Hockey! Hockey hockey hockey! Welcome back to hockey, friends, as the Penticton Young Stars Classic is officially underway. With actual training camp set to begin in a week, it's the rookies' times to shine, as all four western Canadian NHL teams have gathered in Penticton, BC for a four-day, six-game tournament.
Kicking things off? The Calgary Flames hopefuls, facing off against those from the Winnipeg Jets organization. Bill Arnold, Sam Bennett, and Patrick Sieloff took to the ice wearing alternate's A's for their club. Bennett was one of the absolutely most outstanding players on the ice, as was his goaltender, Jon Gillies.
The Flames had an absolutely dominating start, largely in part due to one Bennett. It took seven minutes for the Jets prospects to register their first shot of the game. By the time they had, the Flames already had scored their first goal on their sixth shot: a hard blast by Bryce Van Brabant that made its way past Connor Hellebuyck to open the scoring. Ryan Lomberg, recently signed to the Stockton Heat, made it a 2-0 tally with a great individual effort from the corner. The Flames' 2015 sixth round pick, Andrew Mangiapane, picked up assists on both goals.
Calgary couldn't capitalize on an extended five-on-three powerplay courtesy of Brendan Lemieux and Ryan Olsen, failing to get many shots on net (but succeeding in keeping the puck firmly in the Jets' zone). Gillies had a very boring, uneventful frame until right at the end. With just a few seconds to go, Lemieux was the recipient of a nice passing play he used to quickly tap it in, drawing the Jets back within one.
Gillies may have been bored in the first, but that wasn't at all the case in the second. He had the highlight of the frame when Sieloff gave up a two-on-one. With neither him nor defence partner Rasmus Andersson able to do prevent the shot attempt, Gillies, in a ridiculous display of athleticism, lunged across the net and used his strength to just hold the puck on the line. (It may have actually gone in, but with no replay or review, it was impossible to tell conclusively.) He had a similar, lighting-quick reaction move to Chase De Leo's pass to Andrew Copp, again using his long legs and speedy reflexes to stop the puck outside the net.
There was some penalty action as well, as teams traded minor infractions to start the period. Lemieux got under Austin Carroll's skin, but the Jets failed to score with the man advantage, just as the Flames failed with their own in the same period. Lomberg singlehandedly created another scoring chance, though, and drew a penalty shot while getting a decent attempt off; however, he shot it right into Eric Comrie's chest, and the score remained 2-1.
The most common event in the third period? Taking a penalty, and subsequently killing it off. It started off late in the second, when Ryan Culkin dragged De Leo down, and soon after had their own five-on-three chance when Brett Kulak took a penalty of his own. Hunter Smith later took a penalty, but the best scoring chances throughout all of those Jets powerplays really belonged to the Flames, and Bennett specifically. They weren't as successful on their own powerplay when Nikolaj Ehlers slashed Andersson's stick.
Late in the frame, Bennett proved his own truculence when he took out Josh Morrissey for... no apparent reason. The ensuing scrum - and the second scrum of the night! - saw both Bennett and Morrissey sit for two.
Clinging to a 2-1 lead, with just over two minutes to go, Mangiapane was called for a hook on Ehlers, giving the Jets the chance to tie the game with the man advantage. The Flames didn't really give them the chance, though, mostly keeping them away from Gillies. It took three tries to get the empty netter as well: first Arnold missed, then Andersson, and finally, with the penalty killed and the final seconds ticking down, Morgan Klimchuk finally got it in to give the Flames the 3-1 win.
Flame of the game
This one undoubtedly goes to Jon Gillies. He didn't have a lot of work to do in the first, but he was incredibly strong and made a couple of highlight reel saves in both the second and third, displaying insane reflexes and athleticism every time called upon. He was called upon to stop several two-on-ones, which he did every time. The Flames needed him to be at his best to maintain their tenuous one-goal lead, and he was.
- Oliver Kylington got rocked at some point in the first period and missed the rest of the game as a result. He's fine, and was sat just as a precautionary move.
- The Jets had Hellebuyck and Comrie play half a game each, while the Flames chose to stick with Gillies the entire distance.
- The Flames usually started their powerplays with Agostino, Bennett, and Poirier up front, and Sieloff and Kulak in the back. Also spotted regularly with the man advantage: Mangiapane, Baillie, Van Brabant, Culkin, and Andersson.
- This list is almost certainly incomplete, but spotted throughout the various penalty kills the Flames had to perform: Culkin, Kulak, Klimchuk, Arnold, Agostino, Sieloff, Andersson, Baillie, Mangiapane, and Smith. Through most of their five-on-three kill, the Flames had Andersson, Lomberg, and Van Brabant out there. And the players who got the best chances for shorthanded goals? Bennett and Poirier.
- Craig Conroy was interviewed in the second intermission, and he had a couple of thoughts. Kulak stood out the most to him, but he also really, really liked Bennett, Poirier, and Mangiapane's games. Someone else he has high hopes for is Andersson, noting, "He's got real big guts at the blueline... I wouldn't be trying it," but that he looked comfortable out there. Van Brabant has shown growth, as well.
- One thing Connie really likes about this tournament is the team environment it immediately places these kids in.
- Most of the Flames defencemen had scoring chances. Kulak had the first scoring chance of the game, going in all alone only to be stopped by Hellebuyck; Sieloff had a hard blast from the slot; and Culkin had a great slapper that forced Hellebuyck to dive across his net to stop.
- Between those three, Andersson's general excellence throughout, and Kylington's injury, that just leaves one defenceman to talk about: Keegan Kanzig. He was not good, simple as that. Kanzig couldn't keep up with the pace of the game, couldn't stay on the puck, and did not look like he belonged in the slightest. He's young yet, of course, but when you've undoubtedly got the size (but not the strength; he was easily muscled off the puck) and you're already 20 years old and being outperformed by everyone else on the ice, it's not a good sign for you.
- It's easy to like Kenny Agostino. Dude plays really hard, and even had a breakaway chance in the third.
- Pavel Karnaukhov did some nice things defensively in the first, and had some good looks at the net in the third.
- Tyson Baillie has some smooth moves, as does Mangiapane.
- Smith had what was probably the biggest hit of the game, but Bennett certainly gave him a run for his money with his own blow later on. The 2014 Flames draft class: they're truculent.
- Lomberg is going to be in the AHL this upcoming season, but man, did he have a game to introduce himself to the Flames organization. A goal and a penalty shot, both driven off of individual efforts? He's gonna be appreciated in Stockton.
- You get the sense that Bennett and Poirier really enjoy playing with one another.
- Brendan or Claude Lemieux? The little Lemieux was all over the place this game, showing he's going to be annoying to play against when he, in all likelihood, makes the NHL. What a shit stirrer!
- Though as pointed out on the broadcast: Poirier is Calgary's answer to Lemieux. They're both tenacious, they're both offensively gfited, and they're both agitators. They were even getting on one another's nerves as the game approached its end. Go Poirier!
- Fun with numbers: Poirier is wearing number 28 now, Robyn Regehr's old number, in place of his training camp 57. Hmm. Meanwhile, Bennett's old 63 has been given to Culkin, who wore 67 before.
The Flames will be back at it again tomorrow, when they take on the Edmonton Oilers
prospects (the entire Oilers team is basically just prospects, yeah? Why would you have kids ever earn their spots?) at 7:30 p.m. MT.
With so many extra players brought to this tournament, the lineup will certainly look different, as there's little doubt Coach Ryan Huska will want to give more of his guys a chance.