It’s not getting easier. I told you guys this morning. There’s going to be lots of long nights thinking about it and after tonight’s game, the night is just getting longer and longer. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- With time running down on the pre-season, the kids on the Calgary Flames stepped up.
Sean Monahan and Josh Jooris each scored twice while Johnny Gaudreau recorded three assists as the Flames downed the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday.
Though his spot in the lineup was all but cemented before training camp started, Monahan made a statement with two goals while Flames hopefuls Gaudreau and Bennett both connected on nifty plays with Jooris in an effort to boost their chances of remaining in Calgary for October 8th’s home opener against the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s not getting easier,” coach Bob Hartley said. “I told you guys this morning. There’s going to be lots of long nights thinking about it and after tonight’s game, the night is just getting longer and longer.”
Gaudreau made the most of his opportunity in the third period to break a 1-1 tie, spinning off the boards between two Jets defenders before walking into the slot and finding Jooris alone on the goal line. After taking the pass, Jooris walked out from beside Winnipeg starter Michael Hutchinson and wrapped the puck around the goal line at 4:03 to put the Flames up 2-1.
“I mean, I’m trying to show management that I belong and whatever I have to do to do that is something I’m going to try to do, whether it’s playing well defensively or creating offensive chances,” Gaudreau said. “I’ve got to make sure I’m doing my best out there.”
Just 40 seconds later, Monahan added his second of the night, stepping into a Paul Byron feed on an odd-manned rush and placing it off the bar and in to make it 3-1.
Five minutes after that Jooris picked up his second, too. With Mathieu Perreault in the penalty box, Bennett squeezed a backhand from below the goal line and onto the stick of Jooris, who fired a shot over Hutchinson’s blocker to put Calgary up 4-1.
“I’ve kind of understood what it takes to play at this level,” Jooris said. “For me in particular, I’ve just got to go out there and do the little things right. I’m not worried about putting up numbers or offense. That stuff will come as it did tonight. Defence and little things at the blue line, plays at the blue line and smart plays around the ice, that’s first and foremost for me. That’s been the mind-set.”
With a 5-on-3 advantage late in the third, Chris Thorburn managed to sneak a puck through Ramo to cut the lead to two and set the eventual 4-2 final.
With one final game left on the pre-season docket -- a return match against the Jets in Winnipeg -- Hartley and his coaching staff will have some decisions.
“It doesn’t get easier,” he said. “Remember the first day of camp I told you the depth of this hockey club is surprising. It’s surprising from the outside. All summer I talked to my partners and we have some good, real young players that are coming up and right now they’re making statements and we have to respect this. Remember our slogan -- always earned, never given and we will respect this.
“Obviously there’s still lots of players. Way too many for my taste, but we had quite a few nagging injuries. Those kids deserve to stay here and the battle continues. There’s one game left and I would like certainly to dress 30 players from that game but we’ll follow the rules.”
Though both teams posted zeros through the opening 20 minutes, there were plenty of opportunities to break through. Ramo and Hutchinson weren’t having that, though.
After the two teams traded chances on the first two shifts of the game, Jiri Hudler broke through on a partial breakaway but couldn’t beat the iron over Hutchinson’s glove 5:06 in. With a delayed penalty coming as a result of Keaton Ellerby hooking minor, Monahan followed up the play but couldn’t sweep the puck through the pads of the Jets goaltender, either.
From there, Ramo gave Mark Scheifele troubles.
Ramo robbed 21-year-old near the midway mark of the frame by flashing a quick pad with Scheifele alone in the slot. Scheifele followed up the misfire with another opportunity at the four-minute mark but Ramo again stared him down by making a blocker save.
Hutchinson capped off a 10-save period by robbing Hudler. After Joe Colborne barreled down the wing, the center fed a cross-crease pass to an awaiting Hudler but Hutchinson threw up his arm to deny Calgary’s leading scorer from a year ago.
It took over eight minutes for the first shot to be recorded in the second period, but Monahan made it count, beating Hutchinson from the faceoff dot after taking a feed from Hudler to put the Flames up 1-0. Gaudreau recorded an assist on the play, too.
The lead was short lived after Scheifele got his revenge on Ramo, converting a nifty pass from below the goal line from 18-year-old Nilolaj Ehlers to tie the game 1-1 with 5:44 remaining in the middle frame.