Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins had a hunch his captain would do something special in the all-star game.
Ryan Hamilton didn’t disappoint.
Hamilton completed a hat trick by scoring with 11.2 seconds left in regulation Monday to give the Western Conference a 7-6 victory over the East in the AHL all-star game.
“He’s one of those guys that going into the game I almost can feel he’s going to have a day,” said Eakins, who coached the West team. “I was really proud to be standing behind the bench. It almost was like he was one of my kids. It’s like ‘That’s my guy.“’
Drew Shore and Jason Zucker each added a goal and an assist for the West, while Brad Hunt and Matt Fraser also scored. Mark Arcobello had three assists.
Chad Kolarik scored twice for the East and Tyler Toffoli chipped in with a goal and an assist. Bracken Kearns, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Trent Whitfield had the other goals for the East, while Radko Gudas added two assists.
With the West leading 5-4 heading to the third period, Hamilton scored his second of the night at 5:41 when he deflected a pass home off a feed from Andrew Aggozino.
The East fought back to within one at 7:33 on Toffoli’s goal before Whitfield tied it 6-6 on a clean breakaway with 2:30 left in regulation.
But with overtime looming, Hamilton beat East goalie Robin Lehner off a feed from Arcobello to give the West the victory.
“You don’t think too much about the remaining time,” Hamilton said after being voted the game’s MVP. “You know that time’s running down and if you get an opportunity you have to take advantage of it.
“Arcobello did all the work. I pretty much just went to the net. He made a great pass and I was able to put it in. I didn’t know there were 11 seconds left. But it was nice to know there was going to be a short amount of time left.”
Petr Mrazek stopped six shots in the third for the West, while Lehner made eight saves.
The West led 4-1 after the first period but the advantage could have been greater if not for Martin St. Pierre hitting the left post and East goalie Niklas Svedberg robbing Hamilton on a breakaway.
Zucker sparked the West by scoring at 7:39 on a backhander for a 1-0 lead, with goalie Justin Peters earning a rare assist.
The East tied it at 11:14 when Kolarik snapped home a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle past Peters, who finished the period with 12 saves.
That deadlock lasted only until 13:25 when Fraser scored on a partial breakaway.
Hunt upped the West’s lead to 3-1 when he beat Svedberg, who finished with 14 saves, at 14:35. Shore rounded out the period with another goal for the West at 15:11.
Audy-Marchessault ignited the East’s rally in the second period when he finished off a 2-on-1 break with Tyler Johnson at 4:57 before Kearns made it 4-3 just 1:34 later.
Hamilton restored the West’s two-goal edge at 16:43 but Kolarik cut the lead to 5-4 heading to the third with his second of the night at 17:11 with a shot that beat Abbotsford Heat goalie Barry Brust just inside the left post.
Burst finished with 13 saves in the period, while East goalie Curtis McElhinney also stopped 13 shots.
“I think for the city of Providence and the players here they got a taste of what Ryan Hamilton does for our organization all the time,” said Eakins. “He takes things seriously. He’s a real professional.
“The way he scored his goals tonight was by going to the net. That’s what he does for our team. He’s a leader by example and a guy that we cherish in our organization.”