QUEBEC â€” There weren’t a lot smiles seen in Quebec City a day after a horrific shooting at a local mosque, but players in the Canadian Top Prospects game were able to put it aside for a couple of hours and play some firewagon hockey on Monday night.
Gabe Vilardi scored on his Windsor Spitfires teammate Michael DiPietro to break a tie and help Team Cherry to a 7-5 victory over Team Orr before 9,707 fans at the Centre Videotron in the annual game featuring the best prospects for the NHL draft in June.
“It was pretty cool, I’ve got bragging rights for this year,” said Vilardi, who is projected to go high in the draft. “I was just battling to get in front of the net.
“I know Mikey’s a great desperation goalie so I knew he’d slide really far, so I tried to go five hole and it worked.”
Team Cherry captain Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings, ranked first for the NHL draft by NHL Central Scouting, had two assists while his Team Orr and Halifax Mooseheads counterpart Nico Hischier, ranked second, was dazzling while amassing a goal and two helpers.
A minute of silence was held before the opening faceoff and the message “Our thoughts are with the victims and their families” was displayed on the scoreboard, lending a sombre note to the game between 17- and 18-year-olds after the shooting on Sunday night that left six dead and several injured.
“It was pretty scary for the team because it was two blocks away from our hotel, so we were just getting back from dinner when it happened,” said Patrick. “We were put in lockdown in our rooms.
“That’s something you never want to see happen, but I thought the (Canadian Hockey League) did a great job of protecting the players. We didn’t have anything to worry about.
“It was a shock for everybody,” said Hischier. “The thoughts were with the victims. It was tough.”
But they were able to set it all aside once the puck was dropped.
Isaac Ratchiffe of the Guelph Storm, Antoine Morand of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, MacKenzie Entwistle of the Hamilton Bulldogs, Maxime Comtois of the Victoriaville Tigres and Owen Tippett of the Missisauga Steelheads also scored for Team Cherry. Jake Leschyshyn of the Regina Pats added an empty-net goal.
Henri Jokiharju of the Portland Winterhawks had three assists and was named Team Cherry’s player of the game.
Sasha Chmelevski of the Ottawa 67’s, Michael Rasmussen of the Tri-City Americans, Kailer Yamamoto of the Spokane Chiefs and Stelio Mattheos had the other goals for Team Orr.
Cherry outshot Orr 36-35.
Hischier’s line with Yahamoto and big Nikita Popugaev of the Price George Cougars was eye-catching all game for the Orrs.
“They were good players and it was fun to play with them,” said Hischier. “We had good chemistry. It was cool.”
Patrick took time to get going but the big centre made his presence felt as the game went on.
“I think the third period was my best,” he said.
Ratcliffe chopped the puck out of a scramble to beat Alex d’Orio of the Saint John Sea Dogs on a power play 6:59 into the game but Chmelevski stole a puck from Artyom Minulin of the Swift Current Broncos and scored at 8:36.
Morand put in a rebound at 12:35 and Rasmussen banged in a nifty behind the back pass from Cody Glass of the Winterhawks at 16:19.
Patrick lost the puck off the end of his stick in the Orr zone and Popugaev sent Hischier in on a breakaway to deke Ian Scott of the Prince Albert Raiders 4:55 into the second. Only nine seconds later, Entwhistle jumped on a loose puck and scored.
Patrick slipped a pass to Tippett and Comtois put in his rebound on a man advantage at 8:09, but only 46 seconds later Yamamota buried a wrist shot after taking a drop pass from Hischier on a rush.
At 11:08, the goalies changed. DiPietro went in the Orr net for d’Orio, who allowed four goals on 19 shots while Stuart Skinner of the Lethbridge Hurricanes replaced Scott, who gave up four of 17.
Vilardi put Team Cherry ahead at 17:24 after a point shot took an odd bounce fooled DiPietro. Tippett took a feed from Patrick and slid the puck in on a power play 11:28 into the third.
Team Orr had pulled DiPietro when Mattheos scored at 18:10.
“Our players are competitive and they we were right there,” Orr assistant coach Dominique Ducharme said of the move. “They wanted to win and wanted to help them win.”
The game featured 40 of the top players eligible for the NHL draft in June from the three Canadian major junior leagues.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press