Jake McCabe (2012, second round) and Brad Navin (2011, seventh round) will get the chance to play for a national title after the Wisconsin Badgers claimed a 3-2 victory over Colorado College on Saturday in the WCHA Final Five Championship. What once seemed unlikely is now a reality, as Wisconsin emerged from a lowly 1-7-2 start, losing just five times in their last 31 games en route to collecting the automatic berth into the 2013 NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament.
McCabe, a sophomore, was a big part of the Badgers’ surge, upping his season point total to 21 (3+18) with assists in each of the three Final Five victories. Navin, a sophomore forward, manned a wing on the Badgers checking line, contributing one shot on goal in the tourney. Wisconsin begins their title quest on Friday in a Northeast region matchup against top-seeded Massachusetts-Lowell.
Joining the Badgers in the NCAA Tournament will be Christian Isackson (2010, seventh round) and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, whose strong season was rewarded with an at-large berth despite suffering a 2-0 shutout loss to Colorado College in Friday’s WCHA semifinal. Minnesota was tabbed as the top seed in the West region, setting up a Friday night meeting with Yale.
In Finland, Joel Armia (2011, first round) stroked a one-timer for the game winning goal Saturday as Assat Pori skated to a 5-2 victory over KalPa Kuopio. Armia, who earlier in the week snapped a pass to set up the game winner in Tuesday’s series opener, added an empty-net tally to give him three points (2+1) through the first three playoff outings. The Aces hold a commanding 3-0 lead in the SM-Liiga first round series with game four taking place Monday in Kuopio.
In the SEL playoffs, Linus Ullmark (2012, sixth round) came on in relief just three minutes into Tuesday’s contest, making 24 saves as MODO rallied for a 5-4 overtime victory over Farjestads BK in game four of the first round series. Ullmark followed up with a 39-save performance Thursday as MODO was eliminated with a 1-0 overtime loss.
Ullmark capped a busy week with a return to the junior ranks, where he stopped a combined 55 of 57 shots to earn a pair of wins as MODO J20 advanced past Skelleftea into next weekend’s SuperElit medal round. The 19-year old netminder has been superb in J20 post-season play, winning all three of his starts while amassing a 0.97 GAA and .964 save%.
Mikhail Grigorenko (2012, first round) connected for five assists last week as Quebec split the first two games of their opening round playoff series with Chicoutimi. Grigorenko dazzled with three helpers in Saturday’s 5-2 win. Among the heady plays was a spinning backhand pass that was converted by Florida prospect Logan Shaw, as well as a third-period feed that found 2013 draft eligible Nick Sorensen for the hat trick goal. The series shifts to Chicoutimi for game two on Tuesday.
Justin Kea (2012, third round) got behind the defense to score his first goal of the playoffs Sunday as Saginaw dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 double-overtime decision at London. The hard-working centerman was excellent all game long, using his big frame and skating ability to apply an intense forecheck while grinding out tough defensive assignments. Saginaw trails the series 2-0 heading into Tuesday’s game three.
In Saturday action, Dan Catenacci (2011, third round) was credited with three assists as Owen Sound doubled Sault Ste. Marie 4-2. The victory gives the Attack a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference quarterfinal with game three set for Monday night in Sault Ste. Marie.
Brady Austin (2012, seventh round) notched two assists last week as Belleville took a 2-1 series lead on Mississauga in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal. The 6-foot-4 defender has points in six of his last eight games going back to the end of the regular season. The series resumes Tuesday in Mississauga.
Barrie defenseman Alex Lepkowski (2011, fifth round) netted a plus-one rating as the Colts jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Kingston in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. The rugged defender continues to see big minutes on the Colts top defensive pair alongside offensive-minded Ryan O’Connor. Barrie travels to Kingston on Monday for game three.
Andrey Makarov and the Saskatoon Blades find themselves in a hole to begin the post-season after dropping a pair of home-ice decisions to Medicine Hat. After falling 4-1 in Thursday’s opener, Makarov came up big the following night with 40 saves, but the Blades were outworked en route to a 3-0 shutout loss. Trailing the series 2-0, Saskatoon will have to right the ship on the road beginning Tuesday in Medicine Hat.
Logan Nelson (2012, fifth round) registered an assist Friday as Victoria opened the playoffs with a 3-2 loss at Kamloops. Nelson and the Royals didn’t fare much better on Saturday, with the Minnesota native logging a minus-three rating in a 6-4 loss to the Blazers. The Royals will look to erase a 2-0 series deficit Tuesday on home ice.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s web site - sabresprospects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @sabresprospects for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.