Vancouver, BC – A long way from home, QMJHL stars Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville Tigres) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles) shone brightly in Vancouver, leading Team Orr to a 3-2 win at the 2016 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game with three points each.
The two connected for the game’s deciding goal in the third period just 11 seconds after Team Cherry had fought back to tie the score at two. Laberge found Dubois on a nifty give-and-go that started when Dubois picked off a turnover in the neutral zone.
Laberge’s two goals and an assist earned him Jim Gregory Player of the Game honours as Team Orr took a sixth straight decision at the event dating back to 2011.
“Dubois and I played together at Under-17’s and we had good chemistry together tonight,” said Laberge post-game. “It’s just an amazing feeling and my linemates and I worked really well together out there.”
The two clubs played intense, fast-paced hockey in front of over 10,000 fans at Pacific Coliseum, drawing strong praise from Bobby Orr.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of these games and that was probably the best yet,” said the legendary blueliner. “It was a heck of a hockey game and every kid on the ice played very well. There was some great goaltending, strong defence and it’s the best game in this event that I’ve been a part of.”
In fitting fashion, the hometown favourite got on the board first as Vancouver Giants forward Ty Ronning, who was a late addition to Team Cherry’s roster, found the back of the net after connecting on a give-and-go with linemate Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting). Ronning had his initial attempt thwarted by the pad of Carter Hart (Everett Silvertips) but stayed with the play to bang in the rebound 3:09 into the first period.
Team Orr had its moments in the first despite coming away from the opening 20 minutes down 1-0. Team Cherry goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrooke Phoenix) was great when called upon, making a big save off QMJHL opponent Dubois early on and followed up that effort with bang-bang saves off Jack Kopacka (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) in the slot moments later.
With a clean sheet before them, the goaltenders got a workout in the opening half of the second period as a back-and-forth affair saw free-flowing offensive creativity from both teams.
Fitzpatrick continued his strong play for Team Cherry, finishing his half of the game flawless with 17 saves as he turned aside high quality chances from Alexander Nylander (Mississauga Steelheads) and Max Jones (London Knights) off the rush.
While Fitzpatrick was replaced by Zach Sawchenko (Moose Jaw Warriors), Hart gave way to Dylan Wells (Peterborough Petes) at the opposite end after turning aside 15 of the 16 shots he faced.
With increased pressure, Team Orr managed to knot the score at one before the expiration of the second. Laberge took a pass as his line entered the offensive zone, toe-dragging the puck past an opponent to create a lane to the net and beat Sawchenko over the blocker at 17:09 with assists from Dubois and Libor Hajek (Saskatoon Blades).
Team Cherry held a 22-20 edge on the shot clock after 40 minutes with the two sides deadlocked at one.
After a relatively cautious opening half of the third, Wells would be tested in goal for Team Orr as he was forced to make big-time saves off defenceman Sean Day (Mississauga Steelheads) as he beat his man coming in off the blueline and, moments later, big winger Tim Gettinger (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) on the doorstep.
Wells kept the game tied long enough for Laberge to strike for his second of the night on the powerplay with 10:20 remaining in the third. The former second overall QMJHL Draft selection made his way off the boards on the powerplay, ripping a low release under the pad of Sawchenko.
Team Cherry wasn’t done down 2-1 though as they came back just under two minutes later on a nice passing play orchestrated by Jordan Kyrou. The Sarnia Sting winger found OHL West Division opponent Logan Brown (Windsor Spitfires) open in the slot as the big 6’6″ centre made no mistake, beating Wells up high with 8:36 to go.
The game wouldn’t remain tied for long this time.
Team Orr capitalized on a neutral zone turnover 11 seconds later as Dubois picked off an errant pass and proceeded to give-and-go with Laberge as the dynamic QMJHL forwards both registered their third point of the night on the game’s eventual winner.
Despite a heavy push from Team Cherry in the final minutes, fine goaltending from Wells helped Team Orr lock down a sixth straight victory in the event with a 3-2 decision in Vancouver.
While Laberge earned Team Orr Player of the Game honours, Michael McLeod (Mississauga Steelheads), who had an eventful game with several scoring opportunities, received the recognition for Team Cherry.
Despite being outshot 36-27, Orr earned his ninth win in 13 games behind the bench against his counterpart Cherry who falls to a coaching record of 5-11.
The 2016 BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is proudly supported by title partner BMO Bank of Montreal, and CHL associate sponsors Cooper Tire, autoTRADER.ca and Sherwin-Williams. Thursday’s game will be broadcast live across Canada on Sportsnet, TVA Sports, and in the United States on NHL Network.
For more information about the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game please visit www.bmotopprospects.ca.
BMO and the Canadian Hockey League:
BMO Financial Group and the Canadian Hockey League announced BMO as the Official Bank of the Canadian Hockey League in 2011. The sponsorship builds on BMO’s partnership with the CHL of more than 10 years and affirms BMO’s exclusivity as a financial services sponsor of the league in the retail banking category. It also engrains a presence with the 48 teams which currently participate in the BMO CHL Affinity MasterCard program, which enables CHL fans to support their favourite teams through a co-branded credit card.