Team White took down Team Burgundy 1-0 in a hard-fought, back-and-forth game at Magness Arena on the University of Denver campus on Sunday.
The Colorado Avalanche's annual intrasquad scrimmage, lovingly known as the Burgundy/White Game, serves not only as the unofficial grand finale to Avs Training Camp, but also as an additional opportunity for coaches and management to evaluate what everyone has learned over the course of the past week.
"Honestly, [in] the first game there is going to be mistakes made all over the ice," defenseman Patrick Wiercioch said. "We are just trying to get the systems down, work with each other, talk through them on the ice as best as we can and try to get a feel for it.
"I mean I think everyone is all in the same boat with the new coaches here, just trying to figure out what is the easiest read and making it quick and just getting out there and doing it. With only a couple of practices under our belt, [we're] still a work in progress, and the more video we can watch and kind of see our mistakes, I'm sure it will all even out."
With head coaches Jared Bednar and Eric Veilleux (San Antonio)-and Avalanche assistant coach Nolan Pratt-in the mix this season, the evaluative nature of the contest has never been more important to players new and old.
Sure the game is for the fans, but it also plays a role in who ends up on which team-Colorado or San Antonio-and which skaters continue to partake in the exhibition period for the Avs.
Video: Coach Bednar's impressions of annual scrimmage
"Well, I'll tell you I became way more familiar with some of the news guys coming in," said Bednar after the game. "Remembering again the guys that played in San Antonio, new guys to the organization, and guys that were already here, it's just good for me to continue to build my thoughts on these guys so we see where they all settle in and settle out later on in the camp.
"To see some of those young guys and see where they're at is really valuable to the organization. You get to see them play against NHL guys mixed in. How do they handle the pace of play? What is their execution like? What are their strengths and weaknesses? We get to see that and that's really important, especially for the Burgundy/White Game. We get to integrate some of our veteran players with some new players and some of our young kids that were just drafted and see how everyone competes."
The game started off a bit chaotic, according to Wiercioch, who admitted that it took both sides some time to adjust and fully implement the new system they've been working on.
"Especially the first period, it was pretty sloppy, but that's pretty expected," Wiercioch said. "During the second and third period, the pace picked up and kept getting higher and higher. There's some good chances, there's some intensity, some great hits, a nice fight there. A lot for the fans to get excited about."
Video: Patrick Wiercioch reflects on Burgundy/White Game
After that, both squads started to roll and the calculated chess match of a hockey game took place. Chances were traded in all three frames, but the shooting advantage slowly started to turn in favor of Team White.
Just as it seemed like the contest was headed to the shootout, forward Grigorenko said nyet. No. 25 for White found himself the recipient of a lovely rebound in the slot with nothing but net to shoot at. He swooped in, shoveled home a shot and celebrated with his team as he broke the deadlock with 28.8 seconds left.
"Yeah, it was a good shot on net. There was some good net presence. You know two guys in front of the net," Grigorenko said of the play. "I was the high guy and the rebound just popped right out there, and I was the first on it and the goalie was out of picture. It was real nice to score a goal and win the game.
Video: Mikhail Grigorenko recaps the Burgundy/White Game
"It was really good pace, and all guys were working hard. There were a lot of battles too. Guys got physical there. Maybe not a lot of goals, but it was a positive game for us."
Five different goaltenders played in the contest, three for White and two for Burgundy. Team White's trio was undefeated between the pipes, with Jeremy Smith (eight shots), Kent Simpson (seven shots) and Nathan Lieuwen (six shots) each posting a perfect 20-minute stretch.
Calvin Pickard (16 shots) backstopped 40 minutes of action for Team Burgundy, while Spencer Martin (six saves, seven shots) finished the contest.
"It was a little bit scrambly at times," Pickard said of this time in net. "That comes with being off for a few months, but for the most part I felt in control. I know the guys in front of me played pretty well, and everybody was pretty solid all around."
Colorado's focus now turns to the preseason and fine-tuning the minutiae as the days count down to opening night.
A DU HOMECOMING
For many in the lineup on Sunday, the Burgundy/White Game was their first time skating in Magness Arena. For a few, the annual match is something they've experienced a few times previously. For Joe Colborne and Patrick Wiercioch, the chance to skate in front of screaming fans in the crimson seats was more like a homecoming.
Video: Joe Colborne reflects on Burgundy/White Game at DU
"It was fun, it's so many great memories. Getting out there, the crowd was fun to be around," Colborne said. "It was nice to actually get out there and play in a game setting and get some intensity going. Again, not the result we wanted but overall, such a cool experience for me."
Both players spent two seasons (2008-10) skating together on the storied ice as members of the University of Denver Pioneers hockey club. They grew as players together, co-won the Barry Sharp Freshman of the Year Award during their rookie campaigns, won the WCHA regular-season title as teammates and then both decided to forego their final two collegiate years to pursue their major-league desires.
Now they're together again, and they both got to suit up in their former dressing room during Sunday's friendly, skating for Team Burgundy in the game.
"It was special. It's been a long time since I've been back here," Wiercioch said. "It's something special, and I won't forget."
THEY SAID IT
"I think the process of getting faster and more dangerous is something that were going to work on and is going to continue to come with some of the more veteran players coming into the lineup. The execution is probably cleaned up a little bit. Defensively, it's the same things: becoming faster and harder. The competition level today was good, I thought. Our guys worked hard and competed hard. They played physical, especially when you're playing against your own team. Sometimes that's hard to do, but they were good tonight." - Jared Bednar on where the team is at in regards to his system
"You try as much in summer to get to that game pace, but it's just not the same. Training camp was on another level and then you have to bring us into a game. You definitely feel a little anxious just because you're not used to playing in those games, even warmup. You're gassed a bit, but I thought it was pretty good. I thought everybody played the system pretty good. It was a chess match at times, but it was a good start for everyone." - Goaltender Calvin Pickard on the pace of the first 'game'
Video: Penalty box interview with Josh Anderson
BURGUNDY/WHITE GAME NOTES
Sunday was the lowest scoring Burgundy/White Game in the 16-year history of the event. The previous low score was a 3-1 margin, which has occurred three different times (2000, 2013, 2015). There have been nine one-goal games in Burgundy/White Game history, two of which have been after the shootout. The highest scoring contest was a 7-5 victory for Team Burgundy in 2007. The highest winning margin in the history of the event came in a 9-0 shutout for Team White in 2008.