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Flames top Jets in Young Stars opener

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

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PENTICTON, BC The Winnipeg Jets opened the 2015 Young Stars Classic with a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Bryce Van Brabant, Ryan Lomberg and Morgan Klimchuk scored for the Flames, while Brendan Lemieux tallied the Jets’ lone marker.

Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie combined to make 33 saves.

“It went how we expected it would,” Lemieux said. “It was a bit scrambled at the beginning, but we eventually got our feet under us. I thought we came together as a team late in the game and it started to feel better and better every shift. I think it’s coming and you’re starting to see the talent that some of these guys have.”

Lemieux was a physical force all night, playing the role to perfection.

“There’s been a lot of preparation that went into this,” Lemieux said. “You have certain expectations and a lot of mine were met today. Personally, I thought I played pretty well, but from a team standpoint we
have a few things to work on.

“If we continue that, we’ll have more success down the line.”

Hellebuyck was the busiest Jet early on, stopping 11 of 13 shots in the opening 20 minutes.

Calgary opened the scoring at 5:40 of the first period after recording the first five shots of the contest. From the crest of the far circle, the undrafted Van Brabant rifled a shot bar down on Hellebuyck, giving the Flames an early 1-0 lead. Lomberg made it a 2-0 game within minutes of the icebreaker, potting a sharp-angle shot after evading a check along the goal line.

“I thought in the first period we were a little bit slow to react to things,” Manitoba Moose Head Coach Keith McCambridge said. “We were still in summer mode, but I thought there was some really positive things to build off in the second and third. We started playing a smarter game with pucks. … I thought we started to play more as a team as the game wore on. As a result, we started to get pucks to where they needed to be and we started generating more scoring chances.”

Trailing by two, the Jets went to the penalty kill with 5:06 to play in the opening frame. Back-to-back minor penalties Brendan Lemieux (cross-checking) and Ryan Olsen (high-sticking), put the Flames on an extended 5-on-3 power-play. Successfully killing the minute-and-a-half disadvantage, the Jets then went on the offensive.

Lemieux was the beneficiary of a beautiful feed at the lip of the blue paint, skilfully one-timing Jimmy Lodge’s pass upstairs on Gillies to cut the lead in half at 19:45.

Shots on goal favoured the Flames 13-5 after one period of play.

“Anytime you can build a little excitement between periods, that’s a real positive thing,” McCambridge said. “This is a young group of guys and you want to make sure there are some positives – some things that they can take with them during and in between games.”

Andrew Copp nearly levelled the score on a partial break midway through the second period, but Gillies got just enough of it to keep it on the blue side of the goal line. Replay showed the puck may have slid across, but with no video review to confirm or deny that unofficial observation, the
score remained in the opponent’s favour.

Hellebuyck exited the game with 8:54 to play in the second period, finishing the night with 18 saves. Comrie was stellar in relief, stopping all 16 he faced.

Comrie’s first test was a big one as Lomberg was awarded a penalty shot at 14:52. At the top of his crease, the goaltender coolly knocked down the Flame’s glove-side attempt, easily preserving the precarious one-goal deficit.

The Jets were all over the Flames early in the third, but Gillies stood tall, thwarting chance after chance, including one off the stick of Copp, who helped orchestrate a dangerous 2-on-1 rush with linemate Chase De Leo.

Unfortunately, the Jets couldn’t get any closer. Klimchuk added an empty-netter with four seconds left to seal the win. 

-- Ryan Dittrick,

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