With 1:50 left in regulation, Luke McInnis sniped a shot from the faceoff circle on the power play to give Team Plante the go-ahead goal in a 6-4 win over Team Roenick in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at First Niagara Center Thursday night.
It was the fourth annual event to showcase the top American-born prospects who are eligible for the upcoming NHL Draft.
McInnis had two points, both in the third period as he assisted on a goal by Max Jones which tied the game at 13:23.
Kieffer Bellows added a short-handed empty goal in the final minute to seal the win.
Most Outstanding Player: McInnis took home the honor. The defenseman, who will play with the Youngstown Phamtons of the USHL this season, has committed to Boston College. The game-winner was set up by Charlie McAvoy, a freshman at Boston University. So that's the last time that's happening. On the game-winner McInnis said: "Charlie McAvoy came up the left wall, passed it across to me and I just picked up the puck and shot it. Went in low blocker. The puck was unsettled so I had to settle it down before I could take the shot."
Multi-point nights: Three -point nights were had by Luke Kunin (2 goals, 1 assist), Matthew Tkachuk (1 goal, 2 assists) and William Knierim (3 assists.) Max Jones had two goals while had two while Logan Brown had a goal and an assist.
Fast and furious: A wide open game resulted in three goals scored in a span of 39 seconds in the second period. Logan Brown scored at 15:11 to give Team Plante a 3-2 lead. Then Team Roenick struck with goals by Matthew Tkachuk (15:40) and Luke Kunin (15:50).
Keeping perspective: While this is a kickoff event for players entering their draft year, coach Derek Plante wanted to make sure players understood it’s merely one chance to make an impression. “It’s not said and done tonight,” Plante said. “Your career’s not done tonight or it’s not going to be made tonight. So it’s matter of just going out and playing well. The more opportunities they have to be in front of a lot of people, the less nervous they’ll be next time and the better they’ll perform.”
College rivals: There were 26 players who had committed to NCAA programs in the game along with three who have already entered their freshmen year. Kieffer Bellows said his decision to commit to Boston University was easy. “Most of the guys going to BU will same the same thing but it was most definitely the coaches,” Bellows said. “They made me feel as if I was part of the Terrier family before I even committed. They have great facilities. The school is second to none. It felt like a perfect fit when I got there.”
Griffin Luce might beg to differ on the best school. He’s one of four Michigan recruits who played in the game. “You know hockey’s going to end at some point in your life and you want to have something to fall back on after that,’ Luce said. “You can’t get anything better than a Michigan college degree.”
These United States: The players came from 12 states with Michigan leading the way with 11 players. Minnesota had eight and New York seven. Players also came from Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington.
Back at home: Griffin Luce (Williamsville) and Stephen Dhillon (Buffalo) were playing in front of plenty of family and friends, but it wasn’t their first time at First Niagara Center. Dhillon played here last year when his Niagara IceDogs faced the Erie Otters (and Connor McDavid). Also, both players noted while growing up they were part of the intermissions featuring kids at Sabres games. “I remember one time we did a shootout against Sabretooth,” Dhillon.
Pegula Praise: Jeremy Roenick had plenty of good things to say about the direction Buffalo sports has taken. “I think it’s incredible. What Terry and Kim Pegula are doing here is exactly what’s needed and it’s bringing a whole new vitality to the city,” Roenick said. “It’s just not even with the team – with the Bills and the Sabres – but what he’s doing around the arenas and putting a lot of money into the developing and making people want to come down here.”