KELOWNA, B.C. -- Thomas Wilson
said his goal coming into the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game was to get a few hits early in the game to set the tone.
The big Plymouth Whalers forward did just that early and often Wednesday night here at Prospera Place.
Wilson, a 6-foot-3 1/2, 203-pound right wing playing for Team Cherry, started early with a pair of big hits on Team Orr defenseman Gianluca Curcuruto
, then continued in the second when he blasted forward Lukas Sutter
That hit didn't agree with Sutter's teammate, Dalton Thrower
, and at 16:38 of the second period, Thrower and Wilson had the game's first fight.
"First couple shifts I got a big hit," Wilson told NHL.com. "Just good to get the boys going. Later in the game I made a big hit (on Sutter). Thrower hopped on the ice and called me out so I had to go. We squared up and it was a good fight."
Team Cherry coach Mark Recchi
could see early in the game that Wilson's engine was running hot.
"Wilson was ready to roll tonight," Recchi said. "I think the whole competitive nature of the game was unbelievable. These kids wanted to play and wanted to play well and show off. Wilson got out there right away and wanted to set the tone physically and it set the tone a lot for the game. It showed how competitive it was going to be."
At 5-11 1/2 and 189 pounds, Thrower gives up a bit of size to Wilson, but he didn't hesitate to step in for what he saw as a dirty hit on not just a teammate in this game, but a teammate on the Saskatoon Blades and a close friend away from the ice.
"I was sitting on the bench when it happened," Thrower told NHL.com. "They changed and I saw Wilson was still on the ice. I felt it was a dirty hit and needed to get fixed.
"We (him and Sutter) are best friends, that's for sure. But in this game, I would have jumped in for anybody."
The same could be said for another of Thrower's teammates, Raphael Bussieres
, who didn't hesitate to go after Team Cherry's Mathew Dumba
for a third-period hit that led to the game's second fight.
"(Faksa) was just coming down the boards and the puck was rolling on him, which made him look down at the puck," Dumba told NHL.com. "He was going wide and I got an opportunity to step up on him."
Like Thrower, Bussieres let Dumba know he didn't appreciate the hit.
"He came in and we bumped together and we both looked at each other," Dumba said. "He told me we're going, so I dropped them."
The two fights and physical play all game long defines the Top Prospects Game, which features All-Star-caliber talent but plays more like a playoff game.
"There was contact in the game, not dirty contact," Team Orr coach Pat Quinn
said. "Just good physical play. It was a treat to watch."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK