Crawford's Corner: Noreau Finding his OffenseSep 14, 2014
When 6-5 defenseman Sam Noreau, a fifth-round pick by the parent New York Rangers in the 2011 NHL draft, was reassigned to the Wolf Pack from the ECHL, for his first career AHL action, just before this past Christmas, he had managed nary a point in 23 games with Greenville.
The then-20-year-old Quebec Major Junior Hockey League product went scoreless in five games with the Pack before being moved back to the Road Warriors, and finished the ECHL season with one goal and ten points in 61 contests. So to say the organization was expecting him ever to be an offensive blueliner would be a huge stretch.
Yet, who is leading the Ranger prospect team in scoring through its first two games at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, and who is the only defenseman at the tourney thus far with more than one goal? Yep, it’s Noreau, who scored a shorthanded marker in the Ranger team’s 2-1 overtime win over the Buffalo prospects Saturday night, after also scoring, and tying for a team high with three shots on goal, in Friday evening’s 4-3 OT loss to the Dallas Stars’ prospect team.
The Saturday goal was a lucky one, as Noreau slapped the puck from his own blue line, right off the opening draw of the second period, and it somehow fooled Sabre goaltender Francois Brassard and got past him and into the net. Those things usually don’t happen, though, to players who aren’t feeling confident offensively, and all of a sudden it looks like Noreau is full of poise.
Centerman Adam Tambellini, who is eligible to play for the Wolf Pack this coming season but could also return to Junior with WHL Calgary, won the game for the Ranger prospects Saturday, scoring at 3:34 of overtime off an assist from Chris McCarthy, who also figures to spend time in a Wolf Pack uniform this year and is wearing the captain’s “C” for the Blueshirt prospect squad.
The winner was scored with the teams skating three-on-three, a scenario that AHL fans are sure to see quite a bit of this year, with the league’s teams set to test a new overtime format. That setup will dictate that the game goes from four-on-four to three-on-three at the first stoppage following the three-minute mark of OT. If you check out the video of the McCarthy-to-Tambellini connection, you can see what the extra open ice created by the three-on-three might mean to the excitement of AHL overtime this coming season.
“The 3-on-3 is pretty back and forth,” Tambellini was quoted as saying after Saturday’s game. “We needed just one chance to end it. We got lucky with a full ice 2-on-1 (rush). Mac (McCarthy) made a great pass over to me and gave me an empty net.”
Another prospective Wolf Pack, goaltender Mackenzie Skapski, made 36 saves in Saturday’s game, the most ever by a Ranger prospect in the team’s history of participation in the Traverse City Tournament.