The chase for the Duchesne Cup began at Kettler Capitals Iceplex today with Team B (coached by Caps assistants Dean Evason and Bob Woods) taking on Team C (coached by Caps assistant Blaine Forsyth and goalie coach Arturs Irbe.). Team C eked out a 4-3 victory.
Semyon Varlamov started in goal for Team B, going up against Team C’s Michal Neuvirth.
Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich lit the lamp for Team C as they took a 2-0 lead after the first stanza. Varlamov made a pair of dazzling stops prior to Laich’s goal, but was unable to corral the rebound on the second one, enabling Laich to tap the shrapnel into the open cage.
Team B authored a second period comeback, evening the score at 2-2 on goals from Anton Gustafsson and Andrew Gordon. Gordon was the beneficiary of a terrific set-up pass from Mathieu Perreault, and he beat Neuvirth with a sharp wrist shot from the left circle.
With just 66 seconds remaining in the middle frame, Team C regained the lead. Defenseman Vladimir Denisov sprung Keith Aucoin on a breakaway with a brilliant home run pass and Aucoin tucked the puck through Varlamov’s five-hole.
Jason Bacashihua took over in goal for Team B and Todd Ford manned the nets for Team C as the third period got underway. Team B had a great chance for an early equalizer when perreault set up Steve Pinizzotto on a 2-on-1 early in the period. Pinizzotto got a shot off, but Bacashihua was able to get a piece of it with his glove.
Team C picked up an insurance goal when David Steckel banged one past Ford off the post to make it 4-2,
Team B pulled to within a goal later in the third. A strong shift by the line of Gordon, Perreault and Boyd Kane resulted in a goal when Gordon was able to lift a rebound past Bacashihua on his backhand.
A late power play gave Team B a chance to even it up, but strong penalty killing by Bradley, Laich and Jay Beagle preserved the lead. A late rush by Team B’s Alexandre Giroux was snuffed by Team C blueliner Sean Collins, and the first two points of the tournament went to Team C.
“I think for a first scrimmage,” begins Caps coach Bruce Boudreau. “I thought Mathieu Perreault and Andrew Gordon really looked good, as did Quintin Laing. And usually the younger guys are the guys that stand out early. As much as we as coaches would love everybody to be at the top of their game right off the bat, the veterans take their time a little bit more.”
Boudreau also mentioned Team B blueliner Patrick McNeill in his assessment of those who impressed.
The game had a good pace to it as the players kept a high tempo and there were few whistles to interrupt the flow. The players seemed genuinely happy to be back out on the ice and playing semi-competitive hockey again.
“It feels great,” says Matt Bradley. “Summer hockey is summer hockey when you’re just at home playing shinny with guys. But it’s nice to get out there and have a more serious game with refs. It just means you’re that much closer to getting the season started.”
“System-wise, they were really good,” says Boudreau of the two teams that scrimmaged on Monday. “I thought they were overly cautious with the systems in the first period. I thought they both did the neutral zone and the controlled breakout and forecheck and things like that – the only two things we worked on this week – really well. The other stuff will come, but that stuff was good.”
Team C takes on Team A in tomorrow’s Duchesne Cup play, and Team C can clinch the chalice with a victory.
Notes: Goaltender Braden Holtby sat out of Monday’s Team A practice. He “tweaked” a groin muscle on Sunday. Brett Leonhardt – the Web producer for washingtoncaps.com – took Holtby’s place in net and held his own. Leonhardt also stayed out for the conditioning skate afterwards and was the recipient of some netminding advice from Irbe … Boudreau on Andrew Gordon: “You look at just the release he got on that first goal he scored. I go, ‘Wow, that’s an NHL play.’ And he worked hard. They all worked hard.” Gordon was Washington’s seventh-round choice (197th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Gordon had 21 goals and 45 points in 80 games for the 2009 Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears. He added six goals and 10 points in 22 playoff contests and also got into a December NHL game with the Caps against the Rangers in New York.