GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Boston College recruit Brock Bradford scored the game-winning goal and was named most valuable player at the U.S. Hockey League’s annual Prospects/All-Star Game on Tuesday, Feb. 8, at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The game showcased the best junior hockey players in the country and is attended by scouts from every NHL team. Of the 40 players who participated, 30 have committed to play NCAA Division I hockey and some are NHL draft picks.
Team World, coached by former Wisconsin coach Jeff Sauer, scored two goals in the third period to beat Team USHL 5-3. Team USHL was coached by former Minnesota-Duluth and Michigan Tech coach Mike Sertich.
“It was a good hockey game with a very talented group of players,” Sauer said. “It’s fun to see them up close and personal. You hear a lot about them and you know where they’re going to school. College coaches are lucky. They’re going to have some good players coming in.”
Bradford, a 5-10, 160-pound, 18-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., plays for the USHL’s Omaha Lancers where he has 16 goals and 25 assists in 41 games. He’s tied for seventh in league scoring and was one of the USHL’s most highly recruited players.
With the game tied 3-3 in the third period, Bradford fired a feed from Green Bay forward Blake Wheeler (Minnesota) past Team USHL goalie Jeff Lerg of Omaha (Michigan State) at the 7:57 mark. Team World iced the win with 3:11 left as Matt Vokes (Brown) passed to Ted Purcell (Maine) – forwards for Cedar Rapids – to convert on a 2-on-0 situation down low.
Team USHL opened the scoring with a first-period goal by Sioux City forward Tim Kennedy, who fired a wrister through traffic that beat Waterloo goalie Drew O’Connell. Vokes tied it for Team World with a goal at 18:16 when he beat Lincoln’s Jordan Pearce (Notre Dame). Trevor Smith (New Hampshire) of Lincoln gave Team World a 2-1 lead with 1:24 left in the period.
In the second period, Team USHL made it a 2-2 game at 10:31 with a goal by Omaha forward Corey Carlson (Vermont), who beat Sioux City goalie Jimmy Spratt. Team World answered at 18:18 with a goal by Cedar Rapids forward Rob Ricci (Merrimack) against Omaha goalie Jeff Lerg (Michigan State) to make it 3-2 at the end of two.
Team USHL tied it 3-3 just 41 seconds into the third period with an unassisted goal by Sioux Falls center Tom Gorowsky (Wisconsin). But from there on, Team World dominated, scoring two unanswered goals for the final 5-3 result.
Perhaps the surprise of the game was the play of Ricci, who had a goal and an assist for Team World. The Brampton, Ont., native replaced injured Cedar Rapids teammate Phillip Axtell (Michigan Tech) a few days before the game.
“Some would argue that I should have been here in the first place, but I didn’t look at it as a negative being a replacement,” Ricci said. “I just wanted to come and have a good time.”
As with most all-star games, the contact, penalties and whistles were kept to a minimum, providing the more than 4,000 fans in attendance with an entertaining, fast-paced game.
“That’s the way hockey’s supposed to be,” Sauer said. “I thought it was a very competitive game, a good game. It was a fun game to coach.”
Gorowsky received player of the game honors for Team USHL, and Vokes was named player of the game for Team World.