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Byram Nets First NHL Goal in 2021-22 Season Opener

The defenseman scored the eventual game-winner on Wednesday

by Callie Parmele @CallieParmele / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The 2021-22 season began with a few memorable moments for rookie defenseman Bowen Byram.

The 20-year-old played in front of a sell-out crowd in an NHL building for the first time, skated in his first opening night and netted his first NHL goal in the process. 

"Really excited. Obviously, it's something you dream about for a long time and also nice to get out of the way, get the pressure off," said Byram. "I think it was a fun game and we did a pretty good job out there."

Byram made his NHL debut on Jan. 21, 2021, at the Los Angeles Kings, but was limited to just 19 games due to separate injuries in 2020-21.  

"I mean it's the NHL, it's a hard league to play in. I think I did a decent job last year but this year, I really want to take a step and assert myself, so this was a good step in the right direction, but I still got a long way to go."

Video: CHI@COL: Byram picks top shelf for first NHL goal

His goal, which was the eventual game-winner, came after he received a pass from Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog and he ripped it home top shelf.  

"I was thrilled for him," veteran defenseman Jack Johnson noted. "Whenever I see a guy score his first goal in the NHL, it's something you remember for the rest of your life. It's a special thing."

Byram was one of three rookies to dress in the outing for Colorado, joining Sampo Ranta and Alex Newhook. It was Ranta's first regular-season contest after he played in two Stanley Cup Playoff games last season while it was Newhook's seventh matchup in the main campaign.

"It's always fun to see young guys, I know Sampo and Newhook played for us last year a little bit, but I think a moment like tonight is really special to those guys," said assistant coach Ray Bennett. "And Bo as well, we have a long list of really good players tonight for sure."

Byram isn't sure what his plans are for the milestone puck, but he's not sure it will be up to him.

"I don't know," he noted. "We will have to see--my mom will probably steal it."

MORE MILESTONE MOMENTS

Byram wasn't the only one who notched a milestone on Wednesday as goaltender Darcy Kuemper recorded his first win with the Avalanche and veteran D-man Jack Johnson scored his first goal with the club.

Kuemper stopped 32-of-34 shots in the victory, including all 13 he faced in the second period when the team killed off two penalties.

"My feeling right now is that I thought our goaltender and through big portions of the game our defense defending well and moved the puck out of our end," said assistant coach Ray Bennett. "Darcy was really good in key moments in the game and that's a testament to him… No matter what they did, they had some really good looks, we had some breakdowns and things we'll have to clean up, but when we made the mistakes, standing on the bench it looked like he was big and athletic but not overly active if that makes sense, he was just there and square and played terrific for sure."

For Kuemper, Colorado is the fourth NHL team he has suited up for and getting the first win with a new squad is always a special moment for a player.

"It was a lot of fun to finally play a real game with this group," Kuemper said. "You know, a lot of talent in this locker room, so it's fun to be a part of and it's always fun to start off with a big win with the season and just got to keep building out."

For Johnson, he attended Colorado's training camp as a professional tryout and the club signed him to a one-year deal on Sunday.

Video: CHI@COL: Johnson roofs opening goal on breakaway

His marker was the first of the year for the Avs and came 4:26 into the first period when his backhand shot hit twine.

"Just excited to be a part of this team and help contribute," Johnson said. "When you come in to a new team, you always want to get off on the right foot and had a pretty fortunate opportunity there.

"I was just excited to come in in my first game with these guys. Just officially became a part of the team a few days ago so it just felt really good to do something good for the team in the first game."

POSTGAME NOTES

The Avalanche improved to 21-1-1 at Ball Arena dating back to March 10, 2021 (including regular season and playoffs). Just including the regular season, Colorado has won 10 straight games on home ice, a stretch that began on March 29 against Anaheim.

The Avs faced the Blackhawks on Opening Night for the third time since moving to Denver (also 2003-04 and 2010-11) and are now 3-0 versus Chicago on Opening Night. The clubs will meet three more times this season, all in January.

The Avalanche franchise owns a 24-11-7 (.655) all-time on Opening Night, the second-best mark in the NHL (min. 10 games). Since moving to Denver, Colorado is 17-6-3 (.712) in home openers, including a 15-5-2 (.727) record at Ball Arena. The Avalanche/Nordiques are 29-9-4 (.738) all-time in home openers, the second-best mark of any team behind only Minnesota.

Jack Johnson became the first Avalanche defenseman to score in his debut with the franchise since Stefan Elliot (Nov. 26, 2011)

Samuel Girard equaled his career best with five blocked shots (three times, last on March 14, 2021 versus the Los Angeles Kings).

J.T. Compher's five shots equaled his career high (six times, last on Nov. 27, 2019 versus the Edmonton Oilers).

Video: Assistant coach Ray Bennett after the season opener

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