Exhibition games like tonight's between Minnesota and US National Team Development Program U18 team are a great opportunity to see the future of American hockey, and that bright future was on full display tonight.
Auston Matthews ripped a wrist shot over Minnesota goalie Nick Lehr for his second goal of the game and third point of the night to give the NTDP a 5-4 overtime victory over Minnesota.
Minnesota jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but the NTDP came roaring back to tie the game at the start of the second period. Steve Johnson would give Minnesota the lead heading into the third period, but Joseph Masonius would score the equalizer 7:02 into the third period.
It appeared Minnesota would squeak out the victory when Kyle Rau's rebound goal put Minnesota up 4-3 with just 3:55 remaining, but Matthew Tkachuk tied the game with 1:30 remaining.
In the overtime, Matthews capped off a virtuoso performance with a beautiful goal to seal the U18s second win over an NCAA Division I team this season.
Minnesota will have the rest of the weekend off to regroup before starting Big Ten play next week, while the NTDP U18s will finish off their Minnesota road trip with a game against Augsburg tomorrow night.
-Notes are light tonight. Not a very strong game from Minnesota, but that's to be expected. It's an exhibition game and they were doing some mixing and matching and playing some guys that don't normally play. A game like is really all about scouting the NTDP kids and I'll have many more notes on them on Monday.
-Like I said, much more later but Auston Matthews: Wow. I tweeted out back in September that I thought Matthews might be better this year than Jack Eichel was last year, and tonight only made me more confident about that, even considering all the amazing things Eichel has done. The upcoming World Juniors will be the real test, but if Matthews plays anything like he did tonight, he's going to have an outstanding tournament.
-Since everybody wants to know, there's no change in Matthews' plans. He said he's still 50/50 between Everett of the WHL and playing NCAA next year, and he listed the same five NCAA schools he's still looking at: Boston College, Boston University, Michigan, Denver, and North Dakota.
-Potential first round draft pick Jordan Greenway was listed on the line chart, but did not make the trip with the NTDP this weekend. He's week-to-week with an undisclosed injury.
13:40 Jack Glover from Vinni Lettieri 1-0 Minnesota
Glover pickup the puck at the left point and fired a high wrist shot through traffic that beat a screened Luke Opilka
15:42 Ryan Reilly from Christian Isackson and Ben Marshall 2-0 Minnesota
Reilly took the puck behind the net, and with the NTDP defense not paying attention, he spun around and stuff a wraparound into the right side of the net.
3:36 Caleb Jones from Brendan Warren and Jeremy Bracco 2-1 Minnesota
Bracco entered the zone on the ring wing and slipped a pass back to Warren. Warren cut to the middle of the ice and found a streaking Jones who fired a low wrister blockerside past Lehr.
6:06 Auston Matthews from Matthew Tkachuk 2-2 tie
Tkachuk won a battle for the puck in the left corner and fed it to Matthews behind the net. Matthews skated in front of the net and wired a nasty backhander into the top shelf.
13:09 Steve Johnson from Kyle Rau 3-2 Minnesota
Rau had the puck in the right corner and fed Johnson as he snuck in from the blue line into the high slot and Johnson's wrist shot beat Opilka to the blocker side.
7:02 Joseph Masonius from Troy Terry and Auston Matthews (power play) 3-3 tie
With an NTDP power play about the expire, Masonious one-timed a slap shot from the blue line that beat a screened Lehr high to the blocker side.
16:05 Kyle Rau from Leon Bristedt and Sam Warning 4-3 Minnesota
Minnesota picked up a neutral zone turnover and entered the NTDP zone. Bristedt fired a shot from the top of the left circle. Opilka made the first save, but Rau picked up the rebound and easily put a backhand shot into an open net.
18:30 Matthew Tkachuk from Joseph Masonius 4-4 tie
Masonius brought the puck into the zone on a 3-on-2. Center Colin White drove the net hard drawing the defense back and opening up a passing lane for Masonius to find Tkachuk on the left wing. Tkachuk buried a shot high over Lehr to tie the game.
3:27 Auston Matthews from Matthew Tkachuk 5-4 NTDP
Tkachuk fed the puck to Matthews streaking down the slot and Matthews ripped a wrist shot over the glove of Lehr for the game-winner.