TRAVERSE CITY -- For the second straight season, the Detroit Red Wings prospects will be battling for an NHL Prospect Tournament title.
Last year, they made it to the championship game against the Columbus Blue Jackets but fell, 7-3.
This year, they needed to beat their rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in regulation in order to have a chance to avenge that loss.
That was because the Leafs had won their first two games by 6-2 and 6-3 scores, earning six points, while the Wings had an overtime loss and a win.
Detroit's early-tournament trend of starting slow and then coming on continued against Toronto.
Chase Pearson led the way with three goals and the Wings were strong enough to hold off the offensively charged Leafs in a 7-4 victory Monday night at Centre Ice Arena.
The Wings, the winners of the Howe Division, will face the Dallas Stars, the winners of the Lindsay Division, at 5 p.m. Tuesday night. The victor of that game will earn the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup.
The Wings have won the tournament just once, in 2013.
But including tomorrow, they will have played in the championship game five times in the last seven years. They also played for the title in 2013, 2015, 2016 and last year.
Pearson (power play, even strength, empty net), Troy Loggins (two), Taro Hirose and Joe Veleno (empty net) scored for Detroit.
Teemu Kivihalme (two), Semyon Der-Arguchintsev and Nicholas Robertson (power play) scored for Toronto.
Sean Romeo, a free-agent invitee out of Ohio State, had 24 saves for the Wings.
Ian Scott made 27 saves for the Leafs.
1. Chase Pearson: There's a reason that players like Pearson and Hirose are wearing the 'A' for the Wings during the Prospect Tournament. As they both played in college, they're a little older than some of the prospects and are expected to lead the way. Pearson did just that when it mattered most, recording a hat trick. His first goal, on the power play, helped cut Toronto's lead to 4-3 at 18:42 of the second. Moritz Seider had the lone assist. His second goal gave the Wings a 5-4 lead at 7:17 of the third period, with assists from Givani Smith and Filip Zadina. Finally, Jarid Lukosevicius made sure to get Pearson the puck when the Leafs had an empty net so he could complete the hat trick. Pearson also assisted on Veleno's empty-net goal at 19:28 of the third, giving him four points.
Quotable: "It's huge. I think it's big for the organization, too. We had a bunch of good prospects coming to this tournament and I think we meshed early. We've kind of taken that chemistry game by game and gotten better every game. It means a lot. Any championship is something cool to compete for. I'm excited. Detroit and Toronto kind of have a little rivalry and my dad (Scott) used to play there. It feels good to beat them." -- Pearson
Quotable II: "He had a good game. He's a trustworthy player. You know what you're getting. You're getting an honest effort, someone who plays the game the right way. Sometimes he'll get the bounces with him and tonight, he did." -- Ben Simon, Grand Rapids Griffins and Detroit's Prospect Tournament coach
Quotable III: "He's a stud. I've known that for a long time. He's a great player and he's going to be a great player for a long time. It's just nice to wear the same jersey as him for a change. He's a very steady, two-way player. But when you get a like that stepping up in a big game like that, it just gives us a huge spark. When you got a guy like him scoring, it's gonna make us a lot better." -- Romeo
2. Sean Romeo: If things had gone according to plan, Filip Larsson would be starting these Prospect Tournament games with Kaden Fulcher perhaps getting in a game or two. But the Red Wings are being cautious with Larsson as he is dealing with a sore groin. Wings goaltending coach Jeff Salajko, a former Ohio State assistant coach and Columbus resident, had heard about Romeo and thought he could be a good goalie to invite to Traverse City. Romeo helped the Wings beat the St. Louis Blues Saturday and then was tabbed to play Monday night. Although Romeo and the Wings fell behind, 4-2, Romeo remained steady as the team rallied behind him. There were several points, especially in the third period, when the Leafs hemmed the Wings in their own zone but Romeo made the saves when needed.
Quotable: "A few weeks ago, I wasn't sure if I was going to any of these camps. I was really excited to get the phone call. Once I got the call, I just had to focus and prepare to step in if my number is called. They're a good team, a really offensive team. We knew going in they'd have their chances. We just had to weather the storm. I thought our defense played really well, let me see everything. If I can get whistles for our guys it kind of slows the game down and helps them out." -- Romeo
Quotable II: "We'll get together and see what the best course of action is but I thought he did a great job. A couple of the goals he might want back but overall, he played a great game and fought and battled and settled in and did a tremendous job." -- Simon
Quotable III: "I think he's got a lot of pressure but he's handling it very well. He's played unbelievable. Like tonight, he kept us in the game. They had a few shifts where they were hemming us in the zone pretty good. He backstopped us until we were able to score a couple of empty-net goals to kind of cushion the lead." -- Pearson
3. Alec Regula/Moritz Seider/Gustav Lindstrom: Just when Alec Regula was getting in the swing of things, playing in the top pair with Seider and getting a ton of ice time, he suffered a bruising hit from Toronto forward Giorgio Estephan at 7:50 of the first period. Regula appeared to try to grab his stick but had trouble, eventually making his way slowly to the bench. He did not play for the rest of the game, which meant the Wings were down to five defensemen. The bulk of those minutes went to Seider, who was already playing a lot, and Gustav Lindstrom. Lindstrom started the game on the second pair with fellow Swede Gustav Berglund.
Quotable: "It's hard to play with five 'D,' but I thought we played well. We had too many turnovers in the first and second, in the third it was better, so that made it easier for us (defensemen). So, yeah it was better in the third. (Seider's) a really skilled player, moves the puck well, a high hockey IQ, he moves his feet well, so he's a really good player. It's fun to be out there with him." -- Lindstrom
Quotable II: "Anytime you go down to five D, and I don't think we managed the puck as well as we could have, and then you're running around a little bit and then those five D are getting more tired. I think we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit there but that was early on. We're going to have five defensemen that are really, really tired. They got to have some rest and get some food in them and get ready for tomorrow. I haven't talked to the trainers yet about Alec." -- Simon
Quotable III: "I didn't really see the hit. He was shaken up a little bit but we got some defense back there that can step it up and I think a couple of the guys did. Lindstrom played a lot and Mo obviously and there was a couple other big guys tonight. I think we just battled in there." -- Veleno