Avalanche Farm Report: March 29
Prospect Spotlight On Lake Erie Forward Ben Walter
Tuesday, 03.29.2011 / 9:42 AM MT / Features
By Aaron Lopez - Special to ColoradoAvalanche.com
Spotlight On: Ben Walter
With only seven games remaining in the regular season, the Lake Erie Monsters appear to be on the verge of their first postseason appearance in franchise history.
The team has received solid goaltending and an all-around team performance recently, but the contributions of Ben Walter can’t go unnoticed.
Walter, who was signed by the Avalanche to a one-year contract on July 7, 2010, is in the midst of an eight-game point streak that coincides with Lake Erie’s eight-game winning streak. During that stretch, the forward has posted 14 points (2g/12a).
In fact, Walter has recorded at least a point in 16 of his last 17 games – which features two separate eight-game point streaks – and has totaled 26 points (4g/22a) over that span, including six multi-point efforts.
Walter, who has served as both Lake Erie’s captain and assistant captain at different points during the season, leads the Monsters in scoring by a large margin, having totaled 63 points (20g/43a) in 70 games.
He also owns a team-best +26 plus/minus rating to go along with four power-play tallies and three game-winners.
The Monsters won all three of their contests last week, pushing their winning streak to a franchise record eight consecutive games.
The week began with a 2-1 victory over Rochester last Tuesday. Shawn Belle netted a power-play tally, Travis Gawryletz scored the game-winning goal at the 12:08 mark of the third period and Jason Bacashihua made 20 saves to earn the victory between the pipes.
Next, the Monsters overcame a third-period deficit to again beat Rochester on Friday, this time by a 3-2 score in overtime. Ben Walter (1g/2a) registered the tying goal in the third period and Greg Mauldin (1g/2a) scored the game-winner 4:27 into the extra session. David Van Der Gulik chipped in with a goal and an assist and Bacashihua stopped 16 shots to improve his record to 20-15-3.
The Monsters then won their seventh straight on the road and eighth consecutive overall by topping Toronto by a 3-2 count following a shootout on Saturday afternoon. John Grahame stopped 37-of-39 shots through overtime and denied four of the five Marlies attempts in the shootout. Joel Chouinard and Mauldin scored in regulation for Lake Erie.
With a 40-25-3-5 record and 88 points, the Monsters currently hold the North Division lead by two points over the Manitoba Moose.
The Avalanche’s Central Hockey League affiliate closed out the regular season by posting two wins and an overtime loss last week. The Oilers defeated Wichita, 5-3, on Friday and also won Saturday’s rematch with the Thunder by a 4-2 score. Tulsa then dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to Allen in its regular-season finale.
The Oilers finished the season with a 35-25-6 record (76 points) and claimed the No. 3 seed in the Berry Conference. As a result, they will face the No. 6 Mississippi RiverKings in a best-of-five first-round series beginning Thursday.
-Brad Malone and North Dakota advanced to the Frozen Four in impressive fashion, beating Rensselaer, 6-0, on Saturday before taking down the University of Denver, 6-1, the following evening. Malone scored the game’s first goal against Rensselaer (making it the game-winner) and also netted a power-play tally later in the contest. The senior forward then registered an empty-net goal and added an assist in the victory over the Pioneers, giving him 40 points (16g/24a) in 42 games. The Fighting Sioux will take on the University of Michigan in a Frozen Four Semifinal game on Thursday night.
-Michigan (which features Avalanche prospect Luke Moffatt) gained a spot in the Frozen Four courtesy of a 3-2 overtime triumph over Nebraska-Omaha on Friday and a 2-1 victory against Colorado College on Saturday. Moffatt played in both games, totaling five shots on goal and an even plus/minus rating. The freshman forward has totaled 13 points (5g/8a) in 34 games for the Wolverines.
-Yale, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, topped Air Force by a 2-1 count in overtime on Friday, but then lost to Minnesota Duluth, 5-3, on Saturday. Avalanche prospect Gus Young did not play in either game and concluded his freshman season by totaling one assist in five appearances.
-No. 1 seed Boston College was ousted by Colorado College, 8-4, in the NCAA West Regional Semifinal on Friday night. Forward Paul Carey scored one of the Eagles’ goals and ended his junior campaign with 26 points (13g/13a) in 38 contests.
-Saskatoon has jumped out to a 2-0 lead in its best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with Prince Albert, taking an 8-1 decision on Saturday followed by a 5-2 win on Sunday. Defenseman Stefan Elliott scored a goal and had a +2 plus/minus rating on Saturday and then notched an assist to go with a +1 rating on Sunday. Game 3 of the series is set for Wednesday night.
-Portland is also up 2-0 in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series against Everett. Blueliner Troy Rutkowski posted a +1 plus/minus rating during the Winterhawks’ 4-0 triumph on Saturday and then registered three points (1g/2a) in Sunday’s 7-2 victory. Game 3 of the series will take place on Wednesday.
-Tyson Barrie has helped Kelowna earn a 2-0 series lead over Prince George in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The defenseman recorded two assists in a 4-1 triumph on Friday and then scored a goal during Saturday’s 7-4 victory. Game 3 of the series is slated for Tuesday evening.
-Owen Sound and London are tied at one game apiece in their best-of-seven Western Conference First Round series. Attack forward Joey Hishon assisted on the game-winning goal during Friday’s series opener, a 3-2 Owen Sound overtime victory, and then picked up a helper on the Attack’s lone goal Saturday during a 5-1 loss. Game 3 of the series will take place on Tuesday.
-Brandon Maxwell and the Kitchener Rangers fell into an 0-2 hole in their Western Conference First Round series with Plymouth, but bounced back with a win on Monday night. Maxwell made 24 stops in a 6-5 loss on Friday, followed by a 35-save effort during a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime defeat Saturday. The goaltender then came up big on Monday night, stopping 35-of-36 shots in a 3-1 Kitchener triumph. Game 4 of the series is scheduled for Wednesday night.
-Belleville has dropped the first three games of its Eastern Conference First Round series against Mississauga. The Bulls fell 4-1 on Thursday, 1-0 on Saturday and 2-0 on Sunday. Belleville defenseman Stephen Silas has been held without a point so far in the series. Game 4 is set for Tuesday night.