It was a one of kind hockey night in Central Nebraska.
The Tri-City Storm hosted the 2018 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at the Viaero Center in Kearney, Nebraska. Scouts and representatives from all 31 NHL teams were in attendance.
The two teams involved in the game, simply named Team East and Team West, were made up of the Top 40 players in the USHL that have yet to be drafted in the NHL. On Monday the kids were able to take the ice and take part in drills such as reaction, agility, forwards and backwards skating for Central Scouting officials and have their times recorded for NHL scouts and teams. Then on Tuesday, they were given the opportunity to impress the scouts and fans alike in the Top Prospects Game.
Every USHL team had at least one player in the game, including the hosting Tri-City Storm with four (Forwards Tyler Madden and Wyllum Deveaux. Defensemen Jace Foskey and Hugo Blixt.).
When the game began, it took the players a little bit to mesh with their new teammates and get used to a bunch of important suits watching their every move. As the game went on, fans in attendance became more aware that they were witnessing something special. These players were not only the stars of the USHL, the only developmental hockey league in the United States, but will soon be stars in college hockey, and then possibly the National Hockey League.
At the second intermission, Team East lead Team West by the score of 2-1. Goals for Team East came from Michael Callahan (Central Illinois Flying Aces) and Tyler Madden (Tri-City Storm). The lone goal for Team West was scored by Ryan Savage (Fargo Force). The rest of the players were finding their groove as well. Then, the third period started, which was a real treat.
Team West started the period on the power play and capitalized thanks to Matej Blumel (Waterloo Black Hawks). Followed by a second goal by Paul Cotter (Lincoln Stars), that gave Team West the go ahead goal. Unfortunately for Team West, just over 3 minutes later, it was Team East tying the game on a shot by Curtis Hall (Youngstown Phantoms). With the game now knotted at 3, both teams were looking for that extra spark, and that spark was provided by hometown forward Wyllum Deveaux (Tri-City Storm) and Xan Gurney (Chicago Steel) as they both dropped the gloves in a spirited bout. With the crowd roaring and the benches rocking, it was now the final push to try and get the win. Hometown hero, Tyler Madden (Tri-City Storm) did just that by potting his second goal of the game with 4:08 remaining in regulation. Team East would hold on to the 4-3 lead for the win.
With his two goals in the game, Tyler Madden (Tri-City Storm) was named MVP and 1st Star of the game. It is also the third year in a row that
a member of the Tri-City Storm has been named MVP (Paul Washe in 2017 and Wade Allison in 2016).
Now Madden, along with the other 39 players that joined him over the last few days, will rejoin their respective team in hopes for a push into the Clark Cup Playoffs. They also will hoping to be hearing their names called in the upcoming NHL Draft, thanks to the help of their own league, the USHL, and a wonderful event in the NHL Top Prospects Game.