The second game of the Traverse City Prospect Tournament was a difficult one for the Blackhawks Prospects, falling 6-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a meeting of the two Gordie Howe Division unbeatens.
KURASHEV STEPS UP
After a relatively quiet night against Detroit, held to just two shots during a five-goal outing, Philipp Kurashev rebounded strongly in his second Traverse City game.
The Blackhawks opened up the scoring with a show of skill from center, who twisted and turned through the offensive zone with the puck on his stick for nearly 10 consecutive seconds before a deflected pass attempt made its way to free-agent invite Sean Josling. The winger slid a backhand past the Leafs goalie for the 1-0 lead.
Throughout the game, Kurashev was right in the middle of the action and creating chances and he found the net himself late, taking a feed from Dylan McLaughlin in the corner for a shorthanded tally to make it a 5-3 Toronto lead.
"Yeah, today I felt a lot more comfortable. Yesterday was tough," Kurashev said. "It's always tough the first game of the summer but I think today was a lot better ... I started right away to be involved and get plays early."
Hitting the ice just 18 hours after the first game of the tournament, Chicago went back and forth for the opening two frames with the Leafs before trailing off in the third period as the game went heavily in Toronto's favor. As the Blackhawks attempted to hang in with Kurashev's shorthanded tally, it came during the first of three penalties in quick succession to squash any hopes of a late-game push.
"We started off well, I liked our start ... and then I don't know if we got tired, it just looked like we kind of stopped working and stopped skating," Rockford IceHogs head coach Derek King said. "I'd like to say that the guys are a little tired now. I think the excitement of being here and the nerves are catching up to us ... for the most part I liked our effort."
With an off day on Sunday, the rookies will have a chance to refresh their legs ahead of Monday evening's meeting with St. Louis.
AGAINST THE BEST
The Leafs came in with a game plan to contain Kirby Dach, playing a heavy and physical game against the top line for Chicago that led the team on Friday.
The trio as a whole was on the ice for the first three Toronto goals and frustrations came to a point in the third as Dach and Hudson Elynuik were called for offsetting minors during the back half of a Blackhawks 4-minunte power play - not the first time blue shirts tried to agitate the center after a whistle.
"That's what happens, it's hard. He's a competitive guy and he wants to be the best player on the ice all the time," King said of Dach. "He gets frustrated like that and it takes away from his game a little bit. That's stuff he'll learn as he gets older. You can maybe get away with that in the OHL, the Western League or in college, but at this level and the AHL or the NHL, that's not going to help your game. He's young. He'll mature and he'll get over that."
Despite the tough outing, Dach still showed moments of individual skill and put three shots on goal, trailing only Adam Boqvist and linemate Brandon Hagel.