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Jets drop Young Stars opener

Mikhail Berdin stands tall, stopping 35 shots in 4-2 defeat

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick / WinnipegJets.com

Video: HIGHLIGHTS | Canucks 4, Jets 2

PENTICTON, B.C. - The Winnipeg Jets opened the 2017 Young Stars Classic with a 4-2 loss to the host Vancouver Canucks.

Antoine Crete-Belzile and Jansen Harkins had the goals for Winnipeg, while Mikhail Berdin was outstanding in goal, stopping 35 Canuck shots and showing off his exceptional puck-handling ability to help kick start the Jets' offence.

"The first five minutes we were pretty good, and then the momentum changed," Moose Head Coach Pascal Vincent - who is coaching the Jets' Young Stars this week - said following the game. "We need to shoot the puck more. The chemistry, the energy being spent being nervous… We have a lot of invites and kids that want to showcase their skills and their desire. I have no doubt in my mind that they wanted to perform and we're going to give them three games. That's what we're here for.

"We're not going to evaluate the team game, systems or anything like that. We're going to look at the mechanics and the details of [the players'] games."

Video: POSTGAME | Pascal Vincent

The Jets opened the scoring at 2:18 as Crete-Belzile floated one through traffic and past the blocker of the highly touted Canucks netminder, Thatcher Demko, but three unanswered goals by the home side gave the Canucks a 3-1 lead at the intermission.

The Canucks knotted the score and turned the tide just 39 seconds after the icebreaker as Jonah Gadjovich eluded cover, drove to the net and put home the cross-crease feed from 2016 seventh-round pick Brett McKenzie.

"It was kind of a slow start but I thought we gave a second effort in the second and third, but it wasn't good enough for the win," Crete-Belzile said.

The 18-year-old, who's here on an invite after a solid season with the QMJHL's Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, was eligible for this past June's NHL Draft, but was not selected. He's using that as motivation now, and is eager to make an impression on Jets management over the next few days.

Scoring definitely helps.

Video: POSTGAME | Antoine Crete-Belzile

"It was hard to live the draft and to not be drafted," he said. "I'm trying to come here and give my best effort, and give my best (showing) to the Winnipeg Jets organization."

Jalen Chatfield gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead with a point shot at 7:03 after Zack MacEwen won the offensive-zone draw clean back on his off hand. Then, at the 10-minute mark, Chatfield was the victim of a high, hard hit by Kody McDonald, resulting in a five-minute major and game misconduct to the Winnipeg forward.

Vancouver's Griffin Molino made short work of the extended power play, roofing a shot from the bottom of the right circle just 27 seconds in to give the Canucks a commanding two-goal lead.

Shots on goal favoured the Canucks 15-5 after one.

The Jets made it a 3-2 game at 10:09 of the second as Harkins made no mistake from a prime shooting position.

The smooth skating Sami Niku made a great play to carry the puck into the zone, drawing three defenders and opening a lane for his teammates before having the puck knocked away. Following up on the right side, Jordy Stallard scooped up the loose disc and dropped it back to Harkins, who fired a laser over the right pad.

Harkins, a 2015 second-round pick, was Winnipeg's most dangerous forward all night, and was constantly creating chances from dogged board work deep in enemy territory.

Video: POSTGAME | Jordy Stallard

Stallard had a breakaway moments later, but his backhand five-hole attempt was emphatically denied by Demko after Berdin made a sensational two-line outlet pass to spring the 2016 pick.

The Jets fired all kinds of rubber at Demko in the dying seconds of the period, but were just unable to bury the tying marker.

It was more of the same in the third, but they ran out of time. Kole Lind scored into the empty net with 15 seconds left to salt away the victory.

Video: POSTGAME | Luke Green

"It's nice to get the first game under our belts and get the nerves out of the way," defenceman Luke Green said. "We kept getting better as the game went on and in the second period, we showed we can definitely play with them. We won the second and kept coming at them hard in the third.

"Guys are coming from all over the world and after just a couple practices, we're thrown into a game. It's the way this tournament is and every team has the same schedule.

"You just have to stay focused and be prepared. We all trained hard all summer for this event."

- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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