The All-American Prospect Game was loose and free flowing, just as head coaches Brian Leetch and Chris Chelios said they expected. That meant no lead was safe.
Team Leetch appeared to put the game away with a dominant second frame and by scoring the first goal of the third. Its 5-2 lead didn't last, as Team Chelios responded with quick tallies from Jay O'Brien, Jack Jensen and Ryan O'Reilly. The game was tied again before the clock hit 13 minutes remaining in the third.
Unfortunately for Team Chelios, the comeback was for naught. Brady Tkachuk scored his second goal of the game on a give-and-go with five minutes remaining to give Team Leetch a 6-5 victory. All he had to do was not miss, as he and Christian Krygier caught Team Chelios's goalie on the wrong side of the net.
Familiar names: There weren't any Buffalo natives on the ice, but there was one player with ties to the city: center Jack Drury.
Drury, a 5-foot-10 winger, is the nephew of former Sabre Chris and son of former NHLer Ted. He played his rookie USHL season last year with the Waterloo Blackhawks. After only putting up four goals and 12 points in 2016-17, he'll get one more season to hone his scoring touch in juniors before heading to Harvard.
The other familar name deserves a double take from Sabres fans. A Ryan O'Reilly was on the KeyBank Center ice, but this Ryan O'Reilly is from Texas and is nine years younger than the Sabre who shares the name. He still received a slightly louder cheer than the other prospects from the sparse crowd during introductions.
Here a chuk, there a chuk: The Tkachuks have turned into quite the hockey family, as Brady aims to join his father, Keith, and brother, Matthew, as an NHLer. The future Boston University Terrier will be one of the biggest names in college hockey this winter, excelling with the same style as Keith and Matthew.
"It's funny that (Matthew and Brady) both have that net-front thing like their father," coach Chris Chelios said. "They're clones."
Tkachuk played left wing on Team Leetch's top line, which pulled off a speedy cross-ice tic-tac-toe play in the second for his first goal. Blake McLaughlin started the play, dropping the puck to Jake Wise as he crossed the blue line on the right side. Wise found Tkachuk on the left, who spotted a streaking McLaughlin at the far post. McLaughlin didn't stumble, burying the shot into the open net to make it 3-2 in favor of Team Leetch.
Local ties: Ben Kraws, a New Jersey-born goalie who has been in the Jr. Sabres program since 2015-16, backed up Drew Deridder for Team Chelios. The Miami University (OH) commit has played two games with the Jr. Sabres' top squad, one each in 2016-17 and this season. Kraws entered the game with 10:41 remaining in the second frame.
Joel Farabee, from Cicero, was the closest thing either team had to a locally-born player. The potential first-round pick showed nice chemistry with fellow top prospect Oliver Wahlstrom, completing a give-and-go in tight quarters in the second.
Looking forward to World Juniors: Three of the players at the All-American Prospects game have a shot at final U.S. roster for the upcoming 2018 World Junior Championships in Buffalo. Tkachuk, Quinn Hughes and Oliver Wahlstrom took part in the U.S. World Junior Summer Showcase, a tryout to make the squad.
The U.S. will play an outdoor game at New Era Field against Canada on Dec. 29. Tickets went on sale to Sabres and Bills season ticket holders this morning and open to the public Monday.