With one game left in the tournament, Nelson made a couple tweaks to his lines, moving Dylan Sadowy to the wing with Borkowski and Smith, while Santos moved to flank Turgeon and Nastasiuk. No changes on defense were made, and it was of course Jake Paterson starting in net once again.
This is it, one final game to determine the champion of the 2016 NHL Prospect Tournament. I always think it would be perfect if the Wings win the tournament, but that’s probably because I’m a Wings fan. Sadly, this year they have to settle with second place, as they fell to the Carolina Hurricanes 6-4 in the final. It was an exciting, frustrating, eventful, suspenseful, game that ended is a disappointing way for Wings fans. The Hurricanes had a better start to the game, jumped out to a 2-0 lead early, the Wings battled hard to try and come back, but it felt like they were constantly trying to swim upstream. Despite their best efforts they couldn’t but a goal when they deserved one, and the Hurricanes seemed to have all the luck. They came close (perhaps a generous use of “close” here, but it felt close) to coming back late in the third period, but just couldn’t pull it off.
Tyler Bertuzzi - Kyle Criscuolo - Evgeny Svechnikov
Dylan Sadowy - Mike Borkowski - Givani Smith
Zach Nastasiuk - Dominic Turgeon - Mathew Santos
Luke Coleman - Alex Globke - Luke Kirwan
Joe Hicketts - Robbie Russo
Dan Renouf - Filip Hronek
Mathew Caito - Jordan Sambrook
Stephen Dhillon (G)
Dylan Coghlan (D)
Adam Marsh (F)
Jeff de Wit (F)
Justin Brazeau (F)
Carolina came out with the better start of the game, using their speed and skill to put the pressure on the Wings early. The jumped out to an early 2-0 lead with two even strength goals by the five minute mark. The Wings were a little scatterbrained, and needed to solidify playing their designated positions and avoiding getting jumbled up and lasping in coverage. Thankfully they made that correction rather quickly and the rest of the period was a little more ever, thought the 14-7 Carolina shot advantage reflects how under siege the Wings were early. Jake Paterson was fantastic and despite allowing 2 early goals, made several huge saves to keep the game within reach. There was quite a bit of physicality to this game even early, and Dominic Turgeon received a high stick to the face (no penalty) Tyler Bertuzzi bled from a high stick (that was called), and Givan Smith laid a huge hip check in the offensive Zone that sent a Hurricane sprawling. It looked like the Canes were going to take their 2-0 lead into the second period. That is until Nicolas Roy was called for being a dirty hooker and the Wings got their second power play of the game. With just 33 seconds left in the power play, and 27 seconds left in the period, Zach Nastasiuk scored his first goal of the tournament and got the Wings a much needed goal to end the frame, and a moral boost as well.
The Wings started with the momentum in the second period and things were looking up. About nine minutes into the period, the Wings had a great shift and it looked like Kyle Criscuolo had tied the game, but the goal was waived off. In my professional opinion, that sucked. Despite the Wings best efforts, the Hurricanes kept their scoring going throughout the second period. Jake Bean put the Canes up 3-1 on the power play while Givani Smith was in the box for tripping at 11:33. Then at 16:11, Julien Gauthier buried a shorthanded chance after a brutally awful giveaway in the offensive zone by Robbie Russo. Then with just 50 seconds left in the period, Gauthier buried an even strength goal to give the Canes a 5-1 lead after two periods. It felt like the more the game went on, and the Wings couldn’t buy a goal, and the Canes seemed to score at will, the Wings players started making more mistakes, trying too hard and getting flustered. It wasn’t that the Wings weren’t trying, or that Carolina was running roughshod over them, but for a combination of a bunch of different reasons, things really weren’t going the Wings way. Everything was a fight, a battle, even faceoffs resulted in bodies piled up on the ice as they fought for possession of the puck. They had 20 minutes to score at least four goals or they’d have to stomach second place and watch the Hurricanes hoist the Matthew Wuest Memorial Trophy on their home arena. It was a huge task.
I wanted so badly to write up a glorious cinderella comeback for the third period. To tell you all about how the Wings rallied and pulled off a seemingly impossible resurgence and became the champions. Sadly, I don’t get to write that story. Surprisingly as the team came out for the final period, it was Connor Hicks in net for the Wings, and not Jake Paterson. That was quite a surprise and a significant move for the team. From the very start of the period, it felt like the game was over, like the confidence and will had been sucked from the Wings. Then I pissed at Givani Smith for taking a mother f’ing stupid, blatant, dumb tripping penalty and putting the Wings on the penalty kill while they’re trying desperately to score some goals. They were down 5-1 and it felt like the game was already over. The first few minutes of the period felt like an eternity. Tyler Bertuzzi game his team a little spark when he potted a goal at 4:28 and despite the 5-2 deficit, it felt once again like a comeback was possible. Even when the Hurricanes scored their 6th goal at 15:30, it still didn’t feel out of reach for the Wings to come back. When Bertuzzi scored his second goal of the night at 16:15 and the score was 6-3 with 4 minutes left, there was still a little hope. Dominic Turgeon got the Wings within 2 goals with a minute and a half left in the game, I knew it was foolish to hope, but I couldn’t help it. With their goalie pulled, they could score two quick goals and we’d get our comeback story. But it didn’t happen, and the Hurricanes held on for a 6-4 win and hoisted the trophy.
- One of the things the Wings kept doing that drove me nuts, was that they kept shooting the puck into Alex Nedeljkovic’s chest or glove. Nedeljkovic is a very good goalie, and the Wings made it too easy on him. In the win over the Blues, they were crashing the net and cycling around to get second chances and get in the goalie’s face. Tonight, there were far too many long shots that Nedeljkovic could see, not enough second chances, and way too many shots right into his chest. Credit to the Hurricanes for making it tough to get to the net, but the Wings needed to do a better job of it anyway.
- Tyler Bertuzzi scored two of the Wings four goals, took a crap load of abuse, was a pest, took faceoffs, and literally bled for his team. Bertuzzi had 4 goals (tie for 2nd most in the tournament) and 5 points (4th in the tournament) in 4 games and took 17 shots (3rd in the tournament), and really was a key player for the entire tournament. He’s at his best when he’s a bit pissed off, but still under control, and he had himself a very good tournament.
- Filip Hronek had two assists in the game, and looked even more confident, comfortable, and effective than he did last game. He’s been increasingly more impressive throughout the tournament, and had several great shifts tonight, including a diving play on the penalty kill to sway the puck out of the Wings zone and down the ice. I think it was also him (I have to consult video replay later) that saved a goal point blank when Paterson was pushed out of the crease and the Carolina player had a point blank shot from the slot.
- Givani Smith took an absolutely stupid, obvious tripping penalty early in the third period when his team was down 5-1 and trying desperately to mount a comeback. I got pissed at him, because it was so stupid and hurt his team. Smith led all skaters in the tournament in penalty minutes with 10, that’s 5 minor penalties in 4 games. Smith enjoys fighting and says he likes sticking up for teammates and “stepping up”. He describes himself as a “power forward” whose physical, but he’s either lacked the discipline in this tournament to be as effective as he could be, or he lacks the ability to determine when is an acceptable time to take a penalty and when it hurts his own team. In the final game, he took two tripping penalties when his team needed goals, and the Hurricanes scored on one of those penalties. He’s going to have to be more disciplined and at least try to be sneakier about doing crap, or he’s not going to be able to score goals because he’ll be in the penalty box. He wasn’t bad in the tournament and he did have some games, or at least portions of games, where he was effective in mixing things up, crashing the net, and being a pain in the butt. However in this game he did more harm than good.
Dominic Turgeon scored his first goal of the tournament, to give the Wings a little hope at the end. He’s had a fantastic tournament and I’ve praised him a lot. I’m glad he at least had a goal to show for all the hard work he did. He was once again kicking butt on the penalty kill and I hope he’s in Grand Rapids this season.
It was another fun tournament, and I’m sad to see it come to an end. I’d like to remind and encourage everyone to let the Wings know how awesome it is that they streamed the games this year. Positive feedback can only help the cause to have future games streamed as well. Thanks for following along for another Prospect Tournament.
The Red Wings Training Camp starts on Friday, and I’ll be there with coverage.