OHL takes wild 10-7 win over Russians

By Chris Roberts

Photo: Niagara Ice Dogs forward Freddie Hamilton was the OHL‘s Player of the Game in Ottawa (courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

It was a memorable night for everyone – except for maybe all four goaltenders – at the J. Benson Cartage Centre in Ottawa on Thursday night as Team OHL beat a travel-weary Russian squad 10-7 in a high-scoring, fast-paced affair.

While Boston Bruins first-rounder Dougie Hamilton was one of the bigger names on the OHL squad, it was his brother Freddie, a San Jose Sharks fifth round selection in 2010, that stole the spotlight.  The elder Hamilton recorded a hat-trick and added an assist, along with being named the OHL’s Player of the Game.

Despite travelling all day and only arriving at the arena a couple hours before puck drop, the Russians managed to get the jump on the OHL squad as Pavel Kulikov tipped home a Mikhail Naumenkov point shot at 4:57 of the first period. Team OHL seemed to find their feet following the goal as both Mark Scheifele and Boone Jenner had quality scoring chances but were stopped by Russian netminder Sergey Kostenko. They wouldn’t be denied for long, however, as the OHL’s leading point-getter, Tanner Pearson, finished on a two-on-one opportunity, burying a Cody Ceci pass.

Freddie Hamilton and defenseman Nathan Chiarlitti would also score for OHL as they took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.

From the opening puck drop, the game was played at a faster pace than most of the players are used to in the OHL regular season.

“It was a lot of fun,” said the team’s Captain, Tyler Toffoli. “The games during the season aren’t really that fast. It was good to get our feet moving”

Although Team OHL seemed to control the first period, the Russians fought back in the second, outscoring the OHL 4-1 to grab a 5-4 lead.

Winnipeg Jets prospect Ivan Telegin opened and closed the scoring in the second, tipping in a shot at 1:45 and scoring on a power-play at 15:42. Telegin was named the Russian Player of the Game, scoring two goals and adding two assists.

Freddie Hamilton scored the OHL’s lone goal in the second, finishing a two-on-one with Ryan Spooner.

The run-and-gun Russian offense was on display throughout the second period as the Russians seemed to outwork the team from the OHL in every aspect of play. Their speed, in particular, was more than evident.

“You have to adjust your gap a little bit,” said 2012 draft-eligible defenseman Cody Ceci. “You can’t be too far up. You usually have to stay back a little more because there’s guys flying down on you and there’s always a guy behind you it seems like.”

But the third period was a much different story. Though the Russians opened the scoring to extend their lead to 6-4, the OHL responded with a flurry of goals – six in a row to be exact, including three within 2:23 of play. Freddie Hamilton started the onslaught with his hat-trick goal, and Mark Scheifele tied the game on a quick, but manageable shot along the left side of the ice. After a Russian timeout, Ryan Strome wasted no time giving the OHL the lead, firing a wrist shot over the glove of the Russian keeper Pavel Suchkov, who would immediately be replaced by Kostenko – though it wouldn’t matter.

“We just had to get back to our game,” stressed Scheifele. “We were playing a little too passive in the second, trying to hold our lead, and you can’t do that. We stepped it up in the third and played more aggressive.”

Strome and Scheifele would score again while Seth Griffith added a marker, finishing with an easy tap in on a cross-ice pass from Toffoli. Bulat Shavaleev would score his second of the game with just a minute left for the Russians.

Perhaps fatigue began to set in for the Russians, but regardless, it was hard to ignore the OHL’s domination in the final frame.

“As every shift went by we either scored or had a really good opportunity,” said Toffoli.

Mark Visentin had a forgettable game in net for the OHL, stopping just 13 of 16 shots, while Andrew D’Agostini made 23 saves on 27 shots. Neither goalie helped their World Junior status.

And while players like Scheifele and Strome performed as expected, Freddie Hamilton made a strong case for a look at this year’s World Junior squad.

“Obviously you want to have a really good game. It might be one game, but you’ve got to make the most of it,” said Hamilton, referring to the importance of playing in front of such a big audience, especially those who will select the Canadian World Junior team. And while his individual performance was impressive, the fact that his line was one of the most dangerous all night will certainly help his chances.

“Being linemates with Ryan Strome in Niagara, and Ryan Spooner too, we’re real good friends, we’ve played together in the past,” he noted. “To have those two linemates it made it even more fun.”

Players of note for each club included the following:

Nail Yakupov
– Though he failed to record a goal in a game where 17 goals were scored, it wasn’t hard to tell he was one of the more dynamic players on the ice. They say the puck often follows the best players and it seemed to be that way for Yakupov. He has great speed and his ability to find the open man, particularly on the power-play, is frightening. He can be extremely creative with the puck, but sometimes a bit too creative. It wouldn’t hurt for him to simplify his game, but there is no denying his talent.

Ivan Telegin
– The player of the game for the Russians, Telegin finished with four points (two goals and two assists). The most impressive thing about his goals was that he was willing to go to the front of the net to score them. The Winnipeg Jets prospect has had a slow start to the season with the Barrie Colts, but perhaps this was his breakout game.

Vladislav Namestnikov
– The top Russian players seemed to be the ones already playing in the OHL. Namestnikov finished with just one assist, but like Yakupov, it wasn’t hard to tell his combination of skill and speed was amongst the best on the Russians.

Mikhail Naumenkov
– The 6’0 defenseman played a steady game for the Russians, chipping in with two assists. He was also a +1 in the losing effort. He’s got a terrific point shot and is not afraid to play a physical game; he took out the OHL’s Brett Ritchie with a hard hip-check in the third period as Ritchie tried to squeeze past the Russian defender.

Freddie Hamilton
: The obvious standout, Hamilton was in all the right spots during the game, banging in two goals in front of the net and finishing on a pretty pass from Ryan Spooner on a two-on-one. Like many of the other OHL players, Hamilton was also effective at utilizing the cycle and using his body to protect the puck deep in the Russian zone.

Ryan Spooner
: Though he is one of the smaller forwards on the team, you couldn’t notice it in his game. Spooner was shifty and elusive with the puck all night long, and displayed great vision, setting up three goals. More than that, he was willing to drive to the net on more than one occasion when he could have taken an outside shot.

Tanner Pearson
: Pearson was passed up in last year’s draft, but it’s looking more and more like a team might take a chance on the 19-year-old in the 2012 draft. The OHL’s leading point-scorer not only scored a goal, but was effective on the forecheck all night long. Some might point to his league-leading 37 points and attribute it to playing with Scheifele in Barrie, but Scheifele has played just six games this season. Pearson seems to be a late-bloomer.

Cody Ceci
: The 2012 draft-eligible Ceci showed poise beyond his years, playing a sound defensive game and setting up two goals in the first period, both of which were elite-level passes. His -3 rating was not at all indicative of the way he played defensively, and more so a reflection on the game’s high score. Scoring at over a point-per-game for the 67’s this year, Ceci is likely to be a first-round selection.