KELOWNA, B.C. — Branden Troock, who knows better than most 17-year-olds how big moments can be fleeting, owned the final moments in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Ironically, a game marked by the absence of several banged-up junior stars was decided by the Edmonton native who many thought might never play in major junior due to damage to the occipital nerve in his neck that set him back a full season. A game that was fiercely played but offensive fireworks free seemed headed toward a deserved desultory finish, a 1-all tie and shootout. But Troock, a rare confluence of size and speed, hopped off Team Orr's bench, took a pass, beat his defender wide and finished off the play with a deke with 24.5 seconds left for a 2-1 win. It was pretty much the ending one would script to dramatize his long road back from the blindside hit in late 2009. It also was a classic example of someone heeding his own advice.
"Probably the main thing I learned while I was out is take every second you're on the ice and make the most of it," the 6-foot-3, 203-pound Seattle Thunderbirds forward said prior to the game when asked about the impact of his missing year. "Because you can never know when it might be taken away from you. I know some guys will complain, 'oh, do I have to practise today,' but you really have to cherish every moment you're on the ice. Because one freak accident, you can never play again.
"I was told a couple times I might have to look for a different career but that never crossed my mind. I want to be a hockey player."
The son of a coach — helping with his dad Wayne's minor hockey team while physically up to it was one way Troock satisfied his hockey craving last year — was one in full on Wednesday in front of a lively crowd of 5,022 at Prospera Place. Troock was in on both Team Orr goals in the lowest-scoring game in the event's history. He also responded well to being challenged before the third period by Team Orr coach Pat Quinn after a missed opportunity earlier in the game.
"In between the second and third period after I missed that net when I was going top right [corner] he pulled me into the hallway and said ... what did he say?" Troock told the postgame press conference. "He said, 'you had a hole the size that you can fit in a rocket in there.' I just wanted to get one in there after that."
"When I came off the bench I knew there was only about 30 seconds I left. I saw [Team Orr defenceman Derrick] Pouliot coming up the middle with the puck and I just had to get my feet moving and start calling for the puck, I knew I could beat the D-man to the outside. I just had to get it to the net and get a greasy one."Read More »from WHL: Finally free of pain, Thunderbirds’ Troock scores last-minute winner in Top Prospects Game