Leo Jenner to help Eric Wellwood tie the game 2-2 at 3:47 of the second period. He was credited with an actual assist, his seventh point of the playoff year, on a Taylor Hall goal later in the period to put the Spits ahead 3-2 going into the third. In all, the big right wing has been executing his bullish role as the creative Spits enjoy space en route to out-stacking the respectable Whalers roster.

In the USHL, Mark Adams picked up his 10th assist of the year as Chicago came up short in their season finale in a 3-2 loss to Indiana. On Friday, Adams assisted on an empty-netter while posting a season-best +3 as the Steel defeated Fargo, 6-4. With eight points in his final 16 games, the 6'3 Providence-bound blueliner completes his Hockey East ramp-up year with a line of 4-10-14, 85 PIM, and a -3 rating in 53 contests as the Steel finished 10 points out of the fourth playoff spot in the East.
4/04/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

4/1 Recap: Kassian effective as Spits take opener

Written By Kris Baker on Friday, April 2, 2010 | 4/02/2010

In Thursday OHL action, Zack Kassian (+2) did not register a point but maintained a physical presence as Windsor opened their second round series with a 5-1 tuning of Plymouth. Starting on a line with Calgary first-rounder Greg Nemisz and Flyers prospect Eric Wellwood while also seeing time on the Spits top power play unit, the 6'3 Kassian rode the momentum of an excellent first round performance into game one, providing a turnover-producing pop on Austin Levi ('10) to create the game's first goal at 11:07 of the first period.

Kassian's intimidation factor makes all of his teammates more effective, not just the four others he's skating with. He simply doesn't need to wear a letter. After taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that led to the Whalers only goal late in the middle frame, the accountable aggressor returned on the very next shift to take on 6'5, 217-pound Jamie Devane in the first of four bouts on the evening.

Taylor Hall paced the Spits with a pair of goals while fellow 2010 stud Tyler Seguin finished -3 for Plymouth. The puck drops on game two on Saturday.

In Barrie, Nick Crawford played even as the Colts defeated Brampton, 5-3. The 6'1 rearguard, who was on the ice for one goal for and a shorthanded goal against, entered the game with seven points through four playoff contests. With the hard fought victory, Barrie takes a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal.
4/02/2010 | 1 comments | Read More