PHOTO: Damon James
PENTICTON, B.C. – Justin Katz made saves on all 18 shots he faced while Jaiden Moriello added an assist as the BC Hockey League’s inaugural Top Prospects Game as Team East defeated Team West by a 6-2 score on Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
Teams compiled of the BCHL’s best National Hockey League Draft eligible players were split into Team East, composed of Interior Conference players and Team West, made up of mostly Coastal Conference players, battled in front of numerous NCAA and NHL scouts in the Top Prospects Game from Penticton on Friday.
West Kelowna Warriors goaltender Justin Katz started the game for Team East, playing the first half of the 60-minute contest. The Cornell University commit turned aside all 14 shots he faced in the opening period of the game, including a highlight reel stop in the tail end of the first 20 minutes of action.
Team West and Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Ethan Bono sent a shot to the net from the left face-off circle with Katz kicking the puck to the left side and Nanaimo Clippers defender Ethan Mistry fired the rebound from the right face-off circle as Katz dove across to his glove side and robbed Mistry for his biggest save on the night.
Katz turned aside each of the 4 shots he faced in the 2nd period before giving the net to Merritt Centennials goaltender Johnny Hicks for the remainder of the contest and left with his Team East ahead by a 3-0 score, which saw Warriors forward Jaiden Moriello factor into the scoring early in the middle stanza.
“It was amazing to have the opportunity to play and compete against some of the most talented players that our league has to offer,” stated Team East starting goaltender Justin Katz, “To share that with my teammate in Jaiden Moriello makes it even better.”
A rare West Kelowna Warriors-Penticton Vees connection led to a early 2nd period goal as Aydar Suniev put Team East ahead 2-0. Moriello got to the puck below the goal line after it bounced off the skate of a referee and centered for Suniev in the left face-off circle as he squeaked a shot through Surrey Eagles goaltender Eli Pulver 47 seconds into the middle frame.
“It was a great opportunity to showcase myself and my organization,” mentioned Team East forward Jaiden Moriello, “It was a game with great pace, skill and competition.”
Moriello and Katz would see their side win the inaugural Top Prospects Game behind a two-goal performance from Trail Smoke Eaters defender Brady Smith. Bradly Nadeau of the Penticton Vees and Wenatche Wild forward Ean Somoza factored in with two assists.
The BCHL’s All-Star Weekend continues on Saturday in Penticton was Moriello will compete in the Fastest Skater competition and will suit up for the 3-on-3 All-Star Game at the Outdoor Rink in Penticton with the festivities beginning at 1:00 PM. The action can be viewed live on HockeyTV.com.