In the first two CHL All-Star Games, the home team had come away with the win. With this year’s contest taking place at Hartford’s Aetna Center, the East was hoping that history would repeat itself. Unfortunately, the Western squad had other ideas. They broke the game open with a four-goal eruption in the second period, and wound up cruising to a 7-2 win.
“I’ve coached every one of these, and each time is a different experience,” said East coach Jeffrey Marsh. “This time, we got the experience of what it feels like to get run over by a Mack truck.”
The most critical stretch of the game was in the middle of the second period, when the West scored three times in a three-minute span. The game was competitive through the first period, when the score stood 2-1 in the West’s favor. The teams traded goals early in the second, with Idaho Spuds LW Terry Cresson striking first and Hartford Harpoons RW Felix Delorme answering a few minutes later. Then came the West’s big run.
Milwaukee Hogs C Yegor Nestorov got things going by going five-hole on Oshawa Drive G Hector Orinoco a few seconds shy of the the nine-minute mark. A minute and a half later, Delorme coughed up the puck to Cresson on a bad pass in the neutral zone. Cresson found Utah Owls D George “Brain” Brinson, who got Orinoco to commit down low, then went high to find the twine for a three-goal lead. Just over a minute after that, Spuds D Brady Prussian fired a shot from near the blue line that beat a screened Orinoco. Suddenly, a 3-2 game was 6-2, and the West had control of the game from there.
“That was the game right there, absolutely,” said West coach Gilbert McCoyne. “We felt the ice tilting in our direction, and we decided to keep the hammer down and take advantage of that. And we did.”
McCoyne also praised his team for spreading the offensive load around. “I loved the way that all three lines and all of our D pairings were engaged and involved on offense,” the coach said. Each of the West’s seven goals was scored by a different player.
Hogs D Conrad van Rijn received All-Star MVP honors for recording a most unusual achievement: a Gordie Howe hat trick (that is, a goal, an assist, and a fight.) van Rijn got the fight out of the way first, dropping the mitts with Halifax Atlantics D Axel Borgstrom early in the second period. Less than two minutes after he got out of the box, van Rijn got the primary assist for setting up Nestorov’s goal. Then, in the third period, van Rijn redirected a shot past the East’s backup netminder, Eugene Looney of the Cleveland Centurions, to complete the feat.
“I don’t know what kind of maniac gets into a fight in the All-Star game,” said McCoyne, “but at least Connie went on to get the Gordie. Good for him!”
van Rijn, who was reportedly unaware of his accomplishment until the game ended, received a sailboat from Morris Yachts, a Maine-based company. “It is a beautiful boat,” said the Milwaukee defenseman. “I want to sail it after the season, when the weather is more warm.”