Ryan Spooner of the Peterborough Petes got credit for the winning goal but his coach Don Cherry gave the credit for the turning point in the game to his teammate Austin Watson.
Watson helped Team Cherry kill off a pair of late powerplays and made two key shot blocks - the second of which led to Spooner’s shorthanded goal that stood up as the game winner - in Cherry’s 4-2 win over Orr in the Home Hardware CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game in Windsor on Wednesday.
“Two blocked shots on a five-on-three - that was the turning point of the game,” Cherry said as Watson was about to be interview after the game. “That was unbelievable. He’s the guy.”
“It was five on three and that’s hard for anyone to kill that off but I just got out there and tried to get in the shot lanes,” said Watson, who played for the Spitfires until earlier this month and received a warm ovation when he was introduced. “Fortunately - or unfortunately - I got into a few. That was a big kill for our team. It was good for the win.”
Team Orr opened the scoring when Nino Niederreiter of the Portland Winterhawks scored late in the first period. Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers tied the game for Cherry with a short-handed marker midway through the second period.
Orr took the lead again early in the third period when Jeff Skinner of the Kitchener Rangers counted but Jordan Weal of the Regina Pats scored 30 seconds later to tie the game and the Spooner scored the winner with just over eight minutes left to play. Louis-Marc Aubry of the Montreal Juniors rounded out the scoring with an empty netter with a minute to go in the game.
“I’m going to be happy for a year,” Cherry said. “If you don’t think that there’s intensity in these games, you should be behind that bench or in the dressing room. These guys are playing for keeps. You could just feel the energy out there.”
Alexander Petrovic of the Red Deer Rebels had a pair of assists in the win while Weal, Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires, Devante Smith-Pelly of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors and Brandon Archibald of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds picked up singles.
Hall, the top rated player in the NHL mid-term rankings of the NHL draft, was named player of the game for Cherry.
“Today was a really good experience,” Hall said. “As Don said, that was the furthest thing from an all-star game. There was a lot of intensity and a lot of skill out there.”
Skinner, Brandon Gormley of the Moncton Wildcats and Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings had helpers for Team Orr.
Skinner, who won the breakaway contest in the skills competition last night, was Team Orr’s player of the game.
“It’s just an honour to play for Bobby Orr and it was a great game,” Skinner said. “It was a tough one to lose but I think our team battled hard and it was a lot of fun.”
Calvin Pickard of the Seattle Thunderbirds got the start for Team Cherry and gave up one goal on 14 shots before Maxime Clermont of the Gatineau Olympiques took over midway through the game and allowed one goal on 17 shots for the win.
“It was a wonderful hockey game,” said Orr, who had won the past three meetings between the coaches. “These are 40 kids that are the future of the NHL and I think every kid represented himself Very well. It was a fun day and it was great to see the kids perform like they did.”
Mark Visentin of the Niagara IceDogs got the start for Team Orr and turned aside all 19 shots he faced before Louis Domingue of the Quebec Remparts allowed three goals on 11 shots in the loss.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com)