Two Devils prospects began the playoffs in the Canadian Hockey League. Defenseman Xavier Bernard (Charlottetown Islanders – QMJHL) and defenseman Ty Smith (Spokane Chiefs – WHL) saw action tonight in their two league’s first round playoff series.
First up was Bernard and Charlottetown on the Canadian east coast. They began a series against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the Quebec League’s playoffs. The game was in Charlottetown at the Eastlink Centre. And what a way to start the playoffs, with a game that went two overtimes.
The Screaming Eagles got the scoring kicked off at the 13:22 mark of the first period when Derek Gentile scored from Gabriel Proulx and Leon Gawanke. Charlottetown followed with two goals of their own in the second and third periods.
The Islanders’ Kevin Gursoy scored late in the second at 18:56 (assist to Nikita Alexandrov). Then Daniel Hardie scored 5:55 into the third from Hunter Drew and Lukas Cormier to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. The Hardie goal came on the power play. Cape Breton was 0-for-4 on the power play for the night while Charlottetown was 1-for-5.
But Cape Breton tied things at two with just about four minutes remaining in the game. Mitchell Balmas scored from Kyle Havlena at 15:45. This would go on to force overtime as neither team could gain the advantage with time remaining.
Following a scoreless first OT, Charlottetown’s Brett Budgell scored from Thomas Casey and Drew at the 5:43 mark of the second OT. With that, the Islanders took a 1-0 lead in this opening series.
Bernard ended the game a minus-1 with two shots on goal (neither one considered a dangerous scoring chance according to the QMJHL website’s scoresheet.
The goalies for each team played well. Kevin Mandolese (Cape Breton) making 39 saves on 42 shots against while Charlottetown’s Matthew Welsh made 41 saves on 43 shots. Mandolese was the game’s third star at night’s end while Welsh was the second. Budgell, with the OT winner for the Islanders, was the game’s first star.
Game two of this series takes place on Saturday, March 23 with the Islanders leading one game to none.
From here, we move out west to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena where Ty Smith and the Chiefs were taking on the Portland Winterhawks in a Western Hockey League first round playoff matchup.
After Portland got on the board first with a power play goal by Jake Gricius at 11:20 of the first, giving the Winterhawks the lead through the first intermission, it was all Spokane.
Adam Beckman scored to tie things at one 3:08 into the second period. That was a power play goal set up by Luke Toporowski and Jack Finley. Smith then set up a goal at 12:02 of the second by Riley Woods on the power play. Eli Zummack had the secondary assist.
The Chiefs struck again on the power play at 17:56 of the second when Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored from Woods and Smith. That made it 3-1 Spokane and gave Smith his second point on the night this one on the eventual game winner.
In the third, the Chiefs added two more when Kaden Hanas scored 3:34 in and when Ethan McIndoe found the back of the net at the 4:23 mark. That made it 5-1.
The Winterhawks’ Joachim Blichfeld added a late goal on the power play to make it 5-2 with less than a minute left, but the damage was done. Spokane came away with the victory and the 1-0 series lead.
Smith finished the game with the two assists for two points, an even plus/minus and three shots on goal. On the power play, Portland went 2-for-8 while Spokane was 3-for-5.
In goal, Joel Hofer made 17 saves on 22 shots for Portland while Bailey Brkin stopped 34-of-36 shots for the Chiefs. Brkin was named the game’s first star for his efforts while Woods was second star with a goal and an assist and Hanas was the third star with a goal.
Game two of this series is also later tonight.
Meanwhile, in Russia, another Devils prospect is hard at work in the KHL playoffs. Defenseman Yegor Zaitsev had a goal in Dynamo Moscow’s loss in game three of their series to CSKA. CSKA leads that series two games to one.
Dynamo had defeated Jokerit Helsinki in the first round to advance to play CSKA in the Western Conference semifinals. Zaitsev has two goals during this year’s KHL playoffs.
We will try to keep you up-to-date here with all of the goings on of the various Devils prospects playing in their league’s postseasons.