By Matt Mackinder -
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game started out slow, but picked up the pace as the game wore on and Team McClanahan defeated Team Housley 5-2 Saturday night at First Niagara Center in front of scouts and general managers representing all 30 National Hockey League teams.
The two teams of the top American-born prospects for the 2013 NHL draft were coached by two ex-Buffalo Sabres in former NHL defenseman Phil Housley, also the coach of this winter’s U.S. national junior team, and Rob McClanahan, a member of the 1980 “Miracle On Ice” U.S. Olympic team.
“It’s all about the coaching,” laughed McClanahan after the game. “I was impressed with the players’ energy and I was impressed with their skill. Even though it was a one-sided affair, I thought both teams had some very talented kids out there.”
Housley said his team had nothing to hand their heads over.
“I thought we carried the play for most of the first period, but (Team McClanahan goalie) Cal Petersen was their equalizer,” Housley said. “Overall, I thought our team competed very well and I thought the game went according to plan and guys were hitting each other, getting in front of shots and it was very competitive out there.”
Eight Michigan connections participated in the inaugural game. Macomb native Mike McCarron, Grosse Pointe Farms native Trevor Hamilton, and Saginaw Spirit forward Jimmy Lodge dressed for Team McClanahan, while Canton native Mike Downing, St. Clair native Tyler Motte, Sterling Heights native Evan Allen, Plymouth Whalers forward Ryan Hartman, and Wolverines commit J.T. Compher skated with Team Housley.
Team McClanahan’s Jacob Montgomery had the first real scoring chance of the game eight minutes into the opening period, but was stopped by Team Housley goalie Eamon McAdam on a mini 2-on-1.
Sean Malone was then stopped by Petersen minutes later from in tight.
Hudson Fasching made it 1-0 Team McClanahan on an easy re-direct in front of McAdam after a nifty pass from the left faceoff dot from Ryan Fitzgerald at 15:54 of the opening period.
Austin Farley nearly made it 2-0 with under two minutes to play in the first, but hit the left post.
McAdam stoned Quentin Shore from point-blank range with his right pad early in the second to keep the game 1-0 Team McClanahan.
The score remained 1-0 until potential top-overall pick Seth Jones made it 2-0 with a blast from the blue line that eluded McAdam after a face-off win by Fitzgerald at 6:06 of the middle period.
Jones, tabbed by many to go either No. 1 or No. 2 next June, was impressed with the game’s turnout and competitiveness.
“I thought the first period was kind of slow, but once everyone calmed down and got comfortable with the pace, there was a lot of hitting out there and it was pretty physical,” said Jones, son of former NBA player Popeye Jones.
Montgomery then tallied on a nice give-and-go with Saginaw Spirit forward Jimmy Lodge to make it a three-goal advantage at 8:17.
At 14:58, a bouncing puck found its way past new Team Housley goalie Hunter Miska during a goal-mouth scramble. Shore was credited with the goal.
Sterling Heights native Evan Allen got Team Housley on the board 6:08 into the third period. Frank Vatrano’s initial shot was stopped by Evan Cowley, but the rebound came right to Allen and the Michigan recruit who made no mistake.
Team McClanahan got the goal right back when Dakota Mermis tallied on a wrister from the slot at 10:50.
Allen’s second of the game came on a rebound at 13:49 from a Steven Santini shot.
“I thought I played pretty good,” said Allen. “I didn’t really know what to expect from the game, but I got those two goals and got my confidence up. It was an awesome experience and to know that I’m getting up there with the top guys is a real confidence booster for me.”
McClanahan said that winning the game has its perks, but it’s the players that should get all the credit.
“To me, the key was winning the first period,” said McClanahan. “(Fitzgerald) won a lot of faceoffs and I think faceoffs are sometimes a part of the game that gets overlooked. I thought (Team Housley) outplayed us in the first period, but they hit a couple pipes and we got a couple breaks and Cal Petersen played great for us.”
There was also an undisclosed friendly wager between McClanahan and Housely.
“Well, I win,” said McClanahan. “I just need to see if Housley pays up.”
GAME NOTES: Buffalo-area natives Sean Malone (West Seneca) and Matt Lane (Rochester) received the biggest cheers during player introductions … Former Sabres’ and Red Wings’ coach Scotty Bowman, the winningest coach in NHL history, dropped the ceremonial first puck … Brian Duff from the NHL Network interviewed NHL and USA Hockey personalities and players from the game throughout the game and the interviews were shown on the video screen on the center ice scoreboard … The first penalty wasn’t called until 11:41 of the second – tripping on Team Housley’s Tyler Motte, a St. Clair native and Michigan recruit … Attendance was announced as 5,519 … Fitzgerald took home game MVP honors.