Team Orr claimed a dramatic 2-1 win over Team Cherry in the 2012 Home Hardware CHL / NHL Top Prospects Game on Wednesday night at Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C.
Branden Troock of the Seattle Thunderbirds lifted Team Orr to the win with a terrific effort with just 24 seconds remaining in the third period. The 17-year-old broke down the left wing and powered his way to the front of the net, sliding the puck under Matt Murray to end what was a physical, tight-checking affair.
Troock, who finished with a goal and an assist, was named Team Orr’s Player of the Game for his efforts.
“When I came off the bench, I knew there was only about 30 second left,” said Troock, a Product of Edmonton, Alta. “I saw Pouliot coming up the middle, so I tried to get my feet moving and called for the puck along the side.
“As soon as I crossed the line, I knew I had a step on the defenceman, so I knew I was taking it to the net to try and get a greasy one,” he said.
In one of the tightest checking affairs in the event’s history, the teams traded plenty of hits and the tempo was high while the scoring chances were few.
“I thought the game was really well played, it was physical, it was aggressive, I thought the goaltending was very good, and there wasn’t as many scoring chances as we thought there would be,” said Team Orr associate coach Don Hay of the Vancouver Giants. “Branden stepped up and scored a huge goal at the right time.”
A scoreless first period wasn’t without plenty of energy and physical play as both sides were keen on taking the body. Scoring chances were few, though, with the best opportunities going to Team Orr and both Tomas Hyka of the Gatineau Olympiques and Tanner Pearson of the Barrie Colts getting the best chances of the frame.
Three WHL players combined for the game’s first goal, with Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings firing home a shot through a crowd 2:46 into the second period. Colton Sissons of the Kelowna Rockets and Troock picked up assists on the tally.
“I just tried to play a good defensive game tonight, and let our forwards do the work, but I was lucky enough to get a goal, which was a nice bonus,” said Reinhart.
The physical play didn’t let up in the second period, with Tom Wilson of the Plymouth Whalers throwing a heavy hit along the boards.
“It was a hard-nosed game, and both teams were going,” said Wilson. “I just focused on bringing a physical presence out there and throwing my body around to try and get the boys going.”
The teams traded golden scoring chances early in the third. Murray, who plays for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, robbed Baie-Comeau’s Raphael Bussieres with a terrific glove save with Team Orr on the power play. Shortly after, Andrew Ryan narrowly missed on a shorthanded breakaway.
“It was a really cool experience, and the first time I’ve ever been able to do something like this,” said Murray, who was Team Cherry’s Player of the Game after making 17 saves, several of the spectacular variety, over the final 30 minutes of the game. “I think I learned a lot here, and was happy with how I played tonight.”
Mark Recchi’s Team Cherry finally broke their goose egg midway through the period when defenceman Dillon Fournier of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies buried his own rebound at the 8:23 mark. Mike Winther of the Prince Albert Raiders picked up an assist on Fournier’s marker.
Goaltending was strong for both teams, and was a big contributing factor in what was the lowest-scoring game in the history of the Home Hardware CHL / NHL Top Prospects Game.
Chris Driedger of the Calgary Hitmen turned aside all 14 shots he faced for Team Orr over the first 30 minutes, while Francois Tremblay of the Val-d’Or Foreurs stopped 13 of 14 shots he faced over the final 30 minutes. Brandon Whitney of the Victoriaville Tigres made 11 saves over the first 30 minutes for Team Cherry.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)