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Team White 6, Team Blue 5

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
The 2011 Blue and White Scrimmage was a game with two faces. In the first half, the White Team maintained the same energy they brought to the morning skate. They were loose and were able to find each other on the ice with ease, ending the first 25 minutes with a 4-2 lead.

To start the second, they maintained their energy and scored another two more goals. Then, with five minutes remaining in the scrimmage, the Blue Team came back with a vengeance, scoring three unanswered goals. Although, it was a little too late. The last effort closed the gap, but the White Team still came out the victor 6-5.

“We feel good about the win,” said Rhett Rakhshani, the undeniable leader of the White Team. “We have a lot of character in this room. Guys were working hard all night long, to the very end. It feels good to come out with the win for sure.”

Calvin de Haan #3 of the New York Islanders (Blue Team) knocks Rhett Rakhshani #49 of the New York Islanders (White Team) off the puck on July 16, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
It felt even better because they had begun overhearing people calling them the underdog, but decided to roll with the punches and began exuding confidence from the morning skate.

“We loved being called the underdog and we used that to our advantage,” said Ben Rosen, a camp invite from Long Island. “We popped a few goals in right away and didn’t look back from there. They came back a bit with some penalty shots, but I think for the most part we controlled the game and it came out to our advantage in the end.”

Led into battle by Rakhshani, he and his linemates David Ullstrom and Justin DiBenedetto set the pace early. Ullstrom scored the first goal at 3:57 with an assist from DiBenedetto, his linemate and on-ice agitator.

“You could see just with the first lines out there that our line (with Ullstrom and DiBenedetto) was a little older and their line (Niederreiter, Strome and Kabanov) was a little younger,” Rakhshani said. “They had some clutch shootout goals, but we set the tone out there, the old boys getting the first goal.”

College prospects Anders Lee (Notre Dame) and Brock Nelson (North Dakota) kept the pressure in the offensive zone around the 10-minute mark and it paid off. Lee shoveled the puck past Northeastern’s Chris Rawlings at 10:12 to give the White Team a 2-0 lead.

Ryan Strome, the Islanders first pick in 2011, was awarded a penalty shot at the 13-minute mark and put the puck past Cody Rosen (Clarkson) to give the Blue Team their first point and cut the goal differential in half 2-1.

Though Lee scored his second goal of the night at 15:46, after he too was awarded a penalty shot and White took back their two-goal lead. But once again, the Blue Team battled back and the Islanders third pick in this year’s draft, Swedish center Johan Sundstrom, scored at 17:10, closing in on the White Team’s lead 3-2.

Then with 23.3 seconds left in the first period, Russian defenseman Andrey Pedan, the Islanders third round pick in this year’s draft, scored and the White Team captured their third two-goal lead of the night.

Ryan Strome #8 of the New York Islanders (Blue Team) carries the puck against Andrey Pedan #42 of the New York Islanders (White Team) on July 16, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
But there was no looking back. As the second period began, the White Team kept the momentum. Camp invites Dan O’Donoghue and Ben Rosen worked well together, capturing a 5-2 lead at 3:35 of the second period.

And at 7:18 Aaron Ness (Minnesota) scored the White Team’s game-winning sixth goal with an assist from fellow 2008th draft selection Corey Trivino (BU).

“It was really good to get a clutch goal like that for my teammates,” Ness said. “There was a really good atmosphere tonight. You could tell the fans were really excited, so that makes it a lot more fun.”

With the White Team ahead by four goals, the Blue Team’s top line started to shine. Strome closed the gap 6-3 with a goal at 21:20. Nino Niederreieter, the Isles fifth overall pick in 2010, and camp invite Ben Thomson, assisted.

At 23:44, Mitchell Theoret, the Islanders 7th round pick in this year’s draft, set up Calvin de Haan for a goal to bring the Blue Team within two. Kirill Kabanov potted a penalty shot with 31.9 seconds left on the clock to bring the final score to 6-5.

Truly, there’s nothing better than Saturday night hockey in July. The Blue Team was loaded with fresh young talent with a lot of promise and the White Team exuded experience and chemistry built from a Sound Tigers stage.

“The game went pretty well,” Rosen said. “It was a great win for us. I thought our team played really well together. We came out really strong. All the guys were gelling. I heard we were the underdog before the game and we didn’t really like that. We wanted to prove everyone wrong. We did a good job of doing that.”

Both sides showed skill and promise for Long Islanders future, but this time, experience won.
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