USA Hockey opened up its National Junior Evaluation Camp Saturday. The camp is held each year in August in Lake Placid, New York. USA Hockey invites 45 players to showcase their skills in this three day event, in an attempt to earn a roster spot for Team USA in the World Junior Championship. The players are broken up into two teams, USA Blue and USA White.
The first scrimmage of the NJEC pitted those two teams against one another. Scrimmages are played in two 25 minutes halves rather than the standard three 2o minute periods.
Thatcher Demko, a sophomore at Boston College started in net for USA White, and a shaky start it was. 3:32 into the first Michael Downing fired a shot which was tipped in nicely by Demko’s future Boston College teammate Sonny Milano to open up the scoring. Less than 30 seconds later, Demko let in a questionable goal coming off a long shot by Chicago Blackhawks prospect Tyler Motte.
After that though, things began to even out. Both teams put pressure on the goaltenders, but Brendan Burke of the Portland Winterhawks stood tall for the Blue team. 11 minutes into the first half, Anthony Louis threw a cross check along the boards, giving USA Blue the first powerplay chance. Motte intercepted a clearing attempt, walked the puck into the middle, and gave it to fellow Hawks prospect John Hayden, who was a standout at the Blackhawks 2014 Prospect Camp. Hayden was at the side of the net, and fired a beautiful backhander right over the shoulder of Demko. The announcer had this to say about Hayden’s goal:
He went top shelf on that backhand! Right where grandma hides the cookie jar!
Later in the first half, the white team was putting on some serious pressure. Nick Schmaltz gave a pass to Anthony Louis, but Louis had his stick lifted on a back check by Louie Belpedio. That started a 3 on 2 break for USA Blue. Milano took the puck and got it to Belpedio, who was trailing the play, and he put it in the net to give the Blue team a 4-0 lead. That score would hold to end the first half.
Both teams switched goalies. Demko made 9 saves and allowed four goals, but Burke stopped all 11 shots that came his way. Brandon Halverson would start the second in net for the Blue team, and Evan Cowley came in for USA White.
Clint Lewis finally got the White team on the board as he walked a puck into the middle and spun it past Halverson. J.T. Compher, who was on a line with Hudson Fasching, had shown great puck skills the entire game, but it finally paid off when he sent a nice pass to Fasching for a goal to make it 4-2 Blue team. It looked as if USA White had found their groove.
In my mind, the most impressive player was Sonny Milano. He showed great puck handling skills and incredible defense along with the rest of USA Blue.
Alex Tuch finished up the scoring, putting home a pass by Taylor Cammarata to make it 5-2. Tuch had been active all game and was finally rewarded with that goal. Not much happened after that, as it ended up being the final tally, and the Blue team walked away with a victory which although looks decisive on paper, was actually a very tough fought game.
The National Junior Evaluation Camp continues Sunday as USA White takes on Sweden, and USA Blue will battle Finland. On Monday, both teams will switch, USA Blue vs. Sweden, and USA White vs. Finland.
There will be a recap of all four games right here on Frozen Futures.
Thanks for visiting!