More weekend reading: Frozen 4, Hobey, Tigers in the pros

Toronto Maple Leafs' Joey Crabb manages to score as the puck trickles under New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the second period on March 25. REUTERS

Here is a list of college hockey’s early departures and a feature on BC captain Tommy Cross and another on Minnesota’s Erik Haula.

Here’s why the Hober Baker Award ceremony is being held at an Air Force base and not the Frozen Four’s arena.

Former Tiger Richard Bachman came on in relief for Dallas in a loss Friday night at Vancouver.

Courtesy Canadian Press:

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. – Brian Connelly finally rediscovered his scoring touch for the Abbotsford Heat.

The offensively gifted defenceman scored with 11.9 seconds to go in overtime to lead the Heat to a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Wolves Friday night in American Hockey League action.

Connelly took a feed from Ben Walter and beat Matt Climie glove side for his sixth of the season.

Click here to find out more!“It all started in the D-zone,” said Connelly. “We created a turnover and I saw an opportunity to jump in. Wally (Ben Walter) made a good pass across the ice. I just tried to put it on net and it went in.”

It was his first goal in 23 games since the Calgary Flames acquired him in a trade for Brendan Morrison. When he joined the Heat he was second among AHL defencemen in points but has just nine assists for the Flames’ affiliate.

“I’ve been trying to create opportunities and get shots but they haven’t been going in,” said Connelly. “It’s good to get that off my back and hopefully it springboards me into the rest of the season.”

Greg Nemisz, Krys Kolanos and Clay Wilson all scored in regulation time for Abbotsford (36-26-8). Though the Heat blew a 3-1 lead, goalie Leland Irving made 28 saves, including all 10 over the final 25 minutes to preserve the win. Abbotsford now has a two-point cushion in fourth place in the Western Conference standings.

Darren Haydar, Kevin Connauton, and Mark Mancari scored for Chicago (38-25-6), which includes former Tiger Bill Sweatt.

Climie stopped 40 shots for the Wolves, who moved within three points of second-place Toronto by earning a single point for the overtime loss.

“I think there were a lot of positives,” said Mancari. “I think it was pretty close to a playoff game, if you look at how the game was played. We made a few mistakes we didn’t want to make, and goals that resulted from us not getting the puck out.”

Part of the reason for the playoff atmosphere was the 7,044 fans at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, just the fourth sellout all time and first since Nov. 2010. Many of the fans came to cheer on the Wolves, however, the nearby Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate.

“The majority of them are Canucks fans so it’s a little different,” said Abbotsford’s Jon Rheault. “But when you can feed off that energy, energy is energy and when this place is full it’s a lot of fun to play in front of. They’re a dangerous team when they’re playing for their brass and all their scouts are here so they obviously bring a little extra oomph, if you will, when they come here.”

In the pros: Bidwill, Dineen, McMillin, Sterling

Former Tiger defenseman Arthur Bidwill was plus-2 in his professional debut on Friday night.

Former Tiger defenseman Arthur Bidwill made his professional debut during the Allen Americans’ 5-0 win over the Texas Brahmas in the first round of the Central Hockey League playoffs Friday night.

Allen teammate and former Tiger forward Brian McMillin scored a goal for the Western Conference second-seeded Americans.

Nick Dineen made his pro debut with the ECHL Elmira (N.Y.) Jackals against the Reading Royals on Friday in the team’s second-to-last regular-season game, committing a tripping penalty.

Brett Sterling scored an empty-netter in AHL Portland’s 5-3 win over Worcester.

In the pros: Dineen will debut with ECHL Elmira tonight

Former Tiger captain Nick Dineen has signed with the Elmira (N.Y.) Jackals as expected and is on the roster for the ECHL team entering its final two regular-season games this weekend.

Dineen said the coaches told him he will make his debut Friday night at home against the Reading (Pa.) Royals. The Jackals confirmed that a few minutes ago. Here is a link to the live video feed. It costs money (probably $8).

He signed an amateur tryout deal with Elmira lasting the rest of the season, which could be a while for the Atlantic Division champions.

The team is connected with the Ducks and Senators and their AHL affiliates, Binghamton and Syracuse, where Gabe Guentzel plays.

Dineen becomes a free agent this summer, when I would expect he will be invited to an AHL training camp.

Weekend reading

The pickings are a little slim with the offseason upon much of the Division I hockey world so here are a few links. I will update the blog as news warrants. Thanks for reading.

Here are some good preview notes on the Frozen Four next weekend and more from the Star Tribune.

Alaska Anchorage handed out its team awards.

DU’s Jason Zucker was the victim of the traditional prank (video) pulled on NHL rookies.

Two North Dakota players have landed in the ECHL.

UMD’s Brady Lamb signed with the Calgary organization.

Former Tiger Joey Crabb picked up his 13th assist of the season.

More early departures

St. Cloud State junior goalie Mike Lee has signed with Phoenix as has Michigan junior Chris Brown.

A goalie prospect has become available, though he may not consider CC since it appears he wants to start as a freshman, while Northeastern has another roster spot to fill this offseason.

Wisconsin’s Justin Schultz says he will wait until after the school year, and likely July 1 when his Ducks draft rights expire, to consider forgoing his senior season.

Western Michigan defenseman Dan DeKeyser announced recently that he will return for another season while his teammate and fellow blue-liner Matt Tennyson signed a free-agent deal with  San Jose.

UMD’s Connelly makes Hobey Hat Trick

Minnesota Duluth forward Jack Connelly, Maine’s Spencer Abbott and Colgate’s Austin Smith  received the most points from a 23-person voting panel that selected their top five choices from a list of 10 finalists announced recently.

The seven who did not make the final cu were: Boston College junior defenseman Brian Dumoulin, Union sophomore goalie Troy Grosenick, Michigan senior goalie Shawn Hunwick, Air Force senior defenseman Tim Kirby, Michigan State junior defenseman Torey Krug, Wisconsin junior defenseman Justin Schultz and Miami junior forward Reilly Smith.

The winner will be announced on Friday, April 6, at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

Thursday reading: Schedule; Early departures; In the pros

CC will play North Dakota four times next season according to a tentative schedule compiled by the Grand Forks Herald. The dates are UND at CC Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and the Tigers in Grand Forks Jan. 11-12.

J.T. Brown joined the growing list of WCHA early departures.

Former Tiger Tim Hall remains a member of the ECHL Western Conference champion Alaska Aces as is forward Brian Swanson and goalie Drew O’Connell who made his pro debut in a 5-1 loss in relief (seven saves on eight shots) on Feb. 11

Joey Crabb is an unrestricted free agent this summer. It remains to be seen what the Leafs’ offseason plans may be after another disappointing season.

Chad Rau was sent down to AHL Houston to free up a roster spot for rookie Jason Zucker. The Wild need to give the DU junior some ice time to determine his role.

UConn is looking to become the 12th member of Hockey East.

It is now a week until the Frozen Four begins. Here’s some game notes from Minnesota.