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Vanecek, Moulson bond over success at AHL All-Star Classic

Capitals goalie prospect named MVP, NHL veteran has goal, assist

by Patrick Williams / Independent Correspondent

ONTARIO, Calif. -- Matt Moulson and Vitek Vanecek made sure their cross-country trip to the 2020 American Hockey League All-Star Classic was worthwhile.

The Hershey (Washington Capitals) teammates helped the Atlantic Division defeat the North Division 5-2 in the championship game of the All-Star Challenge 3-on-3 tournament Monday, with Vanecek named most valuable player and the veteran Moulson, who had a goal and an assist, presented with the championship trophy.

"It was pretty fun," Vanecek said, after making 11 saves on 13 shots in four games. "It's a pretty tough challenge, but it's fun for goalies too."

Tweet from @TheHersheyBears: Now, ladies and gentlemen... THAT is how you represent! Vitek Vanecek the MVP🏅Matt Moulson raises the trophy🏆 #AHLAllStar #HBH

Their success on Monday capped a whirlwind week. Vanecek and Moulson played three games in four nights for Hershey then took a flight from Boston to Ontario on Sunday morning with a tight connection in Dallas. They arrived in time to take part in the All-Star Skills Competition that evening and the All-Star Challenge on Monday.

"I told the pilot, 'We need to go,'" Vanecek said. "'Push the gas a little bit.'"

Once settled in Ontario, where Moulson played the past two seasons while on loan from the Buffalo Sabres, the 36-year-old forward made it to the walk on the red carpet before the skills competition.

"It was a great reception for all the players with that red-carpet event there," Moulson said. "It was awesome with all the fans out there. They were amazing."

Moulson played his 1,000th professional game Saturday -- 650 of those have come in the NHL, where he has 369 points (176 goals, 193 assists) with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders, Minnesota Wild, and the Sabres. He enjoyed spending time with Vanecek and other top AHL prospects in Ontario.

"Sometimes I forget my age," said Moulson, who has 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 46 games this season. "[Spending time] with guys who are 20, 22 years old every day … I think some of them are closer in age to my kids than I am to them, but it's a lot of fun.

"You've just got to make sure that you're up to date on all of the new lingo they've got."

Vanecek, the 24-year-old goalie selected in the second round (No. 39) of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Capitals, praised his teammate Monday.

"That guy, he has got 1,000 professional hockey games," Vanecek said of Moulson. "That's huge. That's something special. He's such a good guy, and he's still good. He can still play the whole game."

This was the second AHL All-Star appearance for Vanecek. He is 13-8-1 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 23 games for Hershey this season.

"[Vanecek] has been playing phenomenally for us," Moulson said. "He has a great attitude, a lot of character, a pretty funny guy. We've had a good time hanging out."

New Jersey Devils forward prospect Joey Anderson of Binghamton had a hat trick and four assists in the All-Star Challenge. Forward Jeremy Bracco of Toronto (Toronto Maple Leafs) had six points (two goals, four assists) as did Ontario (Kings) defenseman Kale Clague (one goal, five assists).

"Getting to know these [prospects], they're tremendous players," Moulson said. "It was just a good experience."

Photo Courtesy: Jessica Christine Photography/AHL

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