In a game that was not a typical all-star event, Team Cherry defeated Team Orr, 4-2, in the 2010 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, played Wednesday before 6,193 at Windsor Family Credit Union Centre.Peterborough’s Ryan Spooner’s shorthanded goal at 11:55 of the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and stood as the game-winner for Team Cherry. Emerson Etem (Medicine Hat, WHL), Jordan Weal (Regina, WHL) and Louis-Marc Aubry (Montreal, QMJHL) also scored for Team Cherry. Nino Niederreiter (Portland, WHL) and Jeff Skinner of Kitchener scored for Team Orr. The game also featured a couple of fights, something usually not seen in an all-star setting. Dylan McIlrath (Moose Jaw, WHL) squared off with Alexander Petrovic (Red Deer, WHL) late in the second period and then Erie’s Andrew Yogan went with Calgary’s Matt Mackenzie in the third. Three stars were not selected in the game, but Windsor’s Taylor Hall was named Player of the Game for Team Cherry and Skinner the Player of the Game for Team Orr. “If you don’t think there’s intensity in this game, then you should stand behind the bench,” said winning coach Don Cherry. “These guys are playing for keeps. You have to be proud of the way they block shots, fight and everything else.” “It was a wonderful hockey game,” said losing coach Bobby Orr. “All 40 kids represented themselves well. If this is the future of the NHL, then we’re in good shape.” As captain of Team Orr, Plymouth’s Tyler Seguin was prominent throughout the three-day event, participating in the Skills Competition on Tuesday and handling a host of media requests with maturity. “It was a great experience,” Seguin said after the game. “Just playing against the top-40 players in the Canadian Hockey League, you get to see where you are at. There’s so much talent here, starting with the Skills Competition last night. Tonight’s game was a little sloppy at times, with everyone trying to show what they can do with their skills. But in the end, it was a good experience with great memories.” Over 230 scouts from all 30 National Hockey League teams attended the game. Much of the attention centered on the top three players in the recent NHL Central Scouting ratings – Windsor’s Cam Fowler (who was +4 in the game), Seguin and Hall. “It will be a battle between all three for the top ranking, which should go down to the wire (NHL Entry Draft next June),” said TSN’s Bob MacKenzie. In spite of the scrutiny for Hall, Seguin and Fowler, several other players improved their draft status with good work in the game. In a setting like the Prospects Game, it’s easy to forget that Skinner leads the OHL with 35 goals. But he worked hard to set up the game’s first goal by Niederreiter and then tipped Brandon Gormley’s point shot later on the give Team Orr a 2-1 lead in the second period. “There’s lots of guys out to prove to the scouts they deserve to be a bit higher than they are, and they belong out there with the top prospects,” Skinner said after the game. “I don’t mind stepping back from the spotlight. As long as I’m helping my team win, that’s the goal.” Skinner is currently rated 47th by Central Scouting, but that rating may well be going up. “I don’t focus on the numbers, I just go out and work hard,” he said. “When you look back at the numbers at the end of the season, that’s when you can be surprised or be proud of your numbers. I’m just taking it a game at a time, that’s where I am right now. Just worried about the next game and the next shift, that’s what my focus is on.” Niagara IceDogs goaltender Mark Visintine started for Team Orr and stopped all 19 shots he faced. Currently rated eighth by Central Scouting in the mid-term rankings, Visintine’s regular season numbers (3.41 goals against average, .901 save percentage) don’t seem like much. But Visintine plays for a young IceDogs team that is in the middle of rebuilding. There’s a Whalers connection to Visintine’s improvement. “When Jeremy Smith came to Niagara last year, he took Visintine under his wing,” said Niagara radio broadcaster Chuck Lafleur. “Although Smith played most of the time once he got here last year, he acted as a mentor to Visintine – how to prepare for games and everything else. You can really see a difference in Visintine this year.” Two other OHL players with a Michigan connection played well in the game. Forward Austin Watson (Ann Arbor, Peterborough) didn’t score in the game, but had an impact all the same. With Team Cherry leading, 3-2, in the third period but shorthanded by two men, Watson blocked two shots in one shift, (including Brandon Gormley’s hard shot from the high slot with 7:30 remaining) and hobbled to the bench. “It’s 5-on-3, it’s hard for anybody to kill that off,” Watson said. “I did it (killed penalties) a lot in Windsor. Just try to get into shot lanes. Fortunately or unfortunately I got in front of a few, and that was a big kill for our team.” “That’s the game,” Cherry said in the post-game press conference. “I hate to say, some guys in the National Hockey League are pulling flamingos and here are these guys blocking shots like that. Shows the heart of these guys. He really got the first one on the ankle, and he got the other one, I think that was the turning point of the game. We kill that penalty and the way he did it was unbelievable. You should have heard how the bench was cheering for him.” Defenseman Brandon Archibald (Port Huron, Sault Ste. Marie) played a regular shift with Greyhounds’ teammate Brock Beukeboom and started the play that set up the game-winning goal for Team Cherry as Hall and Spooner went on an odd-man rush out of the Team Cherry zone. Hall broke into the Orr zone with speed on the left wing and fed the puck in front of the net to Spooner.
“Our d-man broke the play up in our zone,” Hall said. “I knew right away that if I got speed it would be a 2-on-1. I saw the d-man was out of position a little bit. I faked the shot, slid it over to him (Spooner) and he put it in an open net.”
Trailing 3-2 with about 1:30, Coach Orr called timeout and pulled goaltender Louis Domingue. But Aubry of the Montreal Jrs. (and the son of one-time Red Wing Pierre Aubry) scored on the empty net with a minute remaining to ice the game for Team Cherry.
The shots were even in the game at 31-31.
“It was a good hockey game,” said MacKenzie. “The fans were entertained; there were a couple of fights, some big hits and a couple of shorthanded goals – something you don’t normally see in an all-star game. The NHL Scouts got a chance to see the best-of-the best of the upcoming draft class and that’s a real positive thing.”