Pittsburgh -- It was a tale of two games Thursday night at the USA Hockey CCM All-American Prospects Game. A close, tight 1-0 game for the first two periods turned into a physical, high scoring affair.
Player of the Game Keegan Iverson scored a goal and an assist for Team Johnson. Iverson, a St. Louis Park, Minn. native who plays major junior for the Portland Winterhawks (WHL), was able to establish himself down low in the dirty areas.
Team Johnson took a 1-0 lead just 37 seconds into the second period when Iverson slipped a backhand feed down to linemate Dylan Larkin who banged the puck past Team Mullen goaltender Ed Minney.
The score would remain that way until the physical play picked up in the third period. Team Mullen went on the power play after Kevin Labanc was whistled for interference. After several missed connections, defenseman Jack Dougherty evened the score with a wicked wrister from the left wall that beat Team Johnson goaltender Blake Weyrick. The play was set up by a nice passing sequence from Ryan Donato and Tony DeAngelo.
Dougherty, a Cottage Grove, Minn. native playing for the USNTDP, had a very good game overall. "I thought Jack Dougherty played really well," said Joe Mullen, the coach of Team Mullen.
Both coaches talked about the elevation in intensity and physicality in the final period, but pointed out that nerves also played a factor in the slow offensive start. "It got a little heated up in the third period with the intensity. It was fun to watch and hopefully the fans enjoyed it," said Team Johnson coach Mark Johnson. "The first six to eight minutes until the first TV timeout the kids were a little nervous, but then the kids settled down," added Johnson.
Team Johnson regained the lead two-and-a-half minutes later when the Iverson and Larkin connected again. This time it was Larkin setting up an Iverson goal. Larkin, a Michigan recruit, kept the puck in at the blue line and fired the puck at the net. Iverson collected the puck and pushed it past Team Mullen goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic.
Halfway through the period with intensity ratcheting up, Notre Dame recruit Sonny Milano showed off his offensive skills. He picked up a nice feed from BC recruit Alex Tuch before a quick deke opened up Nedeljkovic, and Milano would slide the puck between the wickets. North Dakota recruit Nick Schmaltz picked up the secondary assist. That line really showed off its talent all night.
Team Mullen would creep back to just a one goal deficit with a little under four minutes to play. Joe Wegwerth made a terrific individual move to beat Weyrick from in low after a nice pass from Donato.
Chase De Leo gave Team Johnson some insurance with his goal to make it 4-2 with 2:43 to play in the game. Yale recruit Ryan Hitchcock and former Notre Dame recruit Kevin Labanc picked up the assists.
New Hampshire recruit Shane Eiseman added an empty netter with 28 seconds to play. He picked off a passing attempt by Team Mullen in the neutral zone before firing it into a open net. Eiserman's physical play throughout the game, but especially in the third period stood out.
Boston College freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko wasn't tested much, but he stopped all six shots he faced and also displayed his ability to act as a third defenseman when it came to transitioning the puck up ice.
Weyrick who came on in relief for Demko as planned made 19 saves on 21 shots. The uncommitted prospect from Ojai, Calif. made two phenomenal saves. He made a terrific glove save and also kicked a shot aside after having to move quickly from side-to-side.
More from Western College Hockey Blog:
- 2013 USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game: Line Charts
- Jerry York: UCONN Coach Mike Cavanaugh An "Outstanding College Hockey Coach"
- Minnesota State Dominates WCHA Preseason Poll, Individual Accolades
- Breaking Down the Roster for the 2013 USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game
- Hockey East Recruiting Rankings
Jeff Cox covers college and junior hockey, recruiting, NHL Draft prospects and the AHL for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.