Toughts on the Generals-Rockets game in the Memorial Cup preliminaries.
--The Oshawa coach didn't roll his four lines to start the game, instead trying to rely on his top 2 lines and matching up Cole Cassels against star Rocket forward Leon Draisaitl. This approach meant relatively more icetime for Michael McCarron early on, and he stood out, driving to the net early on and generating a scoring chance when his winger rang the rebound off the crossbar.
--On another sequence, with a prolonged cycle game when giant Hunter Smith was also on the ice, Mike came out of the corner with a clean possession and fed his winger, again for a strong scoring chance.
--Kelowna was the home team, so they had 'last change', Dan Lambert could see who D.J. Smith was sending out on the ice for faceoffs and react accordingly. The way the Oshawa coach handled this disadvantage was by sending out Michael McCarron for draws early and often, almost daring his counterpart to send out his star centre. When he did, Mike would take the faceoff, and then quickly leave the ice and allow Cole Cassels to jump on.
Again, great assignments for our boy, lots of responsibility and heavy minutes. It's doubtful that he'll play Top 6 centre in the pros, but this icetime is good training for him, and his ability to take draws might come in handy in the NHL, especially since he's a rightie.
--The first period closed with Michael on the rush getting a shot off that squeaked through the goalie and hit the far post. Great period by him, he drew plaudits from the play-by-play crew, generating scoring chances, coming close in goalmouth scrambles. Nice job.
--During the intermission, Patrick Roy was a guest of the panel, and was asked about Zachary Fucale. I'm not sure if he confused the time he scouted him as a junior coach or GM, or if he started saying something and thought better of it due to the NHL tampering rules, but he gave a jumbled story about trying to obtain an extra first round pick to draft him, but he obviously thinks highly of his character and his competitive ability and mental makeup.
Which is fine by me. If we're going to get someone's stamp of approval for our young goalie, we could do worse than having Patrick Roy's.
--I'll observe again that Sportsnet is diligent about describing first-round NHL picks as "Montréal first-rounder Mike McCarron" or "Washington Capital prospect Madison Bowey", and even for "Calgary second-round pick Hunter Smith", but it doesn't extend to the Canucks' Cole Cassels for some reason. Maybe this nicety doesn't extend to third-rounders?
Living in B.C., we get a lot of references to Cole Cassels as a forward who could figure in the Canucks future, and that's partly due to the bare shelves of their system the last few years, but certainly also to the great progress he's shown since he's been drafted, and his good showing at prospect camps and rookie camps.
--The Generals strangled play some more in the second period, allowing precious few chances to the Rockets, and scored twice to lead 2-0, until a late goal on the rush by Kelowna closed the period at 2-1.
I noticed that Michael played a lot at the end of the period, and didn't look great defensively on the goal and a couple other close calls. I wondered if he was getting a little winded, or had geared down a bit to pace himself for the long haul.
--Nice feature on Michael in the second intermission, how he was a trade target of the Generals to make a run to the Memorial Cup, how he's fit in, how much his play has improved.
--Third period was a little more uneven for Michael, he struggled a little bit on faceoffs, was on the ice for a few sequences when the Rockets dominated.
--The Rockets had eight or ten chances to tie the score late in the third on a five-on-three powerplay, but they were more rushed, more scrambly than snipy and clinical, so no solid shots got off, it was more batting at a bouncing puck when the goalie seemed vulnerable, ripe for the taking.
--Generals win and advance straight to the final. If I was coldly calculating, I'd have preferred they lost, to give our prospects potentially two more high-stakes games, the semi-final game AND the final, instead of the one he's now guaranteed. But I'll take it. Good for Mike and good for us that he's in this position, has a chance to finish off his junior career on a major high, set him up to take the next step in the right frame of mind.