KELOWNA, B.C. — Three stars from Wednesday's CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, won by Team Orr 2-1:
No. 1 star: Branden Troock, Team Orr (Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)
Troock showed why he's considered such a promising power forward, as he used his speed to beat a defender wide, then cut in on goal and deke Matt Murray for the game-winning goal with 24.5 seconds left. He factored in both Orr goals in the lowest-scoring contest in the event's history, also getting the second assist on Griffin Reinhart's opening goal in the second stanza.
The game-winner was presaged by Team Orr coach Pat Quinn pulling Troock aside during the second intermission after the big forward missed a chance during that period.
"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 said. "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."
The Edmonton native missed a season and a half with nerve damage in his neck resulting from a blindside hit he suffered as a 15-year-old in the fall of 2009, so one can only imagine what a load it was off his mind to shine tonight. Troock's line, which typically featured him with captain Colton Sissons of the host Kelowna Rockets and Rimouski Océanic speedster Francis Beauvillier, generated most of Team Orr's chances. The Edmonton native also not only helped set up Reinhart's goal but set a great screen in front of goalie Brandon Whitney.
No. 2 star: Matt Murray, Team Cherry (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
The rangy Thunder Bay native was the main reason Team Cherry had a chance to win the game with two minutes left, making a game-high 17 saves on 18 shots. The 6-foot-4 goalie came in cold off the bench and made a good save almost immediately. In the third period, Murray stoned Raphael Bussières from point-blank range and also made successive saves on the OHL's second-leading scorer, Tanner Pearson, to preserve the 1-1 tie. He did not have much of a chance on Troock's game-winner, as the forward came in unmolested and had time to use his reach to complete the play and bring the crowd of 5,022 to its feet. Murray was easily the most tested and most impressive of the four goaltenders.
No. 3 star: Griffin Reinhart, Team Orr (Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL)
Team Orr seemed to be at its strongest whenever Reinhart, who scored their lone goal, and defence partner Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks were out in support of the forwards. Reinhart created the chance for the goal, carrying deep into Team Cherry's zone early in the second period, then snapping home a shot off a return feed from captain Colton Sissons. Reinhart nearly had a second goal on a third-period rush, only to have the puck hop over his stick as he drove to the net. The Oil Kings defender also played a 2-on-1 rush very well in the third period when his team was clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Honourable mention:Chris Driedger, Team Orr (Calgary Hitmen, WHL)
The goalie carried over the success he had in January with the Hitmen, making 14 saves in the game's first half to help stake the Orrs to a 1-0 lead. Driedger did not have to make an inordinate amount of tough saves, but he was good on his angles and didn't leave any big rebounds.
Honourable mention: Tom Wilson, Team Cherry (Plymouth Whalers, OHL)
The rugged forward provided some of the few fireworks. Wilson, a likely second-rounder who could sneak into the first round, played a tough, team-oriented game that included sending at least three members of Team Orr for rides on their seats of their pants with clean bodychecks and a dandy fight with Saskatoon Blades defenceman Dalton Thrower. Thrower was avenging a hit on his best friend on the Blades, centre Lukas Sutter.
Both players doffed their helmets before throwing down. That's an ejection in the OHL, so Wilson seemed to hesitate for a second before losing his bucket.
Entertainment value — B. It was fiercely contested, but scoring chances were too few and far between for the first 40 minutes.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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