Jared McCann hasn’t scored a bigger goal than his game-winning tally on Wednesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“I definitely haven’t at all,” said the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward after scoring with 3:29 left in the third period to lead Team Orr to a 4-3 win over Team Cherry at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. “It’s amazing — a little bit of jitters.”
McCann described his goal as “kind of a story-book ending” to a game in which Team Orr jumped out to a 3-1 lead through two periods before Team Cherry rallied to score twice in the third.
“I was just excited to get here and play my game and I did that tonight,” said the six-foot-one, 175-pound McCann, who’s ranked 11th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
McCann agreed that scoring such a big goal in front of hundreds of NHL scouts and general managers could help improve his ranking leading up to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia on June 27-28.
“It doesn’t hurt at all,” said McCann, who was named player of the game for Team Orr.
Josh Ho-Sang of the Windsor Spitfires had a goal and an assist for Team Orr, while Julius Honka of the Swift Current Broncos and Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts both had two assists. Brendan Lemeiux, also of the Colts, and Blake Clarke of the Saginaw Spirit also scored for Team Orr.
Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice and Nikolay Goldobin of the Sarnia Sting had a goal and an assist each for Team Cherry while Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals also scored.
“It was a great experience,” Reinhart said. “It’s the only time we’re all together for this draft class. It’s definitely an important one to play well in.”
Playing the second half of the game, goalie Julio Billia of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens made 17 saves to backstop Team Orr to the victory.
Team Cherry held a 14-7 advantage in shots after the first period, but couldn’t find a way to get any pucks past starting Team Orr goalie Mason McDonald of the Charlottetown Islanders.
Conner Bleackley of the Red Deer Rebels had the first good chance to score for Team Cherry just past the first minute mark of the opening frame when he one-timed a pass from linemate Ryan MacInnis of the Kitchener Rangers on net, but McDonald slid across his crease to make the save.
“I’ll probably be thinking about that one for a while,” Bleackley said. “It didn’t come off my blade quite like I wanted it to. Give credit to the goalie. He got over there pretty quick. If I can take that one back, I think I would have scored.”
At the other end of the ice goalie Ty Edmonds of the Prince George Cougars stood his ground to stop a pair of chances off the stick of Calgary Hitmen forward and crowd favourite Jake Virtanen.
At the mid-way mark of the first period, Daniel Audette of the Sherbrooke Phoenix tipped a point shot fired by Aaron Irving of the Edmonton Oil Kings that got past McDonald, but hit the post.
On the ensuing rush the other way, Nikolaj Ehlers of the Halifax Mooseheads wired a shot that rang off the post behind Edmonds.
Shortly after McDonald made another nice save to stop Bleackley’s second scoring chance of the period, Jacob Middleton of the Ottawa 67’s and Aaron Haydon of the Niagara IceDogs dropped the gloves for a spirited fight to the delight of the crowd.
Team Orr carried the majority of the play early in the second and was rewarded when Lemieux redirected Honka’s point shot past Edmonds for a power-play goal at the nine-minute mark of the middle frame.
Just eight seconds later, Dal Colle took a pass from Reinhart and wired a wicked wrist shot into the top corner over McDonald’s outstretched glove hand.
After Dal Colle’s tying goal, Billia took over in net for McDonald, who finished the game with 15 saves. At the same time, Alex Nedeljkovic of the Plymouth Whalers replaced Edmonds in the Team Cherry net. Edmonds stopped 16 of 17 shots he faced, while Nedeljkovic finished with 13 saves.
Clarke put Team Orr up 2-1 at 13:16 of the second when he beat Nedeljkovic with a wrist shot to the top corner, glove side.
Ho-Sang added an insurance marker for Team Orr late in the second when he swatted the puck out of mid-air past Nedeljkovic.
Goldobin pulled Team Cherry within one with a wraparound goal at 4:07 of the second and then almost tied up the game, but he hit the post after being awarded a penalty shot when he was pushed from behind to the ice by Brycen Martin of the Swift Current Broncos.
“I always do that move, but I’m unlucky tonight,” said Goldobin, who was chosen as Team Cherry’s player of the game.
Reinhart converted a feed from Goldobin during a Team Cherry power play at 13:53 of the third to tie the game at 3-3.
That set the stage for McCann’s game-winning goal when he took a pass from Ho-Sang and wristed a shot over Nedeljkovic’s blocker.
“I’ve got to give all the credit to Josh,” McCann said. “He just made an unbelievable pass and I just tried to get it to the net.”