Plymouth, Mich. - Monday’s BioSteel All-American Game touted the best NHL Draft-eligible talent from the United States Hockey League (USHL) with Team Blue besting Team White 4-3 in overtime at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich. This year’s event, the first to reach overtime in the event’s history, featured members of the USHL Member Clubs interspersed with members from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) Under-18 roster, one of the 16 USHL Member Clubs.
With one goal and one assist, USA Hockey NTDP forward Rutger McGroarty (Team Blue) was named Player of the Game. McGroarty joins Sasha Pastujov (2021) and Jake Sanderson (2020) with All-American Game Player of the Game honors. Pastujov had a three-point night (2-1-3) last year and Sanderson registered a pair of assists (0-2-2) in the inaugural event two seasons ago. Sanderson would go on to be Drafted fifth overall by the Ottawa Senators at the 2020 NHL Draft while Pastujov was selected in the Third Round (66th Overall) by the Anaheim Ducks in 2021.
Teams shared opportunities throughout the overtime frame but it was Green Bay Gamblers defenseman Damien Carfagna who sent home the game-winning goal, a heavy wrister on a two-on-one opportunity. Chicago Steel forward Jack Harvey got the play started by feeding the puck to Carfagna, who entered the zone on a two-on-one with USA Hockey NTDP forward Cutter Gauthier but opted to shoot and found twine for the first overtime goal in BioSteel All-American Game history.
Team White jumped out to a lead midway through the first period with the Dubuque Fighting Saints connection paid off as forward Kenny Connors got the puck to Connor Kurth who waited out the Team Blue netminder before sliding the puck over to Stephen Halliday for the tap-in goal. The Fighting Saints trio, on paper, was the third line for Team White. Through 30 games played, the trio of Dubuque forwards has 121 points (49-72-121) with Halliday and Kurth currently second and third in USHL league scoring. Halliday is one point off the league lead with 49 points this season (18-31-49), followed by Kurth with 43 (19-24-43).
Another familiar trio got on the board in the second period as USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) forwards Cole Spicer, Logan Cooley and Lane Hutson connected for Team White’s second tally of the game. Hutson sent a pass down to Cooley who skated to the netfront of usual teammate Dylan Silverstein (Team Blue) and tried to convert a between-the-legs opportunity that was denied, but Spicer broke to the netfront to send home the loose puck.
NTDP netminders Tyler Muszelik (Team White) and Silverstein started the game in net for their respective teams. Muszelik was then replaced by Gibson Homer (Goaltender, Chicago Steel) and Silverstein was relieved by Paxton Geisel (Goaltender, Dubuque Fighting Saints) with 9:50 to play in the second period. Muszelik finished with 13 saves while Silverstein turned aside 16 of the 18 shots he faced.
Team Blue got in on the scoring action after the goaltending switch as NTDP forward Jimmy Snuggerud sent home a rocket from the top of the circle to Homer’s left, finding room above the glove to cut the Team White lead to 2-1. Snuggerud’s fellow NTDP forwards Gauthier and Rutger McGroarty picked up assists on the goal.
Team White re-extended its lead to two just minutes later when Brady Berard (Forward, USA Hockey NTDP) found the back of the net with a rebound goal off the lively end boards behind Geisel. Berard’s NTDP teammate, forward Marek Hejduk, got the play started, dishing to Gleb Veremyev (Forward, Lincoln Stars) who’s shot bounced off the end boards and found Berard just feet away from the front of the net for the tally.
Team Blue again pulled within a tally, this time in the third period, off the stick of Fargo Force forward Cole Knuble. Knuble sent a backhander to the top shelf after receiving a centering feed from Tri-City Storm defensemen Vincent Borgesi.
McGroarty got a goal of his own late in the third period to tie things up as he found the back of the net on a breakaway. The play started as Team White turned the puck over at the offensive blue line where Gauthier collected the puck and sprung McGroarty on the breakaway.
The BioSteel All-American Game has seen a combined 53 players Drafted over the first two years of the event. The Draft total includes seven who went on to be selected in the First Round of the following Draft, including Matthew Beniers (Seattle Kraken, 2021, #2), Jake Sanderson (2020, Ottawa Senators, #5 Overall), Cole Sillinger (2021, Columbus Blue Jackets, #12 Overall), Matt Coronato (2021, Calgary Flames, #13 Overall), Chaz Lucius (2021, Winnipeg Jets, #18 Overall), Mackie Samoskevich (2021, Florida Panthers, #24 Overall) and Brendan Brisson (2020, Vegas Golden Knights, #29 Overall). This year’s group is primed to add to that total after 28 of the 44 rostered players were featured on NHL Central Scouting’s Midseason Rankings last week, including 11 skaters in the top-32 among North American Skaters and two of the top-5 North American Goaltenders.
The 2022 NHL Draft is scheduled for July 7 and 8 at Centre Bell in Montreal, the home of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. The USHL has seen 50-or-more players selected in each of the last four NHL Drafts, including seeing its 900th former player selected by an NHL team at the 2021 NHL Draft.