Wednesday, May 25, 2011

College Players Keep Coming Up Big in NHL Playoffs

The stakes are getting bigger in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it's more than a few former NCAA skaters who keep coming through for their respective teams.

Kevin Bieksa propelled Vancouver to its first Stanley Cup Final in 17 years with his double-overtime goal on Tuesday night that ousted San Jose in five games. The former Bowling Green blueliner (2000-2004) had four goals in the series, and five goals in the playoffs after scoring six times during the regular season. Ohio State's Ryan Kesler preceded Bieksa's bizarre game-winner with his own game-tying deflection in the last minute of regulation in Vancouver's 3-2 victory.

Yale product Chris Higgins had a chance to win it in OT for the Canucks in the clincher on a semi-breakaway that was stopped, although he did contribute a goal and two assists in a 7-3 triumph in Game Two against the Sharks. Dartmouth alumnus Tanner Glass has yet to pick up a point for Vancouver, but has skated in 16 playoff games, while Minnesota's Keith Ballard has seen action in nine postseason contests this spring.

San Jose again fell short of an appearance in the Final, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the parts of Miami's Dan Boyle (3-13--16 points in 18 games) or Wisconsin's Joe Pavelski (5-5--10 points in 18 games) or Cornell's Doug Murray. Other former collegians who suited up for the Sharks in this year's playoffs included Torrey Mitchell (Vermont), Kent Huskins (Clarkson), Jamal Mayers (Western Michigan) and Benn Ferriero (Boston College).

Tampa Bay's timeless Martin St. Louis showed he still has something left in the tank with his two-goal, three-point performance tonight in the Lightning's season-saving 5-4 win over Boston, even if it came at the expense of former Vermont teammate Tim Thomas, who made 21 saves for the visiting Bruins. Of course, it was equally ageless wonder Dwayne Roloson who helped make it possible down the other end, as the former UMass Lowell netminder shook off a pair of forgettable outings in Games Three and Four with 19 stops tonight to lift the Lightning to a Game Seven on Friday in Beantown.

Teddy Purcell (Maine) also contributed two goals for Tampa Bay tonight, and has four goals in the series so far, while also assisting the Lightning's effort this spring have been Ryan Malone (St. Cloud State), Dominic Moore (Harvard), Adam Hall (Michigan State) and Mike Lundin (Maine).

Besides Thomas, the Bruins, who are looking to get back into the Finals for the first time since I was a junior at BC, only boast Rich Peverley (St. Lawrence) from the college ranks. We’ll see on Friday night if that's enough to send them on to Vancouver.

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