WESTMINSTER, Colo.--After skating away with a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday in the first contest of the inaugural Rookie Showcase, the Colorado Avalanche's prospect squad was looking to repeat the performance against a more professionally experienced Anaheim Ducks team.
The Avs did just that in a gritty though unsurprisingly physical 3-2 victory at the Ice Centre at the Promenade on Sunday.
"Whenever you put your club logo on and you're playing against another organization, the compete level goes up a little bit more and the hits go up a little bit more," D-man Chris Bigras said after the game. "So it was a nice change being able to deliver some of those to another organization instead of someone that you're going to be playing with down the road."
Looking to take advantage of the Avs skating in the second of a back-to-back set, the Ducks came out hard and fast early, and it paid off. Anaheim's Nic Kerdiles converted a tap-in pass from Julius Nattinen to take the lead just 1:34 into the match.
"It happens. The first shot goes in, then you have to regroup," goaltender Spencer Martin said of the scenario. "I've been through it before as a goalie. These guys did a great job of taking it down to their end and putting some pressure back on them."
The Avs retaliated on the power play later in the period. With Andy Welinski in the box serving a four-minute high sticking penalty, defenseman Nicolas Meloche found twine when his point-shot snuck through the legs of netminder Kevin Boyle.
If the intensity wasn't already palpable, a center-ice bout between heavyweight blueliners Darian Skeoch and Mason Geertsen certainly brought things to the forefront.
"You got the intensity that we were expecting. For us to get into that right away I think is really good for the group," Avalanche assistant general manager Craig Billington said. "I think both teams skated well. Both teams played physical."
Colorado came out flying in the second period, tallying what looked to be a go-ahead goal 8:46 into middle stanza when Gustav Olhaver fired a tough-angle shot on net that banked off Boyle's arm and in.
"The puck was down deep and it goes in the corner and I go to in front of the net," said Olhaver. "It bounced out, and I just shot it right away and it went in. So it was good."
The Ducks countered later in the frame on a short-handed two-on-one play that Nattinen finished into the yawning net.
Deadlocked at two tallies apiece, Colorado started the third period off with a goal from Bigras. The defenseman's marker-coming just 4:02 into the stanza-was nearly identical to the one he recorded on Saturday. Moving from right to left, the rear guard teed up a slap shot that zipped uncontested into the uppermost corner of the far side of the net for the eventual win.
Although he appears to have the play dialed in, Bigras admitted he hasn't practiced that shot in particular.
"Just been working on a lot this summer. Just getting stronger in the gym, working on my shot, a couple skill things and of course skating," he said. "So I think I was just lucky enough to get a nice pass there on that last one, and it found a hole.
"I owe a lot to the passer there, that was an awesome pass across. I had all kinds of time walking into there to pick my spot, so hat's off to him."
With the victory, the Avalanche (2-0) became 2016 Rookie Showcase champions.
San Jose (0-1) and Anaheim (0-1) conclude the tournament with a final game Monday at 2 p.m. at the Ice Centre at the Promenade in Westminster.
SYSTEMS PAY OFF
With a new coaching staff in place and little time to really get into the gritty details of how the Colorado Avalanche organization is going to play this year, the prospects playing at the 2016 Avalanche Rookie Showcase still credited the new system for their back-to-back success.
"I think first and foremost, we were lucky enough to get a feel for the systems with the new coaching staff and what to expect from them. So us rookies here got a little jump on the vets for a head start for [training camp]. It was good work out there from everyone."
Despite an early deficit and the Ducks tying the game late in the second period, the system never faltered or failed the young Avs squad.
"They stayed with it. I thought there was good work throughout the game and they stayed with it and keep persevering, which is a good sign," Billington said. "They kept working on the systems, and that's what they're here for. It was a positive couple days."
The group resumes Rookie Camp on Monday with an on-ice session at 9:45 a.m. at Family Sports Center in Centennial, Colorado.
The Avalanche provided an update on Finnish forward Mikko Rantanen on Sunday. The 2015 AHL co-Rookie of the Year left Saturday's game in the third period after an awkward collision that occurred while on the forecheck. Rantanen (ankle) is expected to be out approximately 2-4 weeks.
THEY SAID IT
"We knew they had a lot of veteran, pro guys that were going to be a good test, but honestly I think we just focused on ourselves. Both teams, San Jose and Anaheim, were really tough to play against." -Colorado goalie Spencer Martin on the level of play in both games
"It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun out there. It was good to see the fan support, too. You could hear them out there. It was a lot of fun to play in these games." - Avs defenseman Chris Bigras on the Rookie Showcase
"They competed, we battled. We knew it was going to be gritty out there. They've got some good players on their side and our guys competed hard, stayed with it and worked at the systems we need to play. I thought the effort was strong throughout." -Avalanche assistant general manager Craig Billington on the heavier, more experience Ducks team
"We sacrificed for each other, and we worked hard [for] 60 minutes. We blocked shots and finished checks. [It was] a good team effort." - Colorado forward Gustav Olhaver on what he liked from his teammates
AVALANCHE LINES VS. DUCKS
AJ Greer-JT Compher-Shawn Ouellette-St-Amant
Gustav Olhaver-JC Beaudin-Jackson Houck
Samuel Henley-Filip Karlsson-Cole Sanford
Travis Barron-Julien Nantel-Jeffrey Truchon-Viel
Mason Geertsen-Cody Corbett
Nikita Zadorov-Sergei Boikov
Chris Bigras-Nicolas Meloche