In what was an entertaining and hard-fought game, Team West received some late-game heroics to defeat Team East 3-2 in the 2015 CJHL Prospects Game played at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, ON.
With the score tied at 2 and Team West pressing hard in the Team East zone late in the third period, West forward Rhett Gardner (Okotoks Oilers – AJHL; CSS – 182) gained control of the puck to the left of East goaltender Justin Kapelmaster (Trenton Golden Hawks – OJHL; NR) . Gardner then fed a pass to the right point to defenseman Gabe Bast (Penticton Vees – BCHL; CSS – 209), who spotted forward Jarod Hilderman (Penticton Vees – BCHL; NR) driving to the net. Bast fed a perfect pass to Hilderman, who quickly fired the puck on net and managed to get the puck past a diving Kapelmaster to make the score 3-2 with just 7.3 seconds left in the game.
“I was ready and I was prepared to have to make some big saves, and I did that, but I didn’t get that last one in the end, there,” said a disappointed Kapelmaster, who stopped 15 of 16 shots on the night.
Although Team East had some short stretches where they controlled the play in the game, Team West was nevertheless a deserving winner on this night. The West finished with a 36-22 shot advantage on the night, which included a third period in which they outshot the East squad, 13-3.
But, after an evenly played first five minutes, it was Team East that actually opened the scoring in this game.
East forward Keegan Mulhearn (Cornwall Colts – CCHL; NR) carried the puck into the West zone, the fed a pass into the slot to Laine McKay (Hamilton Red Wings – OJHL; NR), who made no mistake in beating West starting goaltender, Bo Didur (Langley Rivermen – BCHL; NR), to give his team the 1-0 lead. Joachim Vachon (Sherbrooke Cougars – QJHL; NR) logged the second assist on the goal.
But a little less than six minutes later, Team West evened the score on a goal that Team East starter Adrian Clark (Carleton Place Canadians – CCHL; NR) would probably like to have back.
West defenseman Hilderman retrieved the puck back in his own zone and proceeded to skate the puck up ice. After moving just inside the red line to the East’s side of the ice, Hilderman unleashed a hard shot that somehow eluded Clark to make the score 1-1.
Team West used that first goal as a launching pad, taking the play to Team East over the remainder of the first period. They would add a second goal in that period off of a nice passing play, coming just a little over one minute after their first goal.
West forward Tyler Busch (Spruce Grove Saints – AJHL; CSS – 205) had control of the puck in the East zone and fed a pass to forward Kirklan Lycar (Dauphin Kings – MJHL; NR), who then finished off the three-way passing play by getting the puck to Jordan Kawaguchi (Chilliwack Chiefs – BCHL; NR) heading towards the East net. Kawaguchi made no mistake in putting the puck between the legs of Clark to give the West their 2-1 lead.
East forward Jacob Hayhurst (Toronto Patriots – OJHL; NR) had a great chance to tie the game later in the first period when he found himself in alone on Didur. Didur was equal to the task, however, keeping the score in the West’s favor.
The first period ended with the West holding a 13-7 shot advantage.
The second period saw Team East gain a slight edge in play while also evening the score.
East put on a little pressure early in the second, but it was West that nearly added to their total. Forwards Adam Berg (Calgary Mustangs – AJHL; NR) and Darien Craighead (Cowichan Valley Capitals – BCHL; NR) both had chances in close on East goaltender Clark, but Clark denied those chances to hold East in the game.
East then tilted the ice in the West’s direction, generating chances including a one-timer by McKay that was stopped by the West’s second goaltender for the night, Stefan Wornig (Powell River Kings – BCHL; CSS – 22).
Just a little over halfway through the second and not long after McKay’s scoring chance, the East applied pressure in the West end. East’s Hayhurst made up for his failed breakaway attempt in the first by chipping the puck past Wornig to tie the game at 2. Assists went to Lucas Batt (Amherst Ramblers – MHL; NR) and Mike Laidley (Aurora Tigers – OJHL; NR).
Up until this point of the game there had been very little hitting or smack talk, but things began to heat up shortly after the East’s game-tying goal.. East defenseman Kyle Locke (Aurora Tigers – OJHL; NR) and West forward Kawaguchi got into a scrap after Locke put a hit on Kawaguchi. Both players were ejected from the game, but Locke received an extra two for roughing, which led to the first power play of the game. The West wasn’t able to capitalize, however, with the score remaining tied at 2..
The testy play continued with about three minutes left in the period when East forward Dawson Theede (Cobourg Cougars – OJHL; NR) drove West defender Gabe Bast into the boards, which led to some pushing and shoving and words being exchanged. With Theede receiving a roughing penalty for his efforts, the West was handed their second power play of the game but again failed to convert.
Coincidental slashing minors were handed out to East’s Keaton Ratcliffe (Aurora Tigers – OJHL; NR) and West’s Vincent Desharnais (Chilliwack Chiefs – BCHL; CSS – 208) in the last minute of the second, leading to 4-on-4 hockey for the remainder of the second and into the third.
Team East outshot Team West in the period, 12-10, but the West still held the overall edge in shots, 23-19.
Team West controlled much of the play in the third period, but East goaltender Kapelmaster was up to the task all the way until the last-second goal by Hilderman. Kapelmaster’s best saves of the period included a blocker save off a quick shot from the slot by Berg and a pad save on Desharnais later in the period.
Late in the game, before the winning goal, Kapelmaster made a couple of saves in a scramble around the East net before West forward Brogan O’Brien (Prince Geoerge Spruce Kings – BCHL; NR) netted what he thought was the go-ahead goal. But the goal was waved off due to the net being off the moorings, setting the stage for Hilderman’s late goal.
For his fine play in the second half of the game, Kapelmaster was named Team East’s Player of the Game. Receiving that honor for Team West was forward Jackson Keane (Winnipeg Blues – MJHL; CSS – 161), son of former NHL forward Mike Keane, who despite not posting any points on the night was still an effective player for much of the game.
After the game, Keane spoke of his appreciation for the opportunity to compete at this event.
“I think we played a good team game, and I think a lot of guys showed what they can do,” said Keane. “Hopefully it shows a little recognition for our guys that might not get it all the time. I think it’s a big stepping stone for some players, and it’s just nice to be a part of it.”
You can view both of Hilderman’s goals, including the game-winner, in the video below.
Aside from the strong play of Kapelmaster, other strong performers for the East included the duo of McKay and Mulhearn. McKay was probably the most effective forward for the East, with forward Jackson Bales (Oakville Blades – OJHL; NR) from host Oakville also being noticeable throughout much of the contest. At defense, Locke was the most effective for the East until he was ejected from the game.
In addition to Keane’s soild play throughout, other notable West performers in this game included the forward line of Kawaguchi (until ejected), Lycar, and Marcus Vela (Langley Rivermen – BCHL), who is the highest ranked CJHL player (#123) in Central Scouting’s midterm rankings that were released on Tuesday. That line was effective through most of the game’s first half, with Lycar and Vela both playing well through the remainder of the game after Kawaguchi had been ejected.
Team West’s defense also featured some solid performers, including Desharnais, Hilderman, Bast, and James Vermeulen (Whitecourt Wolverines – AJHL; NR). Vermeulen in particular seemed especially poised, moving the puck smartly while making good defensive plays in his own zone, including a sliding play on East forward Nick Thomakos (Stouffville Spirit – OJHL; NR) that could have ended up in the West’s net.
Notes: Attendance for the 2015 CJHL Prospects Game was 1,232…The league raised in the neighborhood of $1500 in support of injured Smiths Falls player Neil Doef, who suffered a spinal injury at the 2014 World Junior A Challenge.