As the Mississippi Valley Club Hockey Association (MVCHA) finished the 2014-15 All-Star games on Tuesday, teams are ready to delve into the playoffs.
The East Alton-Wood River Oilers clinched first place in the 1A West Division while the 2A North Division was locked up by undefeated Edwardsville.
The St. Louis Blues took to the second half of their season after the NHL All-Star break where they left off — winning.
For three Blues players, the break was short-lived as they returned from Columbus, Ohio, to join their teammates to prepare for the chase to the playoffs. In second place, two points behind the Nashville Predators, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brian Elliot and Vladimir Tarasenko didn’t have a lot of time to relax before getting back into full swing in the NHL.
“It was a great experience to be there with all those guys and have fun with the whole thing,” Shattenkirk said. “Everything was very light-hearted. This is something that a player really gets to cherish as a hockey moment and my family was there to share in it with me. We tried to have fun with it, not take it too seriously and make it as much fun for the fans as possible.”
Shattenkirk is the first defenseman chosen for the All-Star game for the Blues since former captain Chris Pronger in 2004.
With teammates Tarasenko and Elliott, the experience was one to remember, only without a prized souvenir. Shattenkirk scored during the first period of All-Star action, but when most players get to keep the puck, Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo tossed the puck into the crowd, leaving Shattenkirk only the memory to put on the shelf.
The All-Star appearance is one of the best accomplishments in the young career of Shattenkirk; he remembers his start in hockey and gives advice to the local players in the Greater Alton area.
“At the high school level, it’s time to make the decisions of what you’re willing to sacrifice,” Shattenkirk said. “In your teenage years, or even younger than that, you really have to take the game and the training seriously. Make that decision if it’s really what you want to pursue and don’t think about the NHL, think about that next level, that next step ahead. What it all comes down to is what you’re willing to give up. Making the decision to give up those nights out because you have a game the next morning. The sacrifices are tough, but if you really love playing, the rewards make up for the sacrifices. Those are the things I remember as a young player and it paid off.”
Blues goaltender Brian Elliott remembers videos his father had prepared to send off to colleges and recruiters in his younger years.
“There are so many facets of this game,” Elliott said. “You will learn that you get out of the game what you put into it. This is a game where you can just go out and have fun with friends at any level, but to make it to the next level, it’s all about the amount of work you’re willing to put in during your off time. My Dad prepared videos and we had them ready. I was fortunate; things worked out differently for me. If you’re good enough — and of course get some media behind you — you can get noticed. Even if you’re not noticed right away, don’t quit and keeping working. That hard work will get noticed by someone. It could be a coach, word of mouth or scouts.”
EA-WR defenseman Cole Ford said Shattenkirk would be one player he’d like to sit down and talk with. The first question Ford would ask is how he does it all. A strong defensive player, Shattenkirk brings the threat of offense to every shift.
Ford is also an offensive defenseman, scoring 25 points in just 18 games with nine goals and 15 assists.
“I hope to play hockey outside of my high school years,” Ford said. “I want to play as many places as I can, but I also want to try out for Pittsburgh. They welcome walk-ons for tryouts. I’m hoping that will give me some opportunities to get looked at and end up playing somewhere. I know to make it in this sport I have to give up a lot, time with family and friends. I do stay home a lot more when friends are going out. It’s a lot of hard work and choices.”
For Bethalto senior forward Aaron Scott, his plan to pursue hockey after the high school level is to use connections to get seen by college scouts.
“I’ve been trying to hit a lot of tournaments and showcases,” Scott said. “Playing tournaments out of town, it helps to get looks there. I have a brother who is playing college hockey; he’s helping me hook up with some junior camps. I’m hoping to start off playing juniors or in college somewhere.”
The MVCHA playoff schedule began Thursday with the best of three between Alton and Collinsville in the 2A North. Bethalto and Marquette face off on Monday at 8:45 p.m. and again on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. at the East Alton Ice Arena in the 1A West playoffs.
Taking first place in their divisions, Edwardsville and EA-WR receive a bye through the first round of playoffs.
The Blues are relishing a six-game winning streak since dropping a game against the Red Wings 3-2 on Jan. 15 prior to the All-Star break. The only loss the Blues are facing is the skill of Shattenkirk, who suffered an abdominal injury on Sunday against the Capitals, when the Blues took the win in a shootout.
Shattenkirk will have a procedure in the next seven to 10 days and will be listed as week-to-week. Shattenkirk leads all defensemen with 32 assists and ranks second with 40 points as well as 24 power-play points.