by Brady Trettenero
January 6, 2014 (ISN) – It was a weekend that won’t be forgotten for a very long time. The 2014 Great Northwest Showcase took place January 3rd and fourth at the Bill Copeland Sports center in Burnaby, and it didn’t disappoint.
The event was a four-game exhibition showcasing top level international University Men’s Hockey while promoting the importance of education during an athlete’s career.
It featured two NCAA Division 1 teams in Princeton and the University of North Dakota, as well as the University of British Columbia (CIS), and the host, Simon Fraser University (BCIHL).
UBC emerged with the top record in the showcase, beating UND 3-2 in overtime on Friday before going on to defeat Princeton 1-0 the next day. This marked the second straight year UBC has had the best record in the showcase. Last year, UBC also went undefeated, taking down Arizona State University 8-2 before notching a 3-2 overtime win over the University of Oklahoma.
Though UBC emerged on top, much of the buzz this past weekend was surrounding UND. Seven-time NCAA national Frozen Four champions, the University of North Dakota roster features 15 NHL draft picks, including Florida Panther’s prospect and 2013 World Junior superstar Rocco Grimaldi.
SFU and UBC fared well against the star-studded roster, giving the NCAA Division 1 team all they could handle.
UND dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to UBC on Saturday, but got back on track on Saturday, taking down SFU 4-3.
“I think it was really a great job by UBC and SFU. Both teams were hard to play against,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol said.
The BCIHL-leading SFU Clan lost both games in the showcase, but have their heads held high after a great weekend that helped raise the profile of Canadian hockey at the University level.
The SFU Clan opened the 2014 Great Northwest Showcase with an 8-1 loss to Princeton University, a game that marked the homecoming for several Princeton players, notably defenceman Marlon Sabo of Surrey and Delta goaltender Sean Bonar.
Senior Andrew Calof put up four points (2G 2A) in the win, earning him player of the game honors.
Andrew Parent earned player of the game for SFU, making 28 saves in goal as his team was heavily outplayed, getting outshot 36-10.
SFU stuck with Princeton through the first two periods though, trailing the NCAA team 2-1 heading into the final frame.
“They hung with us for sure. They gave us a good game. They were physical, but we were able to click there in the third period,” Princeton coach Bob Prior said.
Princeton exploded for a six-goal third-period en route to an 8-1 victory. All three Princeton goalies saw action in the game. Sean Bonar got the start, making two saves in the first period. Sophomore Colton Phinney played in the middle period and the first few minutes of the third, earning the win with four saves. Junior Ryan Benitez played his first game of the season and made three saves in the final 17 minutes.
SFU’s lone goal came in the first period from leading-scorer Nick Sandor, who scored after rookie Graham Smerek intercepted a pass from goaltender Bonar behind the net.
Smerek found an open Sandor in the slot, who rifled one into the empty cage while Bonar was stuck behind the net.
Sandor, who leads the BCIHL in scoring with 29 points in 12 games, added another goal in the team’s second game against UND.
Friday’s second showdown would see UBC face off against UND. The Thunderbirds came out with a clutch effort, scoring in the final minute to tie it before going on to win the game in overtime.
The University of North Dakota entered the holiday break riding a five-game winning streak, but looked anything but that in their first game of the showcase.
“We got outworked tonight, right from the start of the game,” said Hakstol.
“You think you’re going to walk all over these guys. That was our first mistake and it cost us a hockey game,” said defenseman Troy Stecher.
UND lost the game but actually looked like they were going to win after forward Connor Gaarder broke a 1-1 tie with 4:11 remaining in regulation.
The goal came in the third period after UND’s Mitch MacMillan and UBC’s Jessi Hilton exchanged first-period goals earlier on.
Unfortunately for UND, UBC came through with a clutch performance for the ages.
With 52 seconds remaining and goaltender Matt Hewitt on the bench for an extra attacker, Joe Antilla found a rebound off the end boards and slid it past UND goalie and Boston Bruins draft pick Zane Gothberg to send the game into overtime.
Antilla continued his magic in the extra frame, setting up defencemen Jason Yee in the face off dot with 1:04 remaining. Yee drilled a one-timer past Gothberg to give his team the win.
“Our guys really wanted to win. You could feel it on the bench. An entertaining game,” UBC coach Milan Dragicevic said.
UBC outshot UND 26-25 and had phenomenal performances in goal from both Steven Stanford and Matt Hewitt, who were each given playing time in the win.
Gothberg made 23 saves in a losing cause.
Antilla was given player of the game for UBC after a game in which he scored the game-tying goal and assisted on the overtime-winner.
Florida Panthers prospect Rocco Grimaldi was given the award for UND. He didn’t register a point, but put on quite the show for fans at the Bill Copeland Sports Center.
UBC built on their win on Friday, utilizing the momentum to take down Princeton 1-0 during the early game on Saturday.
A goal by Nate Fleming at 5:03 of the second period held up as the lone goal in the title game of the Great Northwest Showcase.
Fleming stripped Princeton defenceman Marlon Sabo of the puck at Princeton’s blueline and raced in all alone on goaltender Sean Bonar.
Fleming put one past Bonar for the game’s only tally.
The Tigers outshot UBC 29-24 in the game, but were stymied by UBC’s goaltending duo of Stanford and Hewitt. Stanford played in net for one period and made 12 stops, while Hewitt played the final 40 minutes and made 17 saves.
While UBC finished the Showcase with two wins, SFU and UND still had one last game to play that night.
In front of a crowd of 1,200 people, the two teams closed out the 2014 Great Northwest Showcase with a terrific game that had everything in it, including a performance by the SFU Junior Pipe Band and Ceremonial Puck Drop by UND Alumni and former Vancouver Canuck Garry Valk.
Captain Ryan Simpson led the charge for UND, scoring two third-period goals en route to a 4-3 victory over SFU.
While Ryan Simpson stole the show for UND, it was SFU’s goaltender Graeme Gordon making waves for the home team. Gordon turned away 47 of 51 shots from UND, including a remarkable stop on UND leading-scorer Rocco Grimaldi in the second period on the penalty shot. Both players received play of the game honors.
Gordon leads the BCIHL with a 1.50 GAA and a 6-0-0 record on the season. It was no surprise the elite goalie somehow found a way to criticize himself after an astonishing performance.
“The game was good, but I’ve been better,” Gordon said. “I would have liked to have that third one back.”
Edmonton Oilers prospect and UND defenseman Dillon Simpson had nothing but good things to say about Gordon.
“Their goalie played phenomenal,” said Simpson.
The senior captain scored twice in the third period, including the game-winner with 4:05 remaining, to erase SFU’s 2-1 lead.
Simpson, alongside his defense partner and St. Louis Blues first-rounder Jordan Schmaltz, put on a show all weekend. The two players both assisted on Rocco Grimaldi’s power-play goal to open the game.
After Grimaldi opened the scoring, the Clan jumped to a 2-1 lead off goals from Scott Brkich and Taylor Piller.
Brkich scored on the power-play for his first “unofficial” goal since joining the Clan. Though he has played three exhibition games for SFU, Brkich will officially be joining SFU for the spring semester.
Simpson and Stephane Pattyn scored goals in the third period though, putting UND back on top.
SFU’s dynamic duo of Sandor and Jono Ceci then went to work on a 5-on-3 man advantage.
Ceci fed Sandor cross ice down low to tie the game at three with just over ten minutes to go in the final period.
Ceci and Sandor have combined for 58 points in 24 games in the BCIHL this season.
Simpson iced the game with five minutes to go though, finding his own rebound at the side of the net and wrapping it inside the open post to reclaim a lead that UND would not give up.
“He (Simpson) was a good leader in the locker room. He was good tonight,” said coach Hakstol.
“Our team played well today. I was happy with it. At an exhibition level, I was real happy with our performance”. You have to give SFU credit. They played hard defensively,” Hakstol added.
UND outshot SFU 51-17 on the night, but dominated especially in the third period, outshooting the Clan 27-6.
The power play has been a key for SFU all season and it came through against UND, going 2-5.
Grimaldi left the game with an injury early in the third period and did not return. However, Hakstol said he didn’t think the injury would be long-term.
UBC finishes the showcase with a 2-0 record, while UND and Princeton both finish 1-1. SFU finished 0-2. The NCAA teams and the Canadian teams didn’t play one another.