A team of Ontario Hockey League all-stars clinched their series with a team of Russian players in tough, defensive fashion Monday night at the WFCU Centre in Windsor.
Team OHL shook off an early Russian goal and scored two unanswered goals as they defeated Team Russia 2-1 before an announced crowd of 5,446. Jordan Kyrou of the Sarnia Sting and Spencer Watson of the Kingston Frontenacs were the lamplighters for the Canadian team. London Knights star Mitchell Marner, who assisted on the Watson goal, had confidence in his teammate.
"Watty's a pretty good shooter," said Marner, who was selected fourth overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in this year's NHL Entry Draft. "I watched his last game and seeing his stats this year and last year I knew he was a good shooter. I knew I just needed to give him the puck and space and then he put it home."
Most of the players featured on the game's roster have either already been drafted by NHL teams or are eligible for the 2016 Entry Draft. The lineup for the game was coached by the entire Windsor Spitfires staff - head coach Rocky Thompson as well as assistant coaches Trevor Letowski and Jerrod Smith.
Team Russia struck first on a power play goal at 7:27 into the first period from Kirill Pilipenko. Kyrou had the equalizer at 9:12 in the second period, assisted by Kyle Capobianco of the Sudbury Wolves. Kyrou's teammate with the Sting, Jakob Chychrun, could not be more pleased.
"It's awesome. I'm really happy for Jordy, he deserved it and he moved himself well today," said Chychrun, who is projected to be an early pick in next year's NHL draft. He says he will walk away with fond memories of the series.
"I remember watching it last year and I was thinking how skilled the looks, how many high-end players on it. To be named to it this year was pretty special for me," said Chychrun.
Watson's game-winning goal came at a minute and 50 seconds after Kyrou's. Team OHL had a tandem of goalies on the night, turning away a total of 21 of Russia's 22 shots. Michael McNiven of the Owen Sound Attack had the bulk of the work between the pipes while Dylan Wells of the Peterborough Petes finished things off.
Two Spitfires were part of the lineup. Left winger Cristiano DiGiacinto had a plus-one and two penalty minutes for Team OHL, and Aaron Luchuk, a last-minute replacement for injured teammate Logan Brown. Luchuk said he was surprised to get the call earlier Monday.
"It was obviously an honour to get the call today, it was pretty short notice that I got to play," said Luchuk. "It was a lot of fun going out there and representing the OHL."
With the win Monday, teams representing Canada remain perfect over Russia in the four games played so far. The series shifts to Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec Tuesday night with a team of players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).