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Prospect Report: Vitek Vanecek makes ECHL All-Rookie team


Prospect Report: Vitek Vanecek makes ECHL All-Rookie team

Hershey update: 39-19-5-7, 1st in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-1-1-0

The Bears are officially playoff bound! Hershey needed just one point over the weekend and punched their postseason ticket in an overtime loss to Providence on Saturday. They now have a three-point cushion over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the division lead.

It was a good weekend for the usual suspects. Nathan Walker and Riley Barber each recorded two points while Jakub Vrana scored two goals and an assist.

Hershey has six games remaining in the regular season to try to hold onto first place, including three against the Penguins.

RELATED: Friday Six-Pack: Time to panic?

Other prospect notes:

Shane Gersich is one win away from an NCAA Championship as North Dakota defeated Denver 4-2 in the Frozen Four. Fellow Caps prospect Zach Sanford will not be joining him, however. Boston College narrowly fell to top-ranked Quinnipiac on Thursday. Both Gersich and Sanford were held to zero points in the semifinals.

You can watch the championship game between North Dakota and Quinnipiac on Sat. April 9 at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

Tim McGauley's Brandon Wheat Kings fended off the upset bid of Edmonton and advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs. Brandon won the series in six games with McGauley tallying five assists. Regina also advanced in the WHL playoffs with a five-game series win over Lethbridge. Prospects Colby Williams and Connor Hobbs now advance to play Reed Deer.

Goalie Vitek Vanecek continued his impressive season in the ECHL with his fourth shutout of the season, a 24 save performance over Atlanta. With the win, South Carolina qualified for the Kelly Cup playoffs.

Vanecek was named the Warrior Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Month for March and was also named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team. For the season, Vanecek has a record of 18-7-5-1 with four shutouts, a .917 save percentage and a 2.03 GAA. That's the second-highest GAA in the ECHL.

Vanecek's shutout came on the heels of a poor performance in which he gave up five goals on 17 shots in on overtime loss to Orlando. He has shown a clear ability to bounce back this season and is now playing well despite a very tough stretch midseason.

Check out the highlights of both games here:

Now lets be fair. These highlights primarily feature Vanecek getting scored on. He does not look good in the first game. Because it is the ECHL, you're not going to be able to find a lot of good highlights on Vanecek. Most of the highlights are of him getting scored on and not him making great saves.

At the end of the day, his stats say he is having a great season and the accolades back that up...but boy those goals he allowed against Orlando look soft.

The playoffs will be critical for Vanecek considering the goalie situation in Hershey next season. Justin Peters is on the final year of his contract and is unlikely to return while Dan Ellis is on a one-year deal and is 35. If Vanecek can impress in the postseason, he will push to make the jump to the AHL next season.

When you're watching those highlights, be sure to check out Caleb Herbert. Herbert is making the most of his trip to the ECHL and scored three goals and two assists over the week. He also may have scored the goal of the year in the overtime loss to Orlando.

MORE HOCKEY: Penguins fans take over Smithsonian steps after OT win over Caps

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.