Hockey fans ventured to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto hoping to see a repeat of last year’s entertaining, 4-2 Team Cherry win at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Instead, those in attendance were provided with a replay of the 2009 affair, a game won easily by Team Orr, 6-1.
In 2011, Team Orr bested the 2009 score by one, defeating Team Cherry 7-1. The win was fueled by a stellar performance from a highly rated NHL Draft prospect, center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins, the Team Orr captain, was a dangerous presence on the ice for much of the night. He finished the night with two assists, one of six Team Orr players to register a multi-point game. Forward Zack Phillips of the QMJHL‘s Saint John Sea Dogs actually led the way offensively for Team Orr, as he netted one goal and two assists on the night. But Nugent-Hopkins could easily have registered more points had other plays that he had setup been converted into goals.
But the lopsided score did not tell the tale of the game in the early going, as was the case in 2009. Team Cherry was the more aggressive team in what was a somewhat scrambled first period, a period in which Cherry outshot Orr, 13-3. But Team Orr scored the only goal of the first, a shorthanded effort by Daniel Catenacci. Catenacci scored off a rush that ensued after Team Cherry missed on a glorious scoring opportunity at the other end of the ice. Defenseman Reece Scarlett picked up the lone assist on the goal, feeding Catenacci the puck to send the Soo Greyhound forward on his scoring jaunt. The time of the goal was 11:56.
Team Orr gained a little life after breaking the ice, but the player most responsible for keeping Orr in the game was goaltender Liam Liston. Liston, who plays for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, was perfect during his stint in goal for Team Orr. A lesser performance may have resulted in a different outcome in this game, but he was especially sharp on goalmouth scoring chances by Team Cherry’s Ryan Murphy and Tomas Jurco late in the first period.
The second period opened with Team Orr playing a more confident game in front of their goaltender. Team Cherry still was able to put some pressure on Liston, but momentum was clearly swinging towards Team Orr.
Team Orr notched their second goal of the game at the 5:28 mark of the second period. Nugent-Hopkins fed winger Sven Bartschi on a 2-on-1 break, with the Portland Winterhawks’ Bartschi beating Team Cherry starting goaltender Christopher Gibson. Zack Phillips picked up the other assist on the goal.
The scoring surge for Team Orr continued five minutes later when forward Jonathan Huberdeau batted in his own rebound in close after defenseman David Musil put a shot from the point on goal. Boone Jenner picked up the other assist on the goal, which came at 9:28 of the second.
Team Cherry couldn’t solve Liston, but they gained a bit of life with the switch of goaltenders at the period’s midpoint. Jordan Binnington, who shutdown Team Cherry in the 3-on-3 game that took place the previous night, gave up the loan goal scored by Team Cherry. Cherry forward Shane Prince beat Binnington with a nice shot from the slot, but it would be the only blemish on the night for Team Orr. Ty Rattie and Scott Harrington added the assists to Prince’s goal, which came at 11:59 of the second period.
The period ended with Team Orr holding their 3-1 lead, and they closed the gap in the shots department with Team Cherry still holding a 21-17 edge.
Team Cherry had thoughts of a comeback heading into the third, but Team Orr dashed those hopes with three quick goals early in the period.
Orr defenseman Nathan Beaulieu, another Saint John player taking part in this game, scored a goal off a cross-ice feed from Boone Jenner at the 2:58 mark of the third. Jonathan Huberdeau, the other Saint John player on Team Orr, added the other assist on this goal.
Fifty-eight seconds later, Team Orr struck again. This time, Zack Phillips cashed in a rebound after Team Cherry goaltender David Honzik stopped a shot by Nugent-Hopkins. Sven Bartschi picked up the other assist for Orr.
Team Orr struck yet again at the 5:10 mark with forward Vincent Trocheck scoring off the rush by putting the puck in between Honzik’s legs. Colin Jacobs notched the assist with a pass that sent Trocheck in on his scoring drive to the net, making the score 6-1 for Team Orr.
As Team Cherry became more frustrated with the slant of the game, play became more chippy. Cherry defenseman Ryan Murphy leveled Nugent-Hopkins with a hit, which led to some chirping and shoving between the two teams.
Team Orr closed out the scoring with a goal by Doug Hamilton of the OHL‘s Niagara Ice Dogs. Hamilton launched a rocket from the point that caught the inside of the far post, beating Honzik. Vladislav Namestnikov and Zack Phillips picked up the assists on the goal, which was scored at 18:01 of the third.
Team Orr finished the night ahead in both the score and on the shot clock, with the shot totals being 30-28 in favor of Orr.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who plays for the WHL‘s Red Deer Rebels, was named Player of the Game for Team Orr, while the Kitchener Rangers’ Ryan Murphy received that honor for Team Orr.