Five-goal first period propels East to 7-4 victory
Team East earned a 7-4 win over Team West at the 2015 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Dubuque, Iowa on Tuesday night in front of a nearly sold-out crowd of 3,021 fans at the Mystique Community Ice Center.
The more than 100 scouts representing all 30 NHL clubs were treated to plenty of offense, particularly in the opening period as the East squad netted five goals in the first 20 minutes of play. Kevin Conley (Youngstown Phantoms), a late addition to the roster, opened the scoring less than four minutes into the contest off a feed from defenseman Joe Cecconi (Muskegon Lumberjacks).
Team East then scored three goals in a span of 3:32 to open a big lead. Chase Pearson (Youngstown Phantoms) scored just over 11 minutes into the game, followed by the second of the night for Conley. Forward Cal Burke (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders), another late addition to the roster, made it 4-0 when he crashed the net and scored against his teammate Ben Blacker, the starting goaltender for Team West.
Late in the first period, defenseman Christian Wolanin (Muskegon Lumberjacks) blasted a shot from the blueline that found the back of the net and made the score 5-0 heading into the first intermission. Goaltender Ryan Larkin (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) stopped all 12 shots he faced in the period for Team East.
The goal scoring continued in the second as Sam Miletic (Green Bay Gamblers) took a pass from Burke and made the score 6-0 less than seven minutes into the middle period. Team West would finally get on the scoreboard as Joe Masonius (Team USA) ripped a shot after a feed by Tom Novak (Waterloo Black Hawks) that made it 6-1.
Early in the third period, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (Omaha Lancers) gave Team West another goal just 22 seconds into the frame. Omaha teammate then made it 6-3 by scoring a goal with just over seven minutes to play. Team West would pull their goaltender in favor of the extra attacker late in the contest, and the strategy would work as Chris Wilkie (Tri-City Storm) ripped a shot to make the score 6-4 with less than three minutes to play.
The night would belong to Team East as Jiri Fronk (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) buried an empty net goal to end the comeback bid by Team West.
Larkin would stop all 18 shots he made on the night to earn the victory. Chris Birdsall (Youngstown Phantoms) played the second half of the game for Team West and would stop all nine shots that he faced.
Conley finished the night with three points (2g, 1a) and was named Team East MVP, while Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson had a two-point night (1g, 1a) to earn MVP honors for Team West.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 13th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2014-15. A record 35 players were chosen in the 2014 NHL Draft and more than 300 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.