FOXBORO – The 2015 New England Pro-Am Hockey Pre-Draft Showcase came to an end on Sunday evening at the Foxboro Sports Center, but not before taking a little more time than initially scheduled. The tournament’s championship game between Hockey Essentials White and the New England Leafs going to overtime before the 2-1 Essentials victory could be settled.
Entering the finals, the Leafs had been one of the better teams in the tournament. They won all three of their opening round matches with a goal differential of +13. Yet, things tightened up for them in Sunday’s playoff rounds. Three of the Leafs’ four games leading up to the final were decided by only a goal and two of those three went beyond regulation time, including their 5-4 shootout win over PHDG Red in the semifinals.
The Leafs were battle tested come the afternoon final, and came out storming to gain control of the game early. They took control of the scoreboard on a power play goal by Erik Brown at 11:08, but eventually the day’s toll seemed to start catching up with the Leafs.
As legs grew weary and tempers grew thin, a fresher Essentials team slowly began tipping the scales in their favor. They played the same number of games as the Leafs did on Sunday, but had an easier go en route to the finals.
Essentials posted a pair of 3-0 wins in Sunday’s preliminary round, then a 2-0 victory in the quarterfinals. Things were tighter in their 3-2 semifinal win over the Tropics, but with the Leafs playing through regulation, overtime and into a shootout, Essentials was able to catch a bit more rest than their foe heading into the tournament’s final game.
More and more of the game action took place in the Leafs end as the championship wore on, but the Leafs backend stood strong behind another strong goaltending performance from Kitchener Rangers product Matt Greenfield.
Aided by a late power play opportunity, Essentials finally broke through, defenseman Will Campion drawing the game back to even at 24:14. The Leafs had a power play opportunity of their own in the closing minutes as Campion went off for boarding at 28:15, but they could not convert and the game went to overtime tied 1-1.
While a full 30-minutes of regulation time were not enough to settle things, just a brief 1:28 of overtime was all that was needed for forward Sam Stemschien to burry a feed from Cory Kennedy past Greenfield and end the Pre-Draft Showcase with a 2-1 Essentials White win.
Though Stemschien went down as the overtime hero, teammate Jack Badini took home the postgame honor of tournament Most Valuable Player, his three goals and four points on Sunday leading the Essentials White squad. Brown, whose four goals and three assists on Sunday led all scorers on the day, was named to the All-Tournament team, as were fellow forwards Morgan Messenger of the Leafs and Marcus Dickerson of Essentials White.
Campion and the Leafs Andy Chugg comprised the All-Tournament team’s defensive tandem, while Essentials tandem of Grant Valentine, who got the start in the final, and Josh Sarlo, who came on in relief and shut the door in overtime, rounded out the All-Tournament team, sharing the goaltending honors.