A three-goal outburst over six minutes of the third period turned a closely played, 3-2 affair after two periods into a 6-3 win for Team Grier over Team Olczyk at the 2014 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game that took place at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY.
The stars on the evening for Mike Grier’s squad were forwards Jack Eichel, who netted a goal and added an assist; Jeremy Bracco, who potted two goals; Jordan Greenway, who setup a goal apiece for Eichel and Bracco; and Alec Baer, who netted the first goal of the contest and added an assist on a goal by Karch Bachman.
Team Grier defenseman Brandon Carlo also assisted on a pair of goals to star from the blueline, while starting goaltender Mike Opilka stopped 22 of 23 shots in nearly 30 minutes of work. The 22 saves were the most by any goaltender that has competed at the three prospect games held to date.
Eichel, a freshman at Boston University and a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft, was named the Player of the Game.
Getting on the scoresheet for Team Olczyk were forwards Brendan Warren, Tom Novak, and Connor Moynihan. Starting goaltender Mike Lackey turned away 15 of 16 shots in slightly less than 30 minutes of action.
Shots on goal for the game went in favor of Team Grier by a 45-44 margin.
Eichel plays largely as advertised
Living up to the hype surrounding his status as a top draft prospect competing at the All-American Prospects Game, Jack Eichel performed as a potential top NHL Draft selection would be expected to play. Aside from some early tentativeness and the general feeling out process that happens at an event of this nature, Eichel was a threat most times he was on the ice. His effortless skating stride, long reach and strong offensive instincts were all on display for much of this contest.
Eichel found himself with a fair amount of room to operate at times, which was not something he had expected going into the game.
“I found myself open a few times in front of the net with a lot of time,” admitted Eichel. “I think one time, I had too much time and I lost the puck…I think my linemates did a great job of finding me.”
Third period linemate Jordan Greenway was one of those players who was able to create a scoring opportunity, feeding Eichel a goalmouth pass that was deposited behind Olczyk goaltender Ryan Larkin.
“(Greenway) did all the work, to be honest,” said Eichel in describing his goal. “I kind of just came into the high slot, I saw the puck kind of squirt out, and he made a great play on the wall and got the puck to me. It was in my skate, so I just tried to get it to my stick and get a shot on goal and it ended up squeaking through. It was a great play by him”.
Eichel also credited his teammates on the other point he earned on the night, an assist on Jeremy Bracco’s goal that made the score 2-1 in favor of Team Grier.
“Another great play by them, too, I was kind of just the benefactor,” said Eichel. “The puck squirted out into the slot after a great forecheck by (Bracco and Greenway). Bracco got open on the backdoor and I was able to find him there.”
Twice the fun for Bracco
Team Grier forward Jeremy Bracco, a U.S. NTDP player who will be heading to Boston College in 2015, potted a pair of goals in the 6-3 win. As was the case with his linemate Jack Eichel, Bracco was quick to credit his linemates for his two goals.
“On the first one, I didn’t have to do much,” said Bracco. “It was a great play by Jack. Jordan and I started the forecheck hard and early there, and then the puck squirted out to Jack, he dropped a nice shoulder and then threw it over to me and I just tried to bury it, which was nice. And then the second one started in our D-zone. Greenie just flipped it up and I just got lucky enough to get to me and I just buried it.”
Eichel is already attending BU, while Greenway is slated to go there in 2015. Bracco is headed to cross-town rival BC, so the chemistry the trio had on the ice in this game had them joking about becoming collegiate teammates.
“Second period, we were going out and (Eichel) said “You sure you don’t want to come to BU?”, Bracco related. “We were just messing around with one another. And then, once Greenway got put on my line, I was like “Oh, God” because they’re both going to BU together. So, it was definitely fun, and it was good to play against the other guys that are going to BC. It just shows that college hockey is growing, especially the top 42 guys (at this game), a lot of them are going to college.”
Greenway uses brawn to aid linemates
Jordan Greenway came away with two assists on the night for Team Grier. But, even though he displayed some offensive chops, the NTDP forward knew what his main role was once he found himself on the first line.
“I was playing with two really skilled kids today,” said Greenway. “So, just being a little bit bigger, I thought I would create space for them and give the puck up to them, and have them create the chances. It worked out for us today.”
In addition to displaying his passing skills, Greenway also had a couple of scoring chances that he wasn’t able to bury, including a particularly good chance in the third that featured a great stop by Team Olczyk goaltender, Ryan Larkin.
“I’m going to be honest, I don’t know why (I didn’t score),” admitted Greenway. “No finish. A little Swedish, but no finish.”
Baer makes most of turn in the spotlight
The player that got the scoring started in this contest, Team Grier forward Alec Baer, was another member of the two-point club. He tipped in a shot from Ryan Smith at the 5:35 mark of the first to break the 0-0 deadlock, while also picking up the primary assist on the goal by Bachman.
“Smith just came up in the circle, and I was just calling for it, and he put it right on my stick and I deflected it in’” recounted Baer. “He just kind of let it go, and I just kind of deflected it in. I didn’t have much time once I got it, so kind of a shot-tip type of thing.”
The Vancouver Giants forward was effective most of the night, playing a gritty game while also displaying some offensive prowess along the way.
“I feel good about how I played,” said Baer. “I made a couple small mistakes, but two points, you can’t be disappointed with that.”