BUFFALO -- Playing goal is hard enough in a regular game, but playing goal at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game is even harder when going up against the top 2016 NHL Draft-eligible players from the United States.
Team Jeremy Roenick goalies Tyler Parsons and Stephen Dhillon and Team Derek Plante goalies Evan Sarthou and Ryan Edquist will have their hands full trying to do their part of keeping the score down when they face off at First Niagara Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN). An event like the All-American Prospects Game is usually meant to showcase the offensive ability of the skaters, but goalies have their own merits to prove.
"There's a lot of talent out here," said Parsons, who plays for the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League. "It's no different than playing in the OHL, so I just go out and do the same thing for every game."
For most of the goalies, this is their first experience playing in a game like the All-American Prospects Game and gives them an opportunity to show their abilities for NHL scouts in attendance. For Sarthou, he got a glimpse of what it's like to face high-end talent at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in August.
"You prepare the same for every player, whether they're a top player like [Finland forwards Jesse] Puljujarvi or [Patrik] Laine, you prepare the same," Sarthou said. "You just know you've got to respect that they're a great player and they're going to make plays, but at the end of the day you prepare the same way for every single player.
"I keep my preparation the same, nothing changes whatever event I'm at. I just keep it the same so I can stay as consistent as I can."
Even though the goalies have their own games to worry about, they work together to make sure they support one another's play.
"We've known each other for a couple of years now from USA hockey events and stuff," Sarthou said. "We're all friends here and we just try to help each other out any way we can and support each other in every way."
One of the trickier parts of playing in the All-American Prospects Game is going up against friends they played with in other events. Familiarity, in this situation, brings out the best in the players.
"I know [Matthew] Tkachuk a bit, I know [Luke] Kunin from playing U-18 Worlds with him," Sarthou said. "There's a couple of guys I know and I've just got to be aware of them on the ice."
Tkachuk in particular offers a challenge for Sarthou and Edquist because he plays a game similar to his father, former NHL star Keith Tkachuk. That means he'll be around the front of the net often.
"We're going to be chirping each other I'm sure out there," Sarthou said. "We know each other pretty well, so I mean, it'll be fun out there playing against them."