Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010 NHL Prospects Tournament: Championship Game - Detroit vs. Minnesota

In the 13-year history of the NHL Prospects Tournament, one somewhat surprising fact seemed to loom on a lot of people’s minds. The Detroit Red Wings, hosts of the tourney since its inception in 1998, have never won the championship. 8 other NHL teams have claimed the crown in that timeframe (led by St. Louis’ 4 trophies – 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2004). In fact, the Wings have been very gracious hosts, only reaching the title match in the inaugural year, losing to Nashville. But the buzz around Centre ICE was palpable as the home crowd anticipated victory heading into the 2010 NHL Prospects Tournament championship game versus the undefeated Minnesota Wild.

Detroit stormed the net early, making Wild netminder Matt Hackett (Plymouth – OHL) work early with a handful of chances in close. But Hackett stood his ground and the Wild worked hard to regain momentum, with captain Cody Almond (Houston – AHL) forechecking along the boards behind the net of Detroit goaltender Thomas McCollum (Grand Rapids – AHL). Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (Spokane – WHL) and stud forward Casey Wellman (UMass-Amherst – Hockey East) played dump-and-chase, and Jarod Palmer (Miami – CCHA) showed some speedy wheels as he deftly maneuvered into the Detroit zone. The Wild had a golden opportunity when Chad Rau (Houston –AHL) pick-pocketed a Detroit player to set up what would’ve been a 2-on-1 chance, but Red Wing FA tryout Trevor Parkes (Montreal – QMJHL) showed great hustle by backchecking to thwart the would-be scoring opportunity. Despite the back-and-forth tempo, only a handful of shots landed on net (Detroit finished the first a 9-6 edge) as both teams headed to the lockerroom in a scoreless tie.

Minnesota showed more of its defensive tendencies, as Joel Broda (Calgary – WHL) was able to force a turnover early in the second, especially showing his hard work in the neutral zone throughout the game. Almond tried to set up shop in front of McCollum to screen blasts from the point from the smooth puck-handling blueline pair of Nate Prosser (Colorado College – WCHA) and Tyler Cuma (Ottawa – OHL). Detroit looked to regain their edge by trying to draw penalties (as they were uncharacteristically called for 4 minors in the middle period), but Brent Raedeke (Edmonton/Brandon – WHL) as not convincing enough to the officials after taking an errant Minnesota elbow to the chops.

The pace of the contest picked up towards the middle of the second, as the teams exchanged a handful of frantic end-to-end rushes. The Wings’ persistence paid off as Sebastien Piche (Toledo – ECHL) unwound a one-timer from Landon Ferraro (Red Deer – WHL, but bound for Everett this year) that beat Hackett to crack the scoreless tie. But Minnesota came close to tying the contest soon after when Kris Foucault (Calgary – WHL) dangled a nifty backhander that McCollum was able to swat away. Minnesota had the edge in shots at 9-7 in the second, but trailed 1-0 heading into the third.

The Wild attacked the Detroit zone in search of an equalizing marker. Winger Brandon Buck (Florida – ECHL/Houston – AHL) showed great speed circling around the net, forechecking tenaciously to keep the puck deep in the Detroit zone. Finally, with 9 minutes to play, Almond took an entry feed from big blueliner Marco Scandella (Val D’Or – QMJHL), skated along the left boards, and fired a shot from the faceoff circle to McCollum’s right that tickled the twine to tie the contest. The Wings attempted to counter, but Hackett was up for the challenge, making 15 saves in the final frame and 30 for the game. J.T. Barnett (Vancouver – WHL) notched the game winner with 4:31 to go by potting a loose puck after a big scramble in front of McCollum. Scandella added an insurance goal on cannon of a shot from the left point off a Wellman feed with 1:32 left, leaving the home crowd somewhat deflated, but very appreciative for the phenomenal hockey acumen displayed over the last five days.

FINAL SCORE: Minnesota 3, Detroit 1

With the victory, Minnesota claimed its second NHL Prospects Tournament title (their first was in 2003). Cody Almond accepted the trophy at center ice as the team celebrated to a polite round of applause and “We Are The Champions” in the background.

Meanwhile, in the 3rd place game next door, fans were treated to an equally exciting contest, as Jeff Skinner (Kitchener – OHL) scored 3:36 into the second overtime frame (played with 3 skaters aside) to give the Carolina Hurricanes (last year’s defending champions) a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Carolina received tallies from Matt Kennedy (Guelph/Barrie – OHL), Justin Shugg (Windsor – OHL, bound for Memorial Cup host Mississauga via an off-season trade), and Jared Staal (Sudbury – OHL), while Tampa’s James Wright (Vancouver – WHL) forced overtime with 7 ½ left in regulation. The Lightning also received a pair of goals from emergency addition Matt Butcher (Northern Michigan – CCHA).


2010 – Minnesota Wild
2009 – Carolina Hurricanes
2008 – Dallas Stars
2007 – New York Rangers
2006 – Columbus Blue Jackets
2005 – Columbus Blue Jackets
2004 – St. Louis Blues
2003 – Minnesota Wild
2002 – Washington Capitals
2001 – St. Louis Blues
2000 – St. Louis Blues
1999 – St. Louis Blues
1998 – Nashville Predators

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