Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs offered up early heroics for Team Red on Wednesday at the 2022 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game but it was Team White who claimed victory by the final buzzer in coming away with a 3-1 win.
Providing the offense for Team White was Moose Jaw Warriors forward Jagger Firkus, who flashed his creativity late in the opening frame, before Jake Karabela (Guelph Storm) and Nathan Gaucher (Quebec Remparts) cashed in just over three minutes apart in the second period. Splitting the victory for Team White was Mason Beaupit (Spokane Chiefs) and Tyler Brennan (Prince George Cougars) who turned aside a combined 19 saves in the winning effort.
Entering the showcase as the projected first-overall selection in the upcoming NHL Draft, Wright embraced a leadership role with Team Red and the opportunity to play before hundreds of talent evaluators.
“Anytime you get to play with and against the best players, it is always something you are going to have a lot of fun playing in and a great experience overall,” Wright told reporters postgame. “It wasn’t the result we wanted but it was a great experience and I learned a lot. It’s been a great week and it’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.
“My mindset was that it was just another hockey game and to soak it all in. There are always going to be scouts at games and people watching, so I didn’t approach it any differently.”
Leading White to victory was TSN OverDrive host and Guelph Storm graduate Jeff O’Neill, who stepped behind the bench alongside assistant coaches George Burnett (Guelph Storm), Brian Kilrea and Bert O’Brien of the Ottawa 67’s, and OverDrive co-anchor Michael DiStefano, better known as Al’s Brother.
Marking the CHL’s first national event following two years of pandemic challenges, the 2022 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game was played before a raucous crowd from the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
“During the national anthem, you kind of looked around and you’re thinking, ‘We missed this.’ You take it for granted when you have it for so long,” added Rangers general manager and head coach Mike McKenzie, who served as an assistant coach with Team Red. “It’s nice to see it back the way it used to be. (The game) didn’t go our way but it was fun to watch these guys compete.”