Forwards Prab Rai and Jordan Schroeder, two of Vancouver’s top prospects, saved their best games for last to help the Canucks beat the Calgary Flames 5-4 in the final game of the Young Stars Tournament at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton, B.C.
Vancouver’s fourth game in four and a half days began as you’d assume it would, with the Canucks a step behind their Flames counterparts, eight of which played at least 23 games in the American Hockey League last season.
The Flames led 2-0 early in the first and 2-1 after 20 minutes; the real tell of the game to that point was shots: 18-4 Calgary.
The rubber didn’t slow down from the Flames and shots finished 48-21 in their favour, luckily the Canucks made what few they had count. Pair that with a stellar game from linemates Rai and Schroeder and the Canucks were able to not only erase the early deficit, but lead 4-2 after two and hold on for the win, their second of the tournament.
Rai assisted on a Matt Fraser score early in the second and converted Vancouver’s fourth goal, a power play marker from Steven Anthony, for his first two points of the week.
“Camp went pretty well for me, I felt pretty good and today started off kind of slow, but I picked it up in the second and third and playing with Schroeder always helps, we found some chemistry and it felt good out there,” said Rai.
Rai and Schroeder fed off each other and looked dangerous each time they crossed Calgary’s blueline; Schroeder set up a lot of teammates and had a few looks at the net himself, but he finished without a point for the third straight game.
“I felt today was probably my best game, even though maybe I only had a second assist there,” said Schroeder. “I made plays, worked my bag off and it was unfortunate I couldn’t put one in, but I thought today was my best day.”
Canucks keeper Eddie Lack said he’s never happy when allowing four goals, yet considering the final shot total, he should re-think that stance.
Lack finished with what he said is a career-high 44 saves, including 28 over the final two periods.
“It was crazy out there, they were everywhere,” said the gentle giant. “We came out with a win and I’m real happy about it.”
When asked if Lack snuck a peak at the shot total as the game wore on, he said did check out the scoreboard, but not for the shots.
“Just notice the time, like I hope it’ll be over soon,” he laughed. “You’ve got to keep focus out there and don’t think about the shots you saved, you have to think about the next one.”
The next shot Lack faces, or Rai or Schroeder fire on goal, will likely come at main camp this weekend, which also takes place in Penticton.
Coach Claude Noel said skating alongside some of the best players in the game is going to be a wakeup call for a few players and he can’t wait to see who answers it.
“I think the big thing with the main camp from here, you’re going to be able to see which guys can play at a little higher level, it’ll step up quite a bit from here, the speed and everything else and the responsibility,” said Noel. “But it works on both sides of the coin. Sometimes when you get smarter players and a quicker pace, some guys look even better, so you could look good or not so good."
“It’s going to be a tough week and just got to keep my focus out there and work hard,” added Lack, shoulders drooped in exhaustion.
“It’s going to be pretty good having a day off tomorrow.”
Enjoy it Stork, you earned it.
NOTES: Vancouver was 1-for-5 on the power play, Calgary 1-for-6; the Canucks finished as one of three teams with two wins, they were the only team to play four games; Pierre-Olivier Morin finished as Vancouver's top scorer with two goals and an assist in four games; Eddie Lack made 92 saves overall, 46 more than the closest keeper; 16 Canucks had a least one point in the tournament.