INDIANAPOLIS – In one of the fastest-paced All-Star Classics in ECHL history, the Mountain Division won the 2018 ECHL All-Star Classic by the score of 6-5 in a shootout.
South Carolina Stingrays forward Taylor Cammarata won the MVP award, with an ECHL records for goals (5) and points (7).
In the first tilt, that pitted the North All-Stars against the South, the two sides played very deliberately to start the contest. Cammarata opened the scoring a little more than four minutes into the first half, going top-glove side on Fuel netminder Etienne Marcoux to give the south a 1-0 lead.
Just 63 seconds into the second half, Reading Royals forward Michael Huntebrinker collected a beautiful no-look pass from Sam Kurker (Manchester) to level the game at one. From there, it was all South the rest of the way, with Nolan Valleau (Orlando) scoring the game-winning goal with 5:58 left as he wired a shot that beat Marcoux glove-side to give the South a 2-1 lead. After a feverish 90 seconds that saw defensemen and forwards make saves on an open net (Marcoux was pulled in favor of the extra attacker,) Cammarata scored into the empty net to give the South a 3-1 win.
In the second contest, that pitted the Central against the Mountain, Wichita Thunder netminder Shane Starrett stole the show, stopping 16 of 18 Central Division shots. The scoring opened when Utah Grizzlies defenseman Cliff Watson ripped a shot that went over Pat Nagle‘s shoulder to give the Mountain division a 1-0 lead. Three minutes later, Rapid City Rush forward Dante Salituro went coast-to-coast and beat Nagle five-hole to double the Mountain division lead. The Mountain scoring onslaught would end with Colorado Eagles forward Jesse Mychan scored on a beautiful feed from Salituro to make it 3-0 Mountain division through one half.
Starrett continued to dominate in the second half, denying Willie Raskob (Quad City) and Kyle Bushee (Kalamazoo) each multiple times in the half. The hometown forward, Michael Neal, finally solved the Thunder netminder 2:19 into the second half scoring on a beautiful drop pass from Fort Wayne Komets forward Artur Tyanulin to narrow the lead to 3-1. The Mountain would regain their three-goal lead when Tulsa Oilers forward Connor Bleackley went five-hole on Nagle, which earned the Toledo netminder some razzing from the Fuel faithful, to give the Mountain division a 4-1 lead. The sides would trade goals, but in the end, the Mountain division advanced to the championship game with a 5-2 win.
In the championship tilt, between the South and Mountain Divisions, Cammarata scored two more goals in the games opening minutes to help the South keep pace with the Mountain Division. Christopher Dienes (Jacksonville) and Grant Besse (Norfolk) scored in the final two minutes for the South, while David Makowski (Allen), Salituro (Rapid City) and Bleackley each scored to send the game to a sudden-death shootout. In the shootout, Watson scored the game-winning goal.
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