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Team East wins Lightning Development Camp 3-on-3 tournament

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

Names like Nikita Kucherov, Cedric Paquette, Nikita Nesterov and 2015 NHL All-Star Tyler Johnson are among those found on the two-foot trophy given to the winner of the 3-on-3 tournament that concludes the Tampa Bay Lightning’s annual Development Camp.

Add James Mullin, Henri Ikonen, Matthew Peca, Dylan Blujus and Ryan Zuhlsdorf to the award.

Those five made up Team East, which overcame a rough opening day of the tournament, needed a goal-differential tiebreaker to advance to the semifinal knockout round as the last team in, then proceeded to upset top-seeded Team Coaches in the semis and No. 2 seed Team USA in the final to win the two-day tourney.

Team East rallied from a 2-1, first-half deficit to defeat Team USA 5-3 in the championship. Blujus and Peca each had two goals, Peca’s one-timer finish with 2:19 to go in the final putting Team East up for good 4-3. Blujus added an insurance goal less than a minute later to wrap up the win.

“It’s a lot of fun. The tournament’s always fun,” said Peca, who finished with 10 goals, tied with Blujus among the 27 skaters for most in the tourney. “It’s good to win it. There’s been really good players that have won it that have moved on.”

Team East was just 1-2-1 following Friday’s play and concluded the round robin portion of the tournament with a tie against Team Europe on Saturday. Team East and Team Europe were both 1-2-2 after round robin play, but Team East advanced to the semis based on goal differential.

In the semifinal versus Team Coaches, Team East rolled out to a 4-0 lead en route to a 5-2 victory.

In the championship, Anthony DeAngelo put Team USA up 1-0 with a beautifully-wristed shot over goaltender Jamie Murray. Peca answered for Team East with a one-timer on the back post.

Cameron Darcy’s redirect from in close put Team USA back in the lead, but Blujus leveled almost immediately for Team East and Mullin lifted a backhander over Murray at the post with 30 seconds left in the first half to give Team East a 3-2 lead at the break.

All games were played with two seven-minute halves.

In the second half, Cristiano DiGiacinto’s rebound goal tied the game 3-3 two minutes in. Peca provided the game-winner with 2:19 remaining, though, and Blujus’ 10th goal of the tourney with 1:23 to go sealed the win for Team Blue.

“Even though it’s not that serious, you still want to win every battle and you want to score every chance you get,” said Ikonen, who finished the tournament with five goals and eight assists. “We didn’t play that well in the first group games, but we picked it up. It’s fun to win that trophy. We didn’t really change anything from day one to day two. We just had more fun and realized it’s more fun to play when you’re winning and scoring goals.”

Peca, a Quinnipiac University standout who signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Lightning on April 1, said picking up Ryan Zuhlsdorf for the knockout stage gave the team a big lift stamina-wise.

“We were playing round robin with four players,” Peca said. “It’s really no excuse, but it was a little tiring. I think we had more legs the second day.”

Team USA beat Team West 3-2 in the other semifinal matchup. Anthony Cirelli scored twice to lift Team USA to the championship game.

Team Coaches went 3-0-2 following round robin play and accumulated eight points to enter the semifinals as the top seed but was dismissed by Team East in the semis.

NOTES: Team East’s Mullin was the tournament’s scoring champion after tallying six goals and 12 assists for 18 points. Peca finished right behind with 17 points (10-7)…Team USA’s Samuel Vigneault had 10 assists to pace all skaters…Jamie Murray had the best save percentage (.829) among the four goalies and, subsequently, was given the start between the pipes in the championship…Peca had the best shooting percentage, scoring 10 goals on 19 shots for a 52.6 percent success rate…Ikonen won the inaugural Michael Peterson Award given to the Camp’s fitness champion. Daniel Walcott finished second and Bokondji Imama placed third. The award is named for Lightning statistical analyst Michael Peterson, who developed the formula to determine the fitness champion.

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