Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wheaties bounce back, blank Wildcats

The good folks in the Westman Place were treated to a nice rebound game from their Brandon Wheat Kings today, as the Memorial Cup host club soundly beat the Moncton Wildcats 4-0.

It wasn't a great game for the Wildcats or goalie Nicola Riopel, who was victimized twice by Edmonton prospect Toni Rajala (what a steal that guy was in the fourth round last year). The Wheat Kings are 1-1 after getting thrashed Friday night by Windsor. Moncton drops to 0-2.

Brandon Gormley had his moments, but fell down on the Brayden Schenn goal that made it 3-0, allowing his man to get by him and find Schenn wide open for the easy tap-in to Riopel's left.
It was one mistake, but there is still very much to like about Gormley who is such a smooth skater and makes it look very easy whenever he's on D. One play in particular didn't look like much, but illustrated his good skill level in his own end. After Brandon made a dump-and-chase move near the Moncton blue line, Gormley, who was still moving forward, pivoted effortlessly and outskated the Brandon player moving backwards. When he got to the puck along the endboards, he braced for the hit, absorbed it, then knocked the Wheat King backward a step and calmly cleared it around to his defense partner for a quick clear and transition up the ice. That's the kind of textbook play you want to see from a defender, and it gets back to the plaudits Gormley has gotten for his mobility and poise under pressure.

Unfortunately, there was no offense from his team, so there isn't whole lot to say about his play in the other end, aside from the fact that he moves well laterally along the point, making it tough for opponents to keep the shooting and passing lanes clogged up. His shot may need some work, but maybe it was just a bad day for him, because the scouting reports I've gotten on him are that he has a pretty good blast.

They had a nice feature between periods on Gormley and he comes off as pretty well-spoken and honest. Looks like he'll do very well with the interviews and I've heard in some circles that he grades quite favorably with Cam Fowler. For Boston's sake, they need him to drop closer to 10 than be up for grabs at five if they want to move up to take him.

Also liked what I saw from Marek Hrivik in spurts, but again- Moncton couldn't solve Jacob De Serres today. He's got a long, loping stride that covers a lot of ground, but it's his hands and shot that really stand out. He can get his shot off very quickly and it's hard, heavy and as a former goaltender, can empathize with Hrivik's opposition-- certainly looks like it hurts. He's got a big body with a wide-tracked stance and is willing to throw his weight around and go to the net. The puck hasn't gone in for him yet, but I like him. If he's on the board at 97 when Boston's fourth-rounder comes up (from Carolina), he'd be someone I considered (based of course on whomever else is there).

Quiet game from the Wheaties' draft eligibles, with guys already belonging to NHL clubs (Rajala, Schenn, De Serres, Robak) making the biggest impact today. But, there was an interesting human interest story about Michael Ferland, that related that he hadn't played a lot of hockey at a high level prior to this season, but that parents of the Brandon AAA Midget team last year chipped in to fund his place on the team because his family couldn't afford the high cost.

That's the kind of story that makes hockey special.

Tomorrow night, the Windsor Spitfires take on the Calgary Hitmen. Look for the Hitmen to try and do just that against Taylor Hall, who was rocked by Brandon the other night, but bounced back nicely. Both clubs are 1-0, so there's a lot riding on this one.

Puck drops at 8:00 pm Eastern on Monday.

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