Top ‘06 American teams meet for first time this season
When looking across the premier youth hockey teams in the United States, two names that pop up frequently are Shattuck-St. Mary’s and Chicago Mission. Two storied clubs who have already met at the ‘07 and ‘08 age groups will finally collide at the ‘06 level this weekend.
|Saturday, December 10 @ 2:00 PM ET|
For No. 1 SSM (31-1-1), this season has gone just about as well as one could hope thus far. There are just two blemishes among their incredible record, a 6-5 overtime loss to the No. 10 Dallas Stars Elite on Oct. 8 and a 3-3 tie with the Boston Jr. Eagles on Oct. 22. Since the tie, they have rattled off 13 consecutive victories.
However, throughout all their games, they have yet to play the No. 10 Mission. Making up for lost time, the two will stand against each other on the ice with a two-game series beginning Saturday.
Shattuck has numerous players throughout their lineup with impressive stat lines, including six goals and 30 points from Brandt Harpe alone. But the team’s best strength is between the pipes, led by goaltenders Jack Hirshorn and Harry Boettinger.
Between the two of them, the duo has only let in 60 goals across all contests. Statistically, you’d be hard pressed to find a better tandem in youth hockey. Hirshorn has collected a 1.79 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and four shutouts. Additionally, Boettinger has amassed a 1.98 goals against, .918 save percentage and two shutouts.
The biggest challenge for Chicago (18-6-4) will be trying to solve these two goaltenders as they will likely be seeing both in the two-game set. One thing Mission has done well up to this point in the season is score, recording a plus-52 goal differential. If there is one club who can solve SSM’s goalies, it’s them.
Chicago hopes these two games can be a jumping off point for a strong month of December. It was an up-and-down November for them, as they went 2-2-1.
Pete’s Pick: SSM is one of the strongest ‘06 teams in the world, and they have done most of the talking with their on-ice results. I expect Chicago to put up a fight, but the depth and goaltending of Shattuck is just too much to overcome in two games. Shattuck takes two very close games.
Craig’s Pick: Shattuck and Mission have nine shared opponents this season. In those games, Mission has an average goal differential of plus-2.16 whereas Shattuck has a plus-4.9 goals per game. The transitive property isn’t always a perfect predictor tool, but in this case, I think Shattuck is way too much for Mission to handle. Clean sweep for SSM with a pair of decisive wins.
‘07 Don Mills out for revenge vs. Mississauga
Back on Nov. 21, the No. 18 Mississauga Senators (18-15-2) shut out the No. 20 Don Mills Flyers (18-10-1), 6-0. It was the first matchup of the season between the two, and served as an eye-opener for the Flyers.
Now, just a few weeks later, they will have the opportunity to return the favor when these two clubs square off on Tuesday.
|Tuesday, December 6 @ 8:25 PM ET|
Victoria Village Arena
The Senators are coming off a 4-1 win over the No. 9 U.S.-ranked Pittsburgh Penguins Elite. Don Mills was also victorious in their last time out; a 4-3 win against the Toronto Nationals. With these programs close together in the Top 10 for Canada, this tilt could play a role in rankings implications. As a result, both teams should expect to receive a less than warm reception from the other, which could lead to some great action on the ice.
Pete’s Pick: I’m tempted to go Don Mills here, but Mississauga beat them soundly last time they met. I could see them putting up more of a fight here with one game’s experience under their belt, but Mississauga wins this one, 5-2.
Craig’s Pick: These two teams are much more evenly matched than Game 1’s first result of 6-0 would suggest. Nine of Don Mills’ losses have come at the hands of just six teams. Of those six opponents, DMF has turned around to beat three of them. It’s bold, but I’ll take a shot on the Flyers to make it four with a win over the Sens.
‘08 Tappara, Pelicans look to carve out spots
No. 3 Tappara Sininen (15-2-4) and No. 6 Pelicans Turkoosi (11-8-2) will face off for the third time this season on Sunday. And if the first two games are any indication, this one will boil down to whoever gets the favorable bounces.
|Sunday, December 11|
Tappara is one of the hottest teams in Finland. Unbeaten in their last 11, they have had solid wins against other Top 10 teams in their group such as No. 4 JYP and No. 7 Tappara Musta. Not to be outdone, the Pelicans too have wins over JYP and Tappara Musta, but also defeated Sininen in their first outing back on Oct. 8.
In the second matchup, both sides played to a 2-2 tie.
Behailu Pussinen’s seven goals and 15 points is the most for the Pelicans, with Romeo Mikkonen (7G, 7A) and Joakim Koivunen (6G, 7A) close behind.
Pete’s Pick: The season series has been very close, and this game could go in favor of either opponent. That being said, I like Tappara’s offense slightly better in this one and feel that could be the factor that boosts them to a victory, 3-2.
Craig’s Pick: What’s weird about their first two matchups, is that the leading scorers from both teams were only mildly effective. A secondary assist from Romeo Mikkonen on one end; a power-play assist from Eemil Mattanen on the other. If one of the big dogs doesn’t step up and dominate this matchup, then the scales tip in favor of whoever has better depth. That, to me, is Tappara Sininen in another low-scoring contest.
CSKA, Vityaz hope for some separation among ‘08 clubs
The Top 10 among 2008-born Russia has a cluster of teams jockeying for position. No. 5 CSKA Moscow (17-6-2) and No. 7 Vityaz Podolsk (17-5-0) are right in the thick of things, with a big matchup scheduled for Saturday.
|Saturday, December 11|
Back on Sept. 22, CSKA defeated Vityaz, 4-1, helped largely by a goal and assist from Igor Poss. Nikita Gromakov has totaled 16 goals and 20 points on the season, trailed by Poss (8G, 8A) and Nikita Ovcharov (9G, 10A) for the team lead.
Vityaz will aim to counterpunch their attack with the trio of Gleb Pugachev, Maxim Seldemirov, and Makar Dudar. Pugachev’s 15 goals and 33 points sit atop the club. Seldemirov’s 13 goals and 30 points and Dudar’s nine goals and 26 points round out the top three.
CSKA got back in the win column last weekend after four consecutive losses with a 5-0 victory over Khimik. Vityaz was shut out by Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, 4-0.
Stemming from this game, there should be some clarity into the middle of the field for Russian ‘08s, which could lead to some movement in the overall rankings.
Pete’s Pick: CSKA seems to have gotten through a rare rough patch and is back to their winning ways. Some adversity is never a bad thing, and they clearly learned to clean up a few things as a result. They win 5-1.
Craig’s Pick: This is a weird one because most of the country took a one-month hiatus for Federal District Championships. So it really comes down to who can get back into a rhythm the quickest after the extended break. I’ll go with Vityaz here, but I don’t like it due to the coin-flip nature of the matchup already and so much uncertainty after the long layover.