Before he stepped behind the bench at Thursday’s CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, Jeremy Roenick got a phone call from former Phoenix Coyotes teammate Keith Tkachuk. Tkachuk’s son, Matthew, is a draft-eligible prospect who was assigned to Team Roenick for the event.
“He called me up and said, ‘You better play my kid all night because he needs to get noticed,’” Roenick said, smiling.
But Roenick didn’t need any convincing. Tkachuk was one of the best players on the ice at First Niagara Center, recording a goal and two assists in front of more than 150 National Hockey League scouts and general managers. Tkachuk had his team ahead, 4-3, before Team Plante roared back with three third-period goals to win the game, 6-4.
Luke McInnis of the United States Hockey League’s Youngstown Phantoms was named Player of the Game after scoring the deciding goal with less than two minutes to play. Working on the power play, McInnis settled a pass from Charlie McAvoy and walked to the top of the circle before scoring on a wrist shot to the low-blocker side. Kieffer Bellows sealed the victory with an empty-net goal in the final minute.
“I tried not to think about [the scouts], just played my game,” said McInnis, whose father, Marty, played almost 800 NHL games. “Hopefully it worked out.”
Team Roenick got the scoring started early when Luke Kunin (University of Wisconsin) picked the top corner less than minute into the game for the first of his two goals. Max Jones (London Knights) responded for Team Plante shorty after, putting a backhanded one-timer past Tyler Parsons.
After Team Plante took a 3-2 lead late in the second period on goals from Trent Frederic and Logan Brown, Team Roenick stole the momentum back with goals just 10 seconds apart. Tkachuk scored the first one, slamming home a rebound from his knees, and Kunin went high-glove on a breakaway just after the ensuing faceoff.
“[Tkachuk] played extremely well,” Roenick said. “His hockey intelligence is really what stood out the most for me. He knew where to go. At that age, you don’t see kids too often, before they get the puck, to be looking around and knowing where they’re going with the puck before they even get it. And Matty, he did that four or five times with perfect passes right on the tape. It resulted in one goal and could’ve resulted in three or four.”
Jones tied the game for Team Plante on a bad-angle shot with 6:37 to play, and McInnis netted the winner less than five minutes later. Kunin (2 goals, 1 assist), Tkachuk (1+2) and William Knierim (0+3) shared the game lead with three points each. Kunin had a game-high six shots on goal.
“I’d like to say I taught those guys a whole bunch, but [that’s] not really the case,” winning coach Derek Plante said. “I think you just try to make it a lot of fun for them and make them aware of what’s really important.
“It’s not always important to stick handle through everybody, but team play, because the guys who are watching are pretty educated and know who can make plays, and smart plays. I just tried to let them know that’s the way to really get noticed, to show how you can be smart. Then your skills will really show.”
Team Plante goalie Ryan Edquist (Madison Capitals) was hardly tested in his 29 minutes of ice time but stopped all five shots he faced. Starter Evan Sarthou (Tri-City American) made 24 saves on 28 shots.
For Team Roenick, Dhillon (Niagara Ice Dogs) made 19 of 23 saves in 54:35 of action. He had to relieve Parsons (London Knights) less than five minutes into the contest after Parsons took a hard shot to the collarbone. He stopped four of five shots before leaving the game.
“He’s pretty sore,” Roenick said of Parsons. “He’s hoping he can start opening night in London.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.