For the group of players who traveled west from eastern Canada for the second annual CJAHL Top Prospects Game, the 5-2 loss was a frustrating end to a valuable experience.
A total of 40 players met in Vernon, B.C. for a two-day celebration of junior A hockey, culminating in the game played at the new Vernon Multi Plex. For the Vernon Vipers organization of the British Columbia Hockey League, and indeed the community, the event has been touted as a springboard to host the Royal Bank Championship in 2009 or 2010.
Goaltender Bryan Gillis of the Antigonish Bulldogs (Maritime Junior A Hockey League) started in the nets for Team East while Chris Rawlings of the Powell River Kings (BCHL) got the nod for Team West. When both goalies left the game midway through the second period, Rawlings had been near perfect, stopping 23 of 24 shots. Gillis faced 18 shots and allowed a pair of goals. Rawlings earned the nod as the Team West player of the game.
Riley Nash of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) opened the scoring on a power play midway through the first period. Nash took a quick feed from Casey Pierro-Zabotel of the Merrit Centennials (BCHL) snapped a wrist shot past Gillis on the stick side. Jeff Penner of the Dauphin Kings (Manitoba Junior Hockey League), one of only two 19-year-olds in the game, also collected an assist.
Pierro-Zabotel, who is second in scoring in the BCHL, will attend Michigan Tech next year. He lined up with Nash and Kyle Turris of the Burnaby Express (BCHL) to give Team West the most offensively gifted trio at the Top Prospects Game. Turris, currently ranked ninth among skaters by the International Scouting Service, has committed to the University of Wisconsin. Nash is projected by the Central Scouting Service to be chosen in the first three rounds of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Turris and Pierro-Zabotel were members of the gold-medal winning Team West at the world Junior A Championship in Yorkton, Saskatchewan in November.
Early in the second period, Chris Bryson of the Schreiber Diesels (Superior International Junior Hockey League) stole the puck in front of Gillis and sifted a backhand shot past the stunned goaltender to give Team West a 2-0 lead. Bryson, who played with Eric Delong of the Portage Terriers (MJHL) and Derek Serdachny of the Yorkton Terriers (Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League), was Team West’s best player in the period. An energy player, Bryson harassed Team East defensemen on the forecheck during a period where his team was decidedly outplayed.
David Ross of the Bowmanville Eagles (Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League) opened the scoring for Team East when he took a pass from defenseman Zach Fenwick of the Pickering Panthers (OPJHL), stepped around Rawlings and lifted the puck into an open net. Ross, who was one of four Eagles to make the trip to Vernon, lined up with Bowmanville teammates Kyle Goodchild and Scott Freeman, the current OPJHL scoring leader. Both Freeman and Goodchild were members of the silver medal-winning Team East at the World Junior A Championship in Yorkton.
Team East outshot Team West 19-13 in the period, but trailed 3-1 after 40 minutes. With less than a minute to play, Dustin Fummerton of the Schreiber Diesels (SIJHL) chipped the puck past Team East goaltender Dan Dunn of the Wellington Dukes (OPJHL). Delong and Serdachny picked up the assists on what was effectively a power-play goal, as Spencer Anderson of the Brampton Capitals (OPJHL) had just stepped back on the ice from the penalty box.
Dunn is the second ranked goaltender in the OPJHL with a 1.88 goals against average, .939 save percentage and a 15-3-0-1 record. The 6’5, 210-pounder chose the OPJHL after a short stint at the OHL’s Mississauga Ice Dogs camp and some interest from the QMJHL’s Hull Olympiques.
Early in the third frame, Scott Zurevinski of the host Vernon Vipers (BCHL) buried a shot behind Dunn after Bennett Royer of the Calgary Canucks (Alberta Junior Hockey League) and Turris did most of the work. Midway through the period, Ross picked up his second point of the game when Louis Caporusso of the St. Michael’s Buzzers (OPJHL) picked the puck up in the neutral zone and beat the defense to the outside before shoveling the puck in from behind the net past Team West goaltender Brad Eidsness of the Okotoks Oilers (AJHL).
Caporusso was the most consistently energized player on the ice all night and was named the Team East player of the game. The 5’10, 180-pound is a speedster and playmaker that chose the CJAHL over major junior in an effort to secure a college scholarship. He will attend the University of Michigan next season.
Penner put the game out of reach when he tallied on the power play with less than four minutes remaining. Taylor Fedun of the Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) and Nash chipped in with assists on the goal.
During the Skills Competition held the previous night, Nash won the shooting accuracy event, Louke Oakley of the Bowmanville Eagles (OPJHL) won the faster skater contest and Stephen Simms of the Weyburn Red Wings (SJHL) won the hardest shot competition…Team East won the 3-on-3 game, 6-1…Ben Wimmett of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) will be attending the University of Michigan next year…A total of eight players at the Top Prospects Game played in the final at the World Junior A Championship, including Turris, Pierro-Zabotel and Wimmett from Team West earned gold medals. From Team East, Brendan Smith of the St. Michael’s Buzzers (OPJHL), Caporusso, Anderson, Goodchild and Freeman won silver medals…Smith will attend the University of Wisconsin next year…Penner and Bryson, the two 19-year-old free agents in the game, picked up two points apiece for Team West…The 2007 CJAHL Top Prospects Game is scheduled for Winkler, Manitoba.
BCHL: British Columbia Junior Hockey League
AJHL: Alberta Junior Hockey League
SJHL: Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League
MJHL: Manitoba Junior Hockey League
SIJHL: Superior International Junior Hockey League
OPJHL: Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League
CJHL: Central Junior Hockey League
MJAHL: Maritime Junior A Hockey League
NOJHL: Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League
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