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Ebert's blast highlights prospects skills competition

Wednesday, 02.1.2012 / 12:28 PM MT / News
By Mike Morreale  - Staff Writer
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Ebert\'s blast highlights prospects skills competition
KELOWNA, B.C. -- The NHL stars of tomorrow took center stage Tuesday at Prospera Place during the skills competition at the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
The event was a prelude to the Top Prospects Game, scheduled here Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, Sportsnet).
Among the top-rated players on the ice were forwards Mikhail Grigorenko of the Quebec Remparts, Radek Faksa of the Kitchener Rangers and Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads, along with defensemen Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips, Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels and Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Top Prospects Skills Competition results

Fastest skater - Francis Beauvillier, Rimouski Oceanic, 14.132

Hardest shot - Nick Ebert, Windsor Spitfires, 94.7 mph

Accuracy - Gianluca Curcuruto, Sault Ste. Marie, 4/5, 1/1 (tiebreaker)

Showdown breakaway - Radek Faksa, Kitchener Rangers
In the end, Team Orr, coached by former NHL coach Pat Quinn, won 15-9 against Team Cherry, which was led by three-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Recchi.

The most interesting of the four events was hardest shot, in which six of the eight participants were defensemen. Among those taking turns ripping the puck from just above the hash marks between the circles were Murray, Dumba, Matthew Finn of the Guelph Storm and Nick Ebert of the Windsor Spitfires.
Ebert, who is regarded as an extremely nimble skater with a hard and accurate shot from the point, came away with the victory when the first of his two shots was clocked at 94.7 mph.
"I wasn't sure what was going to happen," said Ebert, the lone U.S.-born player at this year's event. "I never really clocked my hardest shot, so it was my first time and got it just under 95 mph, so it was exciting for sure."
Ebert was asked if he received any extra motivation for the event after watching Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara win the NHL's hardest-shot competition at last weekend's  NHL All-Star skills competition with a shot that was clocked at 108.8 mph.
"Everyone watches him," Ebert said. "Hitting a puck 108 mph is just wild. I'll never get close to that, but I was trying."
Ebert's blast just edged the second attempt made by Murray (94.3) and the first attempt by forward Chandler Stephenson of the Regina Pats (94.1).
"I told him before he went up that he was going to beat me," said Murray, who went before Ebert. "I knew he had a pretty hard shot.
"It's a pretty simple event since you just go in there, wind up and smack it as hard as you can. There's not too much skill to it, but it was fun, and up and down, seeing the scores for everyone."
Finishing fourth was Dalton Thrower (92.4) of the Saskatoon Blades, while Dumba took fifth after his second attempt was clocked at 91.8 mph.
"I've never done anything like that," Dumba told "I never really knew how hard my shot was. Going in I knew I had a decent shot, so I was looking forward to seeing where I fit in amongst the hardest shooters. I guess I fell in right in the middle of the pack. It was good."
The final event of the night was a 3-on-3 game, with two 15-minute periods of running time. Team Orr notched the victory to clinch the overall team triumph.
Here are the results of the other events:
Fastest skater -- Francis Beauvillier of the Rimouski Oceanic proved to be the quickest of the eight participants. Skating for Team Orr, he finished one lap around the rink in 14.132 seconds. He edged Team Orr teammate and Seattle Thunderbirds forward Branden Troock, who placed second in 14.356 seconds.
"This probably was my strongest event," Beauvillier told "The first thing I said in my mind when I stepped to the starting line was, 'Don't fall, don't fall.' That was the first thing I'm thinking. When I got behind the net, I just kept thinking to keep your legs going and that's what I did."
Beauvillier, who is ranked No. 62 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top North American skaters for the 2012 draft, considered it an advantage to go fifth in the order.
"The later you go the better because you can see how the players skate behind the net … and you can also check out the times and know what it might take to win."
Accuracy shooting -- Team Orr defenseman Gianluca Curcuruto of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds won the event in a tiebreaker, edging Team Cherry's Scott Laughton of the Oshawa Generals.

Curcuruto and Laughton each hit the four targets on five shots, the best of any of the eight skaters. In the tiebreaker, one target was hung in the upper left-hand corner of the net. Curcuruto hit it on the first attempt, while Laughton missed.
"Going first in that tie-breaker was to my advantage, I think," Curcuruto said. "I hit it, and the pressure was on him to hit as well. There was a little extra pressure going into the extra round, but I'm glad I came out on top."

Curcuruto, who took passes from Dalton Thrower of the Saskatoon Blades and Adam Pelech of the Erie Otters, said this isn't the first time he's spent time working on his shooting accuracy.

"I have a shooting area in the basement and I practice that stuff all the time," the Richmond Hill, Ont., native told "I guess I did pretty well for myself out there. It's just a matter of getting the pass, cradling it, looking up and shooting at the target … then hope for the best."
Showdown breakaway challenge -- Kitchener Rangers forward Radek Faksa, No. 4 on Central Scouting's midterm rankings, captured the crowd-pleasing event when he scored a 26 on his final shot after roofing a backhand from in close on Sault Ste. Marie goalie Matthew Murray.
The highest rating a player can earn on a scale of 10 if a goal isn't scored is seven, but Faksa was able to hit the back of the net while Tim Bozon of the Kamloops Blazers was denied by Chris Driedger of the Calgary Hitmen.
Faksa's third attempt, which also scored him a 26, came when he skated hard down the slot while circling his stick around the puck before slamming a shot home. Bozon also scored a 26 on his third attempt to send him and Faksa into a tie-breaker.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

Author: Mike G. Morreale | Staff Writer