The New York Islanders top prospects carved out a character 5-4 shootout win against the Philadelphia Flyers prospects on Wednesday night at PPL Center in Allentown, PA. Oliver Wahlstrom scored the shootout winner, as the Isles rallied from a three-goal deficit in a dramatic rookie contest. Felix Bibeau, David Quenneville, Samuel Bolduc and Otto Koivula scored in regulation for the Islanders.
"I thought it was a pretty intense game for a rookie game," Bridgeport Sound Tiger Head Coach Brent Thompson said. "The work ethic, the character, the guys pulled together, they kept pushing and they got rewarded. I'm obviously very happy with the first game and what we can build from there."
The Isles came out strong in the opening frame but put themselves on their heels after relinquishing back-to-back goals, 34 seconds apart in the waning two-minutes of play. The Flyers then cushioned their lead 3-0, five-minutes into the second period. Despite the deficit, the Islanders displayed discipline and were eventually rewarded for their efforts.
Bibeau got the Islanders going in the second period with a goal on the doorstep off of a feed from Koivula. Quenneville doubled cut the deficit down 3-2, with a one-timer from the point midway through the second period. The Flyers retook a two-goal lead, six minutes into the third period, but the Islanders continued to press and tied the score with nods from Bolduc and Koivula.
"It says a lot about the guys in our room and the type of players [in the Islanders organization," Noah Dobson said. "We don't get too ahead of ourselves. We were able to battle back and chip away and get things going in our favor."
Linus Soderstrom (16 saves) started in net for the Islanders but was replaced by Jakub Skarek midway through the second period, as the two goalies split the contest. Soderstrom allowed three goals on 19 shots, while Skarek stopped 12-of-13 shots. In overtime, Skarek denied two Flyers' breakaways.
TWO-POINT GAME FOR KOIVULA:
Otto Koivula was clutch when his teammates needed him most on Wednesday. The Isles' 2016 fourth-round pick (120th overall) scored the equalizer and finished the night with one goal and one assist. His impressive performance was no surprise to coach Thompson, as Koivula had shown similar glimpses of excellence throughout his first pro season with Bridgeport and throughout the playoffs. The versatile 21-year-old Finn posted 46 points (21G, 25A) in his rookie AHL season.
"Just seeing the player Otto was last year and how he's evolved," coach Thompson explained. "He works extremely hard. His hockey IQ is through the rough and that's one of his biggest assets. Adding that with his effort level, buying into this system and buying into this team is fantastic. For me, I thought he did a really good job. We had high expectations for him last season and I think he's taking a step in the right direction this game."
Isles standout defensive prospect Noah Dobson showed no hesitation or remorse in his play when often matching up against the Flyers top prospects like Morgan Frost and German Rubtsov. Dobson, who was selected 12th overall of the 2018 NHL Draft, quarterbacked the Isles power play alongside fellow 2018 first-rounder Oliver Wahlstrom, Mason Jobst, Reece Newkirk and David Quenneville.
"It was obviously a little scrambly at the start of the game," Dobson said. "It was our first game and first time playing together, but I felt good as the game went on. I felt comfortable out there. They had a pretty good roster and had some guys who had some NHL experience. They got some goals and we had to fight back."
Dobson aims to make the Isles opening night roster, not an easy feat by any means let alone for a 19-year-old. But after posting another impressive season highlighted by his second-consecutive Memorial Cups, Dobson is eager to make the jump to the big leagues. Wednesday's rookie game, was a prime opportunity for the Summerside, PEI native to get his feet wet with higher-caliber competition and Dobson excelled.
"It was a really good opportunity to shake the rust off from the summer," Dobson said. "The game helps you get fresh for training camp, into game-shape and helps get you back into that mid-season form. I'm really excited to get going."
Bode Wilde (ankle), Bobo Carpenter (shoulder) and Simon Holmstrom (day-to-day lower body) have yet to skate at Islanders Rookie Camp.