A line of excited Islanders fans began forming outside of Islanders Iceworks in Syosset at around 5 a.m.—SIX HOURS before Sunday’s scrimmage was set to begin. They were, of course, there to see Josh Bailey
, Joel Rechlicz, a few dozen Islanders prospects and a guy named John Tavares
Due to the expected crowds for the only open practice of Mini-Camp, the Islanders issued 427 wristbands to fans—who were treated to a tough, fast-paced scrimmage. Even Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon was impressed.
“I liked the pace, I thought it was great," Gordon said. "I thought a lot of guys competed hard, especially in the offensive zone to win battles and that was good to see. I thought the goaltending was excellent. Just overall I thought it was a pretty good pace for a developmental camp.”
The scrimmage began with a faceoff between the two most well-known faces in camp—Tavares and Bailey.
However, it was Andy Macdonald—one of the oldest players in camp at 22—opened the scoring on a penalty shot just minutes into the first half.
One of the prettiest plays in the game came in the second half, when Jason Gregoire slipped a pass between his legs to a perfectly positioned Bailey, who slapped the puck from the right post into the top left corner of the net.
Bailey, who is in his second Mini-Camp with the Islanders, said he feels more comfortable with one NHL year under his belt, and likes what he's seen playing with Tavares thus far.
“I think there's a lot less nerves coming in this year since I know a lot of the guys and it's good to meet the new guys coming in too,” Bailey said. “Obviously a year in the league, you get a lot more confidence and you just try to go out and play your game.
Obviously [John's] a great player, and I've played against him in the past and I know what he brings to the table. There's nothing he does bad and I think everything’s positive.”
Tavares, who was the focal point of many in attendance, enjoyed the fan support but made sure not to stress over the first scrimmage.
“It's nice to have the support,” Tavares said. “I don't think I want to put too much pressure on myself or anything like that. I think you just want to work on … doing the little things right and playing well both ways, being strong in small areas, and just making strong plays. It’s tough to stress so much on one scrimmage in the middle of the summer so you just try and focus on some small things you want to work on and improve on.”
It was an exciting day for Islander fans to see Tavares out on the ice and to get a glimpse of the young talent at mini-camp. For Tavares, it's all about working on his skills and improving in every aspect of the game so that he can make a big impact in the upcoming season.
“It was good to get out there with all the other guys in a game pace, and you realize some things you can work on,” Tavares said. “I enjoyed being out there so it was a fun morning and a fun scrimmage.”NOTES:
- Many of the 427 fans who packed into Islanders Iceworks on Sunday donned Tavares shirts and jerseys.
- “I got here around 8:30,"” said Bryan Barbara, who was wearing a royal blue Tavares jersey which he purchased on draft day. “I mostly came to see John Tavares and Calvin (de Haan), and Bailey as well. A lot of guys here, you’ve seen their names but you haven't seen them yet, so it’s good to see them play for the first time."
- Sparky and the Islanders I.C.E Tour was on hand with inflatables games and kids’ activities set up in the front parking lot outside of Iceworks for young fans to enjoy.
- Among the activities planned for the players early this week will be a fishing trip, golf and attending a Nickleback concert.
Head Coach Scott Gordon mentioned a few players who stood out for him, and also praised the high-level of goaltending that the Islanders have in camp: Calle Ridderwall—
“I like the way he battles out there.” Calvin de Haan—
“De Haan is very poised with the puck.” Aaron Ness—
“His skating stands out.” Goalies—
“I thought all the goalies were excellent. It’s good to see. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a camp anywhere like this where you would see the quality of goaltending that we have here now.”CLICK HERE
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