The players were all still 20 years away from being born, but Thursday’s Subway Super Series game between Team Russia and Team OHL had shades of 1972 all over it.
And it wasn’t just the Movember ‘staches in the stands of the J. Benson Cartage Centre.
After four lead changes, dazzling skills and speed on display, a few questionable penalty calls, a late-game skirmish and 17 goals on the scoreboard, OHL team captain Tyler Toffoli summed up his team’s 10-7 victory in one word: “Fun.”
Freddie Hamilton scored a hat trick and added an assist, and Mark Scheifele and Ryan Strome, who both started the season with their respective NHL clubs, each had a pair. Toffoli and 67’s teammate Cody Ceci each finished with two assists.
Team OHL trailed by a pair of goals early in the third period, but a fierce comeback with six straight goals, including three in a span of 2:23, sealed the victory and kept the OHLers undefeated in series history. Team Russia won both games this year against the Quebec League all-stars.
Toffoli said the third-period comeback was “huge.”
“A couple of big goals there really got the momentum going, and then it felt like as every shift went by we either scored or we had a really good opportunity. It’s a good feeling winning and all the boys are happy. We knew we had a good team and obviously we knew we could score goals and do all the little things, we just had to do it. And we did.”
Teams got off to a fast start and kept up the pace for 60 minutes, trading early chances before Pavel Kulikov broke the ice on a pretty set play, redirecting a Mikhail Naumenkov point shot past Niagara goalie Mark Visentin. Team OHL took control from there, with an aggressive forecheck forcing Russian turnovers and drawing penalties.
Power-play goals from OHL leading scorer Tanner Pearson, with assists from Toffoli and Ceci, and Hamilton’s first of three, put Team OHL in front. A seeing-eye point shot from defenceman Nathan Chiarlitti with 1:09 remaining in the period padded the lead.
But Team Russia, fresh off a 2-0 and 5-4 wins over the QMJHL stars, showed why scouts are already declaring the 2012 NHL entry draft the year of the Russians.
Ivan Telegin drew the Russians within one 1:45 into the second, and after Hamilton scored his second of the game, the Russians drove even harder.
With Andrew D’Agostini taking over the OHL net, the Peterborough Petes netminder was victimized by a pair of power-play goals after OHLers took back-to-back boarding penalties.
Nikita Gusev spun around in the slot and fired a low shot that caught the post and beat D’Agostini at 14:01, and Telegin potted his second 1:41 later to send the Russians to the locker room up 5-4 at the second intermission.
The Russians extended their lead 2:35 into the final frame, but there was no quit in Team OHL.
Hamilton’s hat trick goal 16 seconds later sparked the team to six straight goals, including three in a span of 2:23.
Bulat Shavaleev bookended the scoring in the third period with a pair of goals.
Toffoli, playing on a line with Pearson and Scheifele, felt he helped his case for when Hockey Canada’s world junior selection committee starts drafting its list.
“I thought I played well, I got a lot of opportunities and really worked hard,” Toffoli said. “I wanted to show that I could play more of a different role and not just be a scorer.”
Senators first-round pick Matt Puempel said it was nice to play in front of Ottawa fans wearing a home sweater, instead of the one he usually wears to town with the rival Peterborough Petes.
"It's everything I've heard about Ottawa, the atmosphere and how hockey crazy they are, and it's definitely a market that you want to play in," he said. "It's exciting."
While Russians are expected to dominate the early rounds of the 2012 NHL draft, Puempel said the win shows Canadian hockey is alive and well.
"Canada has always had the stereotypically stronger, bigger teams, and that's what we try to show every night. The (Russians) are all skilled players, they have great speed and they all have bright futures, so it definitely feels good to beat those guys, especially with what they did last year (winning gold) in the world juniors."
The teams head to Sault Ste. Marie for Game 4 of the series Monday before the Russians head west to take on the Western League All-Stars next week.