Ross Colton wasn’t an unknown among NHL teams before Tuesday, but he certainly motivated scouts to add more notes to his folder after scoring a hat trick and tallying five points in the 2016 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Colton’s effort along with his linemates Michael O’Leary and Willie Knierim, who both play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints, keyed a 6-2 win for Team East over Team West in the USHL showcase at Ralston Arena.
“It was a dream come true,” said the 19-year-old Colton, who plays for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and is committed to the University of Vermont. “I just wanted to go out there and play my best and show them what I was capable of doing. I got great help from my two linemates, those two Dubuque guys. They were finding me out there. It was just an awesome experience to be a part of and I’m thankful to be a part of it.”
Colton, O’Reilly and Knierim got going in the first period. O’Leary deked the East starting goalie Peyton Jones for the opening goal at 2:19 of the first period. Colton made it 2-0 when Knierim drove wide to the net from the left side and found Colton in the lower right circle. Colton later scored with a shot while skating across the deep slot early in the third period and added another goal on a 1-on-1 opportunity.
O’Leary, who is uncommitted, likely boosted his stock as well. He finished with one goal and three assists. He dedicated his performance to his grandmother, who recently passed away.
“I think it obviously feels good,” O’Leary said. “Obviously there were a lot of people here tonight, and I wanted to have a good game. My grandmother just recently passed, and I wanted to have a good game for her. I was happy that I could do that for her tonight.”
Tri-City Storm forward Wade Allison, a Western Michigan recruit, was named Team West MVP. He had one goal and one primary assist in the loss. Colton earned MVP honors for Team East.
West forward CJ Dodero, who plays for the Sioux City Musketeers and is uncommitted, and East forward Cameron Morrison, who plays for the Youngstown Phantoms and is committed to the University of Notre Dame, also scored goals in the game.
Goalies Jan Ruzicka, who plays for the Des Moines Buccaneers, and Cale Morris, who plays for the Waterloo Black Hawks and is committed to Notre Dame, combined to stop 26-of-28 shots in the win.
Twenty-eight of 30 NHL teams were represented in the building. The Chicago Blackhawks brought the most staff as they had eight scouts and rented a suite for them.
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