HALIFAX, N.S. — Seth Jones wouldn’t make a prediction before the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, but his forewarning of Ryan Hartman’s style may well have served the same purpose.
Jones, the top ranked prospect by the NHL’s Central Scouting, spoke glowingly about Hartman’s efforts in Team USA’s gold medal victory at the world juniors in Russia two weeks ago. Now Hartman was an adversary and set the tempo right from the drop of the puck much the same way Jones described him doing while wearing an American jersey overseas.
The Plymouth Whalers forward got it started right from the game’s first shift with a jarring check on Laurent Dauphin that stirred up the crowd at the Halifax Metro Centre. After cranking Adam Erne on another shift along the wall 10 minutes later, Team Orr’s Kerby Rychel took matters into his own hands and delivered the momentum-changer by dropping the gloves with the pesky Whalers forward.
"He was throwing some big hits," Rychel noted, "so I just stepped up and fought him."
Hartman’s spirited physical game got him noticed by everyone in attendance. It also, however, seemingly had a counterproductive result. A few minutes after being on the receiving end of a devastating Hartman hit, Dauphin set up the game’s first goal.
Dauphin spotted Jones in the slot, and his shot was kicked out by Team Cherry goalie Zachary Fucale, but right onto Erne’s stick. Erne made no mistake with Fucale at his mercy.
The hit, Team Cherry head coach Don Cherry said, "got (Dauphin) going."
Dauphin took it a step further.
"I was a little bit pissed," he said. "But it’s the game so I come back better after that."
Earlier during the same sequence as the fight, Erne and Hartman went for a puck near the boards. The Quebec Remparts forward didn’t know which player he was battling with for the puck until he was falling back onto the ice.
"I thought we were just going to bump, but I guess he went all out," Erne said. "I was thinking about (fighting Hartman) but Rychel got there. I’m not much of a fighter so I’m happy he did it.
"(Hartman) needed to be put in his place I guess."
"You really got to know where he is on the ice," Jones said of Hartman. "He clipped me a couple times as well. He’s a good player and he has a mean streak to him and he knows how to get under the other team’s skin."
Dauphin, who would later be named Team Orr’s player of the game, scored the insurance goal early in the second period. He took advantage of a neutral zone turnover and fired his shot low to the glove side to spot Team Orr a 2-0 lead.
It was a fitting moment for Dauphin, who only learned on Monday he would be playing in this game as an injury replacement for Medicine Hat forward Hunter Shinkaruk, who didn’t make the trip due to the flu. Dauphin said he forgot about the game until receiving the call at his billet family’s home on Monday, which may have helped him in the end.
"Sometimes when you arrive at the last minute, you don’t have too much time to think about it and he just played," said Dominique Ducharme, an assistant coach on Team Orr’s staff.
Dauphin nearly scored another goal late in the second period when Erne fed him a pass across the slot. His shot hit the far post behind Tristan Jarry.
The crowd witnessed an event first, with the combined shutout from Spencer Martin and Philippe Desrosiers by Team Orr. They stopped all 20 shots they faced, leaving hometown heroes Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin without a point.
Asked if it was disappointing they didn’t score in front of the home fans, MacKinnon said, "I don’t think it’s disappointing. We scored a lot here (with the Mooseheads)."
Ducharme, his head coach with the Mooseheads, got the last laugh, though MacKinnon wasn’t willing to give him any props for keeping him and Drouin off the scoreboard.
"No, I’m not going to give that to him," he said with a laugh. "No, I can’t give that to him."
Martin stopped all 16 shots he faced while Desrosiers wasn’t tested as much in his half game of work with just four shots. None of the players on Team Orr’s bench were willing to utter the word "shutout" for fear of jinxing it, but stressed playing well defensively in the dying minutes.
"I said ‘I told you so,’" Martin relayed his conversation with Desrosiers post game. "But I was kind of joking. We had a lot of fun together this week and I wish him the best (of luck) the rest this season."
Sportsnet analyst Doug Maclean topped Nick Kypreos, both assistants on opposite teams in this game. As a result of the win, Maclean earned some billfold from the legendary coach.
"I lost 100 bucks to Maclean," Cherry said, "I’m pissed off at that."