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Youth Prevails In Victory Over Calgary

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
While the Avalanche’s abundance of young talent bodes well for the future, tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames reaffirmed that the present isn’t too shabby either.

With six rookies in the lineup, the Avalanche topped the Calgary Flames, 3-2, to gain sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division.

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Chris Stewart and Wojtek Wolski had a goal and an assist apiece and Darcy Tucker scored the game-winning goal as the Avalanche used an up-tempo, high-energy approach to down the Flames.

“They are a tough team to play against," said Stewart. "We look at them as must-win, four-point games. We showed up tonight and the power play was clicking. Andy [Craig Anderson] made some big saves, and when it came down to it we blocked shots and got pucks deep.”

The Avalanche came into tonight’s contest tied for the division lead despite boasting the second-youngest active roster in the league as of Saturday, with an average age of 26.6 years old.

When Ryan Stoa made his NHL debut tonight, he became the fifth Avalanche player to do so this season (joining Matt Duchene, Justin Mercier, Ryan O’Reilly and Ryan Wilson). All five players were in the lineup tonight, along with fellow rookie T.J. Galiardi. Although he played in 11 games last season for Colorado, Galiardi is still considered a rookie this year by NHL standards.

Colorado has received more production from its rookies than any other team this season, as the youngsters have totaled 57 points (18g/39a). Duchene and O’Reilly have been particularly productive thus far, combining for 13 goals and 23 assists to make them the NHL’s top scoring rookie duo.

But it’s been about more than just points for the young players. One key to tonight’s game was the defensive play of Galiardi and O’Reilly, who were seemingly all over the ice tonight and logged 5:26 and 5:01 of short-handed ice time, respectively. Overall Galiardi logged a team-high 23:21 of ice time, while O’Reilly was on the ice for 20:28.

The rookies have been getting a lot of the press, but they comprise only a portion of the Avalanche’s talented core. Sometimes it’s overlooked, but many of Colorado’s other top performers also have youth on their side. Colorado’s leading point-getter, Paul Stastny, is just a shade under 24 years old, while Wolski, the club’s top goal scorer, is just 23. Stewart, one of the heroes of tonight’s game, is 22 and the Avs’ leader in ice time this sesaon, Kyle Quincey, is 24 years old.

Notes: Stoa, recalled from Lake Erie on Saturday, skated on an all-rookie line with Duchene and Galiardi…Derek Peltier, who was recalled along with Stoa yesterday, did not dress tonight…Defenseman John-Michael Liles took a Dion Phaneuf slap shot off the helmet midway eight minutes into the second period, but returned to the game shortly thereafter...Anderson set a career-high in wins with his 16th victory of the season, besting the total he set last season with the Florida Panthers.
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