Connor McDavid celebrates a goal during the OHL Cup (OHL Images)There's not too much hockey played on a Saturday afternoon in mid-July, but 3382 fans wound up in Mississauga's Hershey Centre to watch a high-scoring affair between Canada's best bantam-aged players.
Last year's inaugural Allstate All-Canadian Mentorship Cup went down to a shootout where the clinching goal was scored by Joshua Ho-Sang. This year, it was the North Shore Winter Club's Jansen Harkins who had that pleasure, the Prince George Cougars prospect potting the second shootout goal to give Team John Tavares the win over Team Taylor Hall. The OHL's top draft pick Connor McDavid scored the other shootout goal, with Team Tavares having to parry a fun comeback by Team Hall that kept the fans entertained.
No. 1 Star: Mathew Barzal, Team Hall
This game could have been billed as a game between Canada's top two bantam prospects, Barzal and McDavid, each wearing #97 for their respective sides. It didn't disappoint in that case. While Barzal didn't showcase the individual skills of McDavid, he was consistently a threat on the red team's top line, displaying some excellent chemistry with Brad Morrison and Mitchell Stephens.
Barzal scored a pair of goals, too, both in the third period, tapping home a Regan Nagy centring pass and had a beauty while being hauled down on a breakaway to tie the game 7-7 late in the game. He also gave Team Hall their first lead of the game making a move around a couple of Tavares defenders, setting up Morrison in front who had enough space for a pair of whacks
No. 2 Star: Connor McDavid, Team Tavares
There was a general feel in the building about ten minutes into a scoreless game. "I haven't seen too much of McDavid", before the phenom stripped a puck at the line, made a toe-drag and got a shot away that whistled wide, grabbed his own rebound and made a spin around play to set up line mate Blake Speers of the Soo Thunder.
The Newmarket, ON product and Erie Otters prospect McDavid had some definite peaks and valleys in this game. Barzal was the more steady offensive threat, but McDavid's skill was in a class of its own. He had a penalty shot in the third period as well as a shootout attempt, in both situations the otherwise solid Travis Child was dead to rights with his quick wrists. On a late powerplay, McDavid delivered a terrific saucer pass right onto Speers' stick. From 25 feet out, Speers wasn't able to hit the net. He was probably shocked McDavid managed to find him the puck.
He played as he was hyped up to be. He stripped defencemen unaware he was still in the attacking zone of the puck, he set up chances, and his explosive skill was dangerous from puck drop to shootout.
No. 3 Star: Travis Konecny, Team Hall
Team Hall scored 5 third period goals on goaltender Nick McBride to tie the game. Two of them were late tying markers. There was Barzal's, but after an Adam Musil go-ahead marker, Travis Konecny from the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs scored one with 0.7 seconds to go to send the game to a shootout. It wasn't Konecny's only goal. earlier in the period, he pulled the puck out of a scrum and on a wrap-around, managed to bank the puck in off a defender to make the game close.
Late, however, with Coach Hall writing up a late-game play on the whiteboard, the plan was all for naught as Tavares got a couple of quick clears to push the game out of reach. But Jeremy Roy, the bantam-aged Québecois phenom playing midget stopped a potential empty-net goal and dumped it back in. Another Québecois player, Anthony Beauvillier, recovered the puck in the near corner and threw it in front in desperation. It was Konecny, streaking in from the point, who was able to make the tap-in over McBride's pad to make the game 8-8 and give the fans an extra few minutes in the building for the shootout.