Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Lisa McRitchie on 08/08/11 at 01:01 AM ET
The Sunday night crowd in Fort McMurray was large for Team Canada’s second consecutive night of split squad action. The newly renovated Casman Cenre was unsurprisingly sold out. Not many hockey fans can pass up a live game of this caliber on an August night. The city of Fort McMurray currently hosts an AJHL team, the Oil Barons and I often wonder if they might support a WHL team some day.
Much like the first game, team Red was quick to score. Jonathan Huberdeau was eventually credited for a goal that narrowly escaped team White’s goaltender Tyler Bunz. Unlike the first game, team White did not score thirty seconds later.
Both teams exchanged opportunities on the power play, but it was team Red that was able to capitalize. With a wide bounce off of the boards, and Bunz out of his net, Mark Stone swiftly tapped the puck behind Bunz and into the net.
With a 2-0 lead, team Red increased their speed and kept the pressure on team White. After twenty minutes of play, teams White remained behind on the scoreboard and were trailed by a large margin in shots. Team Red doubled up team White 10-5 for shots on net.
The pace settled down somewhat as the second period began, but team Red did not let up the pressure. With goals separated by mere seconds Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Johansen gave team Red a 4-0 lead. The commentators remarked that surely this is exactly where team White wants to be, ready to come from behind.
The fourth goal came midway through the second period, so after 11 saves for Louis Domingue of team Red and 12 saves on 16 shots for Tyler Bunz were replaced byt Mark Visentin on team Red and Scott Wedgewood for team White.
Neither team wasted any time in testing either goaltender. With goals 12 seconds apart, Matthew Petgrave of team White scored followed by Michaël Bournival of team Red. Portland Winterhawks’ winger Ty Rattie of team White earned an assist and in exchange for his diligence with the puck.
Ty Rattie wasn’t quite done showing what he can do. Rattie made a crisp pass to Phillip Danault who made no mistake on netminder Visentin with five minutes left to play in the second period, and allowed Team White cut the lead to 3.
The third period featured more of Ottawa Senators’ prospect Mark Stone magic. Batting the puck out of mid-air, the team Red winger gave his team a 6-2 lead.
There appeared to be some bad blood between team Red and team White as Dougie Hamilton of team White took a high sticking and a roughing penalty and Brendan Gallagher of team Red received a roughing penalty of his own. The two exchanged some pushing and shoving after the whistle despite the size difference between the two players. Gallagher stands at 5’8” and 178lbs while D. Hamilton is 6’4” and 192lbs. Gallagher showed no fear looking up to D. Hamilton. Dougie Hamilton’s older brother Freddie Hamilton plays for team Red, making the D. distinction necessary. Team White was able to settle in a successfully kill off their penalty, possibly due to the referees and coaches taking a moment to re-focus their players.
As Bruce McCurdy of The Edmonton Journal’s Cult of Hockey and I were discussing team Red being intense and team White being bland, team Red scored two more goals in rapid succession. Patrick Holland and Michael Sgarbossa combined to give team Red a 8-2 lead.
Two consecutive games with wide margins for team Red, but this time team Red was able to maintain their lead. Despite the penalties and the score the players are still all Canadians, all trying to make the same team and all needing to share the same plane to fly back to Edmonton. Surely these players will maintain their friendships, this is still exhibition hockey.
Team White may not have been able to beat team Red during 60 minutes of play, but team White shone in the shootout. Team White goaltender Wedgewood stopping all five team Red shooters, while team White slipped two past team Red’s goaltender Visentin.
Team White struggled on the power play going 0 for 3 despite the opportunity for Ryan Nugent Hopkins. Team Red also won the most faceoffs for the night. The shot totals by the end of 60 minutes of play were nearly even, 38-33 for team Red.
Mark Stone stole the game, he did everything after a strong game Saturday night in Edmonton as well. The largest player at this camp, Jamie Olesksiak at 6’7” and 244lbs used his size effectively and has the intimation factor on his side.
As this camp wraps up, the players will head out to continue their summer training. Some players will be invited to their respective NHL training camps, while others will return to CHL camps or even NCAA. Once the season begins, the Team Canada coaching staff will be watching camp invitees and those who did not make the list. The coaches will be looking for consistency when trying to select the best of the Canadian juniors for invites to the final camps. There will of course be a number of players that will be playing with their NHL team, but who they will be is yet to be seen.
This is an exciting year for Team Canada and Hockey Alberta with the World Juniors in Canada this year and hosted by Edmonton and Calgary. This is also another exciting year for Oilers fans because prospects like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins don’t come to teams every year.
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