Summary: The Wings needed to win this game in regulation in order to play in the championship game on Tuesday night. So that’s exactly what they did! They beat the St. Louis Blues 2-1 in regulation, and will play the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night at 7:00 to see who will hoist the Matthew Wuest Memorial Trophy. This was an exciting game that was fun to watch, and the Wings won. What more could we ask for.
Tyler Bertuzzi - Kyle Criscuolo - Evgeny Svechnikov
Dylan Sadowy - Dominic Turgeon - Zach Nastasiuk
Givani Smith - MIke Borkowski - Mathew Santos
Luke Coleman - Jeff De Wit - Alex Globke
Joe Hicketts - Robbie Russo
Dan Renouf - Filip Hronek
Mathew Caito - Jordan Sambrook
Connor Hicks/Stephen Dhillon
Stephen Dhillon/Connor HIcks
The Wings came out of the gate with all the energy, speed, and determination I had hoped to see. After a lackluster game against the Blackhawks, it was exciting to see the Wings jump on the Blues early. It was even more satisfying to see them rewarded by an early goal 2:22 into the period. As a bonus, it wasn’t just just any goal, it a shorthanded goal courtesy of Filip Hronek and assisted by Dan Renouf. A shorthanded goal scored and assisted by defensemen? What is this wizardry! The Blues got themselves on the scoreboard at 8:53 when Ivan Barbashev got the puck past Jake Paters. That would be the only goal they’d score on the night, though not for lack of trying. Tyler Bertuzzi gave the Wings their 2-1 lead on the power play with 35 seconds left in the period, with assists to Joe Hicketts and Evgeny Svechnikov. The Wings outshot the Blues 13-9 in the first frame. All the cycling and moving the puck, speed, and emphasis on keeping their feet moving that Coach Todd Nelson emphasized in practice was executed during the game.
Despite there being no goals scored in the second period, it wasn’t dull in the least. The Wings outshot the Blues 12-3 in the period and had three power plays, while having no penalty kills. They did a good job of keeping the pressure on, and they played much more like a team. I wrote down a few highlights in my notes of this period, and three of the four highlight plays belonged to Joe Hicketts. He was fantastic all game long, and was especially noticeable on the power play at keeping the puck in the Blue’s zone. While a one goal lead certainly didn’t feel safe, the Wings did a good job of controlling the play and making sure the Blues didn’t have very many quality scoring chances.
The third period started of with a little nail biting as Mike Borkowski took a delay of game (puck over the glass) penalty just 30 seconds after puck drop. Fortunately, the Wings killed off the penalty, with big props to Dominic Turgeon, and Joe Hicketts for their PK work. The Blues were giving the Wings all they could muster, and the Wings only outshot them 9-6 in this period for a game total of 34-18. I was nervous a few times because the Blues were obviously desperate to score, and when Givani Smith took a tripping penalty with 7 minutes left in regulation, it was pucker time. But once again, the Wings PK’ers came up huge, and Jake Paterson made some killer saves. With just over minute left in the game, and the Wings still ahead 2-1, the Blues pulled their goalie and sent out an extra skater. As soon as he had the chance, Nelson sent out his top line and defense pairings to hold off the onslaught that was about to take place. Joe Hicketts and Robbie Russo on the backend, and Tyler Bertuzzi, Kyle Criscuolo, and Dominic Turgeon up front. Now, Evgeny Svechnikov has been the winger on that top line all through the tournament, but with the faceoff deep in the Wings zone, with just over a minute left, and the Blues with the extra man trying to tie the game. Todd Nelson chose to put Dominic Turgeon out there to take the faceoff. This is a big deal for Turgeon, and the kid didn’t disappoint. That line stayed out for the rest of the game, and the Wings held off the Blues and just missed an empty net goal twice in that time span.
It was a well deserved win by the Wings, and both individually and as a team, they played very well and looked like a team again. Bodies were dropping on the ice to block shots, and getting cheers from the crowd and their bench. Tyler Bertuzzi, Jordan Sambrook, and Joe Hicketts all had blocked shots in the last half of the third period that were audible and a little scary.
Dominic Turgeon: I’ve praised Dom all tournament long, and he really has truly impressed me, even more than I expected. He’s been smart, strong on the puck, great at using his reach and strength to protect the puck, determined, reliable, and extremely effective on the penalty kill. Turgeon is eligible to return to the Western Hockey League for his overage year this upcoming season, but where he needs to be is Grand Rapids. Nelson’s choice to put him out not only with the top line for the final minute game down a man, but to have him take the faceoff too, shows a lot of trust in Turgeon and I absolutely think he’s earned that trust. Game in and game out he’s been consistent, reliable, and impressive. He deserves all the praise.
Joe Hicketts: Stop me if you’ve heard me say this a million times already. If you were to look at Hicketts size on the roster and judge him based on that, you’d be painfully wrong. Hicketts had another great game, being the anchor at even strength, power play, and the penalty kill. Every time I watch Hicketts play, and remind myself he was undrafted and the Wings signed him as a free agent, I get a little more giddy inside. Hicketts was smart, patient when he should have been, and quick to action when he needed to be. He hit people knocked them off the puck, and was a big part of the Wings power play being so dangerous because he did such a great job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone.
Jake Paterson: Patty was on his game tonight, especially in the first period, on the penalty kill, and during the last part of the third period when the Blues were trying to pour it on. His superb puck handling skills were also a huge asset to his team, particularly on the power play. I counted four times when the Blues cleared the puck all the way down to Paterson, and he passed it right back up to his teammates in either the neutral zone, or right at the offensive zone blue line. The Blues weren’t able to get the change they wanted, and were a little on their heels since they anticipated having more time before the Wings were back in their faces.
Matthew Santos: Santos was signed by the Griffins back in May after finishing up his season with the North Bay Battalion in the OHL. I hadn’t seen him play before the Griffins signed him, but he’s been a very noticeable player in this tournament and I’m very intrigued. He’s been mostly on a line with Givan Smith and Mike Borkowski, and his feistiness, dogged puck houding, speed, and surprising puck handling skills form a player I’ve very much enjoyed watching. He’s been good all tournament long and deserves a shout out, particularly for this game.
Filip Hronek: Hronek is coming over from the Czech Republic this season to play in the OHL with the Saginaw Spirit. It’s taken him a little bit of time to work on adjusting to the difference of playing over here, but in each game he’s looked better and better. Tonight he scored a shorthanded goal, and had himself a very nice game. He looked much more confident on the ice, which led to him being stronger on the puck, and more comfortable using his body to separate forwards from the puck. He was very good in this game and I’m excited that he got to score a goal.
The Wings will play the Carolina Hurricanes for the Matthew Wuest Memorial Trophy Tuesday night at 7:00pm. Remember, the Wings are streaming all tournament games both on their website, and via Fox Sports Go.