While it was goals that were out of control in the first game of the tournament, penalties took centre stage as the Flames' prospects fell to the Oilers' 4-3. They battled to the end, but taking penalty after penalty after penalty never helps anybody.
The game got off to a good start, with early domination by the Flames prospects, as they led 9-2 in shots. Unfortunately, it was the Oilers who drew first blood, capitalizing on a Garnet Hathaway tripping call to put them up 1-0. It was followed up by a Michael Ferland and Kale Kessy fight, which was just the start of the intense physicality the game brought.
With Ferland in the box Hathaway, who played a bit with the Abbotsford Heat last season, took his place on the top line with Sam Bennett and Johnny Gaudreau. Hathaway complemented them excellently, as while Bennett and Gaudreau ran domination in the Oilers' zone, he was the one who drew the primary assist on Gaudreau's obligatory goal of the game:
Classic Johnny Hockey.
The Flames were leading the Oilers 16-8 in shots at this point, doing well in controlling the game, before the penalty trouble really began to strike. First Pavel Padakin took a roughing call, and then Keegan Kanzig jumped in three seconds into the penalty with a clear slash. The Oilers didn't need the entire 1:57 5 on 3 to score, as CJ Ludwig buried it on the Oilers' ninth shot of the game as the first period closed out.
The Flames killed off their remaining penalty minutes, which just wouldn't do for Kanzig, apparently, as he high sticked Josh Winquist in the face, making him bleed his own blood and receiving four minutes in the box as a result. What followed was a mess of penalties, as the Oilers took a penalty, and then Bennett took a penalty, and no goals were scored throughout.
Bennett, though? With everything back at even strength, Bennett separated Travis Ewanyk from the puck with a great hit. Ewanyk lost his stick on the play and went to retrieve it, as well as presumably try to fight Bennett, but Ferland skated by and the Oiler backed off, allowing play to resume.
Bogdan Yakimov had a number of chances throughout the game, including one in which he split the defence, but Mason McDonald stayed with him to make the save, keeping it a one-goal game.
And then there were more penalties as Ryan Culkin was called for roughing, Kanzig actually drew a penalty, and then Kenny Agostino, who had played on the penalty kill prior, took a call himself. That was when Ludwig scored right off the faceoff to increase the Oilers' lead to 3-1.
The Flames only had four shots throughout the period as penalties seriously disrupted them.
In non-penalty news, Gaudreau and Bennett came out in the third period ready to play. After drawing a penalty, Gaudreau played the puck to Bennett who scored on a wraparound, marking not only his first goal of the tournament, but the Flames' first powerplay goal as well to draw Calgary back within one.
And then Kanzig took a penalty.
It was successfully killed, as was David Musil's penalty when he was sent off for roughing.
And then Hunter Smith took a penalty after charging Kessy. That penalty was successfully killed, as Turner Elson and Padakin combined in order to generate some shorthanded scoring chances.
With the penalty over, Smith stepped out of the box and right into Kessy, laying him out with a monstrous hit. Kessy popped back up and both sets of gloves were off as both the Flames and Oilers felt the need to show off their physical prowess throughout the game.
Not to be outdone, Kanzig later got into a fight with Ewanyk, and with fewer than five minutes to go, that ended his night.
With about three minutes to go in the game, Culkin was called for holding, giving the Oilers their 11th powerplay. Yakimov, who was a threat all night, got the insurance marker as McDonald couldn't slide over fast enough, burying it top shelf.
Just like their parent club last season, the Flames weren't quite ready to call it quits. With the clock ticking down, it wasn't Gaudreau and Bennett on the ice, but instead guys like Elson and Austin Carroll. From behind the net, Elson smoothly passed the puck to the slot, where Carroll raced in and got it, scoring to make it 4-3. That would be it, however, as time ran out.
- Bennett? Pretty good at hockey, that kid. He and Gaudreau combined really, really well, and Bennett himself dominated, including a play in the third period where he singlehandedly danced around a couple of Oilers - including passing the puck to himself through a pair of enemy legs - and got a shot on net. He also had some pretty decent physicality, and that'll only grow as he himself does.
- Gaudreau, meanwhile, continued to prove physicality wasn't much of an issue for him (at least not in a prospects game). Gaudreau took hits to make plays and had no problems getting right back up every time.
- So then, Bennett and Gaudreau on a line together? Is a really great thing to watch. It may be time for Gaudreau and Bill Arnold to stop playing regular shifts with one another. To Arnold's credit, he was excellent in a defensive role, including being the Flames' forward out there for the 5 on 3 kill. He and Gaudreau are simply meant for different roles.
- Hathaway was interesting throughout the game. He assisted on Gaudreau's goal and spent some time with him and Bennett. He had a really good game, and as someone expected to join the Adirondack Flames, may be a prospect to watch out for.
- Elson was an undrafted free agent signing, and he's on the last year of his contract. He split time between the AHL and ECHL last season, so he needs to get off to a good start this year as he plays for an extension. He did that tonight.
- McDonald could have had a better showing, but he really settled in as the game went on. Besides, three of the four goals he let in were on the powerplay, and with so many powerplay opportunities granted to the Oilers, they were bound to happen. There's room for improvement, but his team could have helped him out a little more, too.
- Speaking of powerplays and penalties, Kanzig finished with 13 penalty minutes on the night and simply did not contribute in any meaningful way. Physicality isn't a bad thing, but the 6'7", 245 lb. defenceman went completely overboard in this game.
- And continuing on that note, the truculence was completely overboard and pointless throughout this game. Kanzig and Smith contributed nothing of value. Big hits are fun to watch, but they need to serve a purpose. Bennett's did. Smith's did not, and his fight after didn't do anything for the Flames either (at this point they were down by one with a game winding down, so the focus needs to be on scoring, not beating people up). And Kanzig, for whatever reason, was just straight out of control and a needless distraction. He didn't throw the Oilers off their game, and he didn't help the Flames score or prevent goals. What was the point?
- During the second intermission, Flames AGM Brad Pascall said he was looking forward to seeing how their prospects would do offensively. Which seems odd, because it seems lately the Flames have been drafting based on penalty minutes rather than point totals.
- Penalty minutes are not a good thing. This game is living proof of that. You can't take that many penalties, give your opponent that many chances, and expect to win. You just can't.
The Flames have tomorrow off. They'll be back at it Monday night to close out the tournament against the host Vancouver Canucks prospects at 6:30 p.m. MT. The game will once again be viewable online.