First, they played the Jets, and Calgary and Winnipeg played a great game while going back and forth on offence. Then, they played the Oilers, and despite all the penalties the Flames took, they made it a close game. Then, they played the Canucks, and it really wasn't much of a contest at all as the Flames came out on top with a 6-1 victory.
It was Bryce Van Brabant who generated the game's first bit of excitement when he slipped in behind the Canucks' defence. Van Brabant got a shot off for a good scoring chance, but Canucks goalie Austin Lotz was ready for it. Not too long after that the Flames prospects expected to have a bigger impact on the scoring, Johnny Gaudreau and Sam Bennett, got in on the action. They had a quick give and go setup, but a Canucks penalty derailed them, sending the Flames to the powerplay.
While Vancouver was able to kill the powerplay, Calgary seemed in control most of the period. It took Vancouver nearly half the period to start getting shots on net, as the Flames defence was calm and composed to start, limiting chances and, in the case of prospects such as Ryan Culkin and Curtis Gedig, jumping up into the offence.
However, it was the Canucks who drew first blood. Mason McDonald, who had been steady all period, lost sight of the puck off a Jonathan Martin shot from the top of the circle. The Flames nearly evened it up soon after when Bennett slid a perfect cross-ice pass to Austin Carroll, but the 2014 seventh rounder just missed it. Gaudreau generated a scoring chance right after, and in the period's dying seconds Lotz nearly gave the Flames a golden chance when he fell behind his net, but it wasn't meant to be just yet. The frame ended with the Canucks up 1-0.
The Canucks had a good start to the second period, right until Nicklas Jensen slashed Bill Arnold's stick out of his hands. That penalty was quickly killed, but Evan McEneny quickly gave Calgary the man advantage once again. Gaudreau showed off his skills in the powerplay by singlehandedly dangling it throughout the Canucks' offensive zone, and retrieving the puck after an unsuccessful shot to dish it back to John Ramage, who generated another scoring chance from the point.
That penalty, too, was killed. Soon after, Keegan Kanzig picked up his first (and only!) penalty minutes of the game when he got into a fight with Clark Wilson. Kanzig's a good fighter, as he controlled most of the tilt, popping off Wilson's helmet right away and bringing him down soon after.
The spirited tilt quickly gave way to more exciting matters, however. With Markus Granlund waiting inside the faceoff circle, Josh Jooris dished him a smooth pass. Granlund was able to connect right away and bury the puck past Lotz to tie the game at 1.
The Flames took their first penalty of the game after Gaudreau sprang Carroll on a good scoring chance. Carroll didn't score, taking a goaltender interference penalty instead. The Flames' aggressive penalty kill once again showed its head, however, as Garnet Hathaway and Turner Elson combined to generate some great shorthanded scoring chances.
And then Jensen did us all a favour by taking another penalty, giving the Flames their fourth powerplay of the game. Ramage reminded us that his shots from a point are a thing to be feared as he directed it on net, and Michael Ferland's tip gave the Flames their first lead of the game.
With the Flames' D being rather active, they were in firm control of the game. Jensen was about to take yet another penalty, but instead Elson took the puck, dangled his way through Canuck players into the offensive zone, and sniped it home to make it 3-1 on an outstanding individual effort.
The period ended with the Flames outshooting the Canucks 16-4, with a 25-10 shot lead through two.
Mutual penalties were exchanged at the start of the third as both Ferland and Wilson, and then Ramage and Jensen fought just enough with one another to result in nearly four minutes of 4 on 4 play. Granlund was the first to take an actual penalty this period when he hauled down Hunter Shinkaruk, but the Canucks were unable to capitalize.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the ice, Gaudreau fed Carroll for what could very well have been Carroll's third goal of the game.
The Flames were just fine without Carroll's lost hat trick, however. The Ferland - Granlund - Jooris line went right back to work, and Ferland got his stick on Jooris' rebound, scoring from the slot to make it 4-1 for Calgary on his second of the night.
The Canucks decided that wasn't enough, and gave the Flames yet another powerplay to work with after Martin fought with, and was taken down by, Hunter Smith. He was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, and yet again Gaudreau dazzled throughout the entire powerplay, although he was unable to score.
With just over five minutes to go in the game, Frank Corrado delivered a cheap shot to Gaudreau.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Frank Corrado with an absolute cheap shot on Johnny Gaudreau. Should be suspended. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flames?src=hash">#Flames</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Canucks?src=hash">#Canucks</a> <a href="https://t.co/4NJ4ACsLq9">https://t.co/4NJ4ACsLq9</a></p>— Jason Gold (@JayGold85) <a href="https://twitter.com/JayGold85/status/511706934752595968">September 16, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Gaudreau went down hard, but was able to get back up and stay on the bench. Ferland confronted Corrado over the hit, and both received game misconducts, while Corrado took a major penalty to give the Flames an extra man for pretty much the rest of the game.
The Flames took advantage of that, even without Gaudreau (or Bennett, who left the game earlier in the period due to some mild groin discomfort). Van Brabant scored right away, as his stick got the puck past Lotz in the scrum that had quickly formed around the Canucks net. Shortly after Smith would add to the Flames' lead as he parked himself in front of the net and, with the Canucks unable to move his big body, he got it past Lotz on his second chance to make it 6-1.
That was all she wrote as the Flames scored six unanswered goals and thoroughly dominated the Canucks throughout the game.
Gaudreau and Bennett were once again brilliant. While this is the first Flames game in which Gaudreau hasn't scored a goal, the good news here is both appear fine despite injury scares. Gaudreau didn't return to the ice after he was hit because there simply was no point; ultimately, it was a meaningless game and the Flames had a three goal lead. As for Bennett, he was kept out for precautionary measures as well, and should be able to participate in the Flames' main camp.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>"A little bit of rest and I'll be 100%." - Bennett</p>— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) <a href="https://twitter.com/NHLFlames/status/511710526863204352">September 16, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
- The Flames don't have much room at centre, but Granlund is seriously going to challenge for an NHL spot. He's skilled both offensive and defensively, and with a lot of pro experience under his belt - both in Europe and North America - he looks as ready as anyone. The Ferland - Granlund - Jooris line was once again a force all game, but it was Granlund driving the bus. He's probably more likely to make it than Bennett at this point.
- Ferland is what Smith should aspire to be, at least at this point in time. Ferland was a great complimentary player all night, and has been all tournament (a tournament in which he scored four goals!), and he stuck up for his teammate. Smith had a better showing this game, but during first intermission, Brian Burke indicated he was a project, and would likely take some time to develop.
- Elson brought it all tournament, and showed serious skill on his goal. He hasn't had much success at the AHL level just yet, but this tournament has been a fantastic start to his season. He very well could turn it around and show just why the Flames signed him in the first place.
- Hathaway did a great job introducing himself to Flames fans this tournament. He'll be playing with Adirondack this year, and may prove to be another diamond in the rough.
- Speaking of diamonds in the rough, how about 20-year-old seventh rounder Carroll? He wasn't the best player on his line, but he sure was great at driving to the net and giving Gaudreau someone to pass to, and often. There just might be something there.
- Going to defence now, and Ramage had a hell of a tournament for the Flames. His point shot was consistently deadly. His first professional season was a bit of a downer, but it seems as though his time in the ECHL really let him put it together. The Flames don't have much on defence, so he could be someone to watch out for in the AHL this season.
- Patrick Sieloff, meanwhile, still has a bit of rust, but that's understandable, since it's been a really long time since he's played regularly. He had a good showing this game, however, and should only improve as he gets his feet back under him.
- McDonald wasn't really tested most of the game. The Flames prospects controlled the game, and rarely gave the Canucks the chance to get going offensively.
That concludes the 2014 Young Stars Classic in Penticton. The Flames' rookies finished with a 2-1 record and, aside from when they took an insane amount of penalties, had a great showing. They'll be back in action Wed., September 17 at 7 p.m. in a matchup against the University of Calgary Dinos.
Meanwhile, many Flames veterans have been back skating in Calgary for a bit now, and regular training camp will open Thursday. The Flames' first pre-season games will be split-squad efforts against the Edmonton Oilers at 6 p.m. MT on September 21, and some of these prospects will definitely be playing. See you then!