Ross Colton ripped five points and Michael O’Leary had three assists, helping Team East cruise past Team West, 6-2, in the 2016 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Tuesday at Ralston Arena.
Representing the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, the Team East M.V.P. Colton tallied the first hat trick in USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game history, scoring all three of his goals on feeds from Dubuque’s O’Leary. Team West scored twice in the third, but Colton had two points in the first and two goals in the third to keep Team East in front.
More than 100 scouts and representatives from all 30 NHL Teams attended the fourth edition of the Top Prospects Game and were treated to a fast-paced, high-scoring game. Waterloo’s Cale Morris and Des Moines’ Jan Ruzicka combined for 26 saves in Team East’s win.
The chemistry between Colton and O’Leary appeared 2:19 into the game when O’Leary put Team East on the board, deflecting a net front pass from Colton. The puck, plus O’Leary’s jersey, gloves and stick will be delivered to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario.
O’Leary returned the favor to Colton later in the first, dishing to the University of Vermont commit for a slap shot and tally from the right wing at 13:39 of the first. Dubuque’s Willie Knierim received the secondary helper.
A native of Robbinsville, NJ, Colton represented the bronze-medal winning U.S. Jr. Select Team in the 2015 World Jr. A Challenge, finishing the tourney tied for fourth on the U.S. with five points. Knierim finished with a pair of assists and fought Sioux City defenseman Michael Boyle at 15:32 of the third.
After the two early goals by East, the game settled into a defensive showdown until the clubs combined for six goals in the third. Starting Team West goalie Peyton Jones finished the night with 15 saves on 17 shots before
Lancers netminder Zach Skog stepped in for the final half of the game and made nine saves. Cale Morris was a perfect 12-for-12 for Team East before handing goaltending duties to Jan Ruzicka, who yielded twice on 16 shots.
Tri-City Storm forward Wade Allison brought Team West within one 1:07 into the third, dinging a dish from Bloomington’s Vlad Dzhioshvili. Green Bay Gamblers’ defenseman Andrew Peeke received the secondary helper.
Colton’s second goal just 1:14 later, assisted by O’Leary, put Team West in a two-goal hole, 3-1.
Allison revved Team West’s offensive motor five minutes later, backhanding a pass to Sioux City forward C.J. Dodero at 7:26 of the final frame. Dodero slammed Allison’s dish to short post to get Team East back within a goal.
A Western Michigan commit, Allison took M.V.P. for Team Wesr with a goal and an assist. With Team East in danger of losing its lead, Colton received a stretch pass from O’Leary and went top shelf to put Team East in a two-goal hole once more.
With the net empty and 1:18 left on the clock, Youngstown’s Luke McInnis scored into an empty net with assists from Cedar Rapids forwards Sam Sternschein and Matt Filipe. Colton completed his five-point evening 43 seconds later, passing to the left wing where Youngstown’s Cam Morrison scored to complete the scoring.
Team West took both the shooting accuracy and shootout competition. In the accuracy challenge, Stampede forward Collin Peters impressed, sniping down the four corner targets in five shots. In the shootout, goaltenders Zach Skog and Peyton Jones combined to shut down five of six Team East shooters. West shooters Grant Jozefek, Vlad Dzhioshvili, C.J. Dodero and Jacob Bryson scored in the shootout.
2016 marks the fourth time the USHL hosted the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, and it follows a record-setting 2015 that saw 37 players from the 2014-15 season selected by NHL Teams. The 2016 NHL Draft will be held June 24-25 in Buffalo, NY at the First Niagara Center, home of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 14th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2015-16. A record 37 players were chosen in the 2015 NHL Draft and more than 375 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.
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