PENTICTON, BC -- He’s not quite a veteran of the Young Stars Classic, but Calgary Flames prospect Bill Arnold isn’t letting that hold him back. The 23-year-old is making an effort to pave the way for the Flames’ rookies.
He’s done that in multiple ways in Penticton.
Arnold had a goal and an assist in Calgary’s 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers prospects at South Okanagan Events Centre on Saturday.
He's also leading off the ice, too.
“Last year was a lot of questions and a lot of figuring things out,” Arnold said. “I have a year under me now. I know the systems. Obviously I need to refresh myself coming into the season, but one of the bigger roles I wanted to take on this year in this camp was leadership. I remember having all those questions last year. I want to be the guy to lead the way and make them feel comfortable.”
It’s just one way Stockton Heat coach Ryan Huska is hoping to see his centre evolve.
“Bill, he’s another guy that you need them to take another step,” said Huska, tasked with head coaching duties behind the bench at the Young Stars Classic. “Bill’s a guy that fits with Emile (Poirier) and Bryce (Van Brabant) and Kenny (Agostino). They’re guys that are going to have to be contributing nightly to push for a position with the big team. He is a guy we’re expecting more from, both of who he’s playing against…you’d like to see him be able to play against top lines…and elevating his play like I thought he was able to do tonight.”
Arnold had 15 goals and 38 points in 61 games for Adirondack last season, but missed considerable time due to a shoulder injury.
It was a learning experience for the Boston College alumnus.
“I’ve never really been hurt like that before,” he said. “You learn how to stay mentally strong and put the work into make sure you come back as strong as you can. The training staff and coaching staff were great, teammates were great. It’s just part of the game. I learned from it and will come back better this year.”
Though Arnold paced the Flames with two points, it was Hunter Smith who netted Calgary’s first goal.
Smith broke open a scoreless first period at 13:53, thanks in part to the efforts from Calgary Hitmen forward Pavel Karnaukhov. After picking up a pass from Kenny Agostino, Karnaukhov started to circle below the goal line before outwaiting a sprawled Oilers defenceman and sending a pass to Smith, who tapped in his first of the Young Stars Classic to give Calgary a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later Andrew Mangiapane added another courtesy a cross-slot feed from Arnold, chipping the offer over the glove of Oilers starter Jordan Papirny to extend the Flames’ lead to two at 15:24.
“We talked about driving to the net in practice this morning and that’s what [Mangiapane] did,” Arnold said. “My dad always used to say put the puck towards the net and good things happen, and he was able to put it home.”
Mangiapane gave his linemate all the credit.
“Great pass by [Arnold],” he said. “I was just driving to the net and I happened to have my stick down. He did all the work. I just tapped it in. Good things happen when you drive the net.”
Skating four aside in the second, Josh Winquist put the Oilers on the board with a sharp-angle shot that beat McDonald over the shoulder on the short side at 2:47.
Less than two minutes later, Arnold restored the two-goal lead. Working with a two-man advantage, Arnold took a pass from Rasmus Andersson and hesitated before lifting a shot over the sprawled Papirny to give Calgary a 3-1 lead.
“It doesn’t get much easier than that,” Arnold said. “I thought I was going to try to pass it back door for a second and I looked to the net and noticed it was wide open. It was kind of Johnny Gaudreau-esque there. Just an easy, back-door wide-open net.”
But with 2:12 remaining in the period, Joey Laleggia’s shot from the point with Bryce Van Brabant in the penalty box eluded McDonald to trim the lead back to one heading into the third period.
The Oilers, trailing 3-2 heading into the third period, the Oilers exploded for four goals -- including two into an empty net late in the period -- to cap a comeback and earn a second straight win at the Young Stars Classic.
Braden Christoffer tied the game for the Oilers at 5:30 of the third period, taking a pass from Leon Draisaitl and lifting it over the glove of Flames starter Mason McDonald to tie the game 3-3. On a penalty shot at 11:42, Leon Draisaitl pulled Edmonton ahead before goals by Winquist and Connor Rankin found the net with McDonald on the bench in favour of the extra attacker.
“I think it’s starting to come together a little bit more,” Arnold said. “I’ve got some of the rust out of the pipes last night, for sure. You hate to let that one get away from you as a team, though. The loss really stings, especially with having the lead heading into the third period.”
NOTES: Sam Bennett, Bill Arnold and Ryan Culkin were Calgary’s alternate captains in the game … Oliver Kylington and Morgan Klimchuk Culkin left the game due to injury and did not return. There was no immediate update on his status.