Artur Tyanulin had one of the more dazzling plays of the ECHL All-Star Classic in Indianapolis. He skated in alone on goaltender Shane Starrett but eschewed a shot for a drop pass to Michael Neal, who snapped it in for one of the few bright spots of the Central Division’s 5-2 loss to the Mountain Division in a 3-on-3 tournament this afternoon.
The Komets’ lone representative at the Classic, Tyanulin, 20, had two shots on goal and a minus-2 rating as the Central Division’s day ended in the semifinals at Indiana Farmers Coliseum, home of the Indy Fuel.
The Mountain Division went on to win the tournament, 6-5 over the South Division, in a sudden-death shootout that saw Utah Grizzlies defenseman Cliff Watson score and South Carolina Stingrays center Taylor Cammarata get stopped by Shane Starrett, the Wichita Thunder’s goaltender.
Cammarata was selected MVP of the All-Star Classic, thanks to the five goals and seven points he totaled in the tournament.
Tyanulin finished sixth in the fastest-skater competition, making his circuit in 13.3 seconds, while Cincinnati’s Justin Danforth won with a record-setting time of 12.75.
Wayne Gretzky, arguably the greatest hockey player of all time, was on hand and dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff in front of an announced crowd of 4,795. Indianapolis is the city in which he began his professional career, playing for the World Hockey Association’s Indianapolis Racers.
He wasn’t the only celebrity. While racing legend Tony Stewart had been slated to coach the North Division as a celebrity, he was a no-show and another former racecar driver, Toronto-native Scott Goodyear, was on hand instead.
Jim Cornelison, the anthem singer of the Fuel’s parent team, the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the tournament televised on NHL Network began.
While a 3-on-3 tournament would imply much scoring, the opening game proved otherwise could happen. The South Division defeated the North 3-1, thanks to a scintillating performance in net by Florida Everblades goalie Martin Ouellette, who stopped 11 of 12 shots.
Cammarata scored twice, including an empty-net goal, to cement the victory. Nolan Valleau, an Orlando Solar Bears defenseman, had the winning goal.
ECHL players, of course, are accustomed to 3-on-3 action, since that’s the format of overtime in regular-season games.
In the second semifinal game, former Komets goaltender Pat Nagle, who now plays for the Toledo Walleye, stopped only 14 of 19 shots in the Central Division’s loss. Starrett stopped 16 shots for the Mountain Division, which got goals from Watson, Conner Bleackley, Dante Salituro, Jesse Mychan, and Justin Parizek. For the Central Division, Danforth and Indy’s Neal scored.
Before the finals, Starrett won the Rapid Fire Shootout Challenge by stopping 9 of 10 breakaways. Valleau won the hardest-shot competition at 97 MPH.
In the championship game, the South Division forced the shootout with late goals from the Jacksonville IceMen’s Christopher Dienes and Nortfolk Admirals’ Grant Besse, after the Mountain Division had taken a 5-3 lead paced by two goals and an assist from the Allen Americans’ David Makowski and two goals from the Rapid City Rush’s Dante Salituro.
Starrett, who stopped 11 of 16 shots, made one shootout stop to secure the championship victory for the Mountain Division.