EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers Rookies heavily outshot the NAIT/MacEwan All-Star Team but were unable to solve their opponent's pair of netminders, falling 2-0 to close exhibition play.
Coming off a three-game sweep at the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, BC, the Oilers Rookies were looking to push their exhibition record to 4-0. The one thing standing in their way was a team comprised of players from local post-secondary schools NAIT and Grant MacEwan.
"They played well," said Oilers Rookies Head Coach Gerry Fleming. "They played a smart game, they played well defensively, they boxed us out. We managed to get some shots to the net but I don't think we were as sharp as we had been the last three games. Maybe it was a little fatigue, but credit to them. They did what they had to do."
NAIT forward Thomas Foster put the visitors up 1-0 at 8:54 of the opening frame. The Slave, Lake, AB native took the puck through the far circle, with Ziyat Paigin defending him, and drove to the net before potting a goal above the glove of Oilers goaltender Dylan Wells. The shots at the time were 4-4, with defencemen Tyler Morrison and Corey Chorneyko recording the assists.
"Obviously, as a goalie in that situation, it's tough to get into it when you don't get too many shots," said Wells. "The guys in front of us played extremely well tonight. The effort was fully there. We were putting pucks on net. When you put 50 shots on net, credit to their goalies, they played a hell of a game. It's tough I let that one in. I kind of want that one back. Sometimes you need to make a big save in a moment like that, but it didn't happen tonight. Everyone is going to learn from this and move forward."
MacEwan centre Cam Gotaas took a slashing penalty at 11:07 of the first, giving the Oilers Rookies their first man advantage of the evening. The orange and blue could not capitalize on that chance.
The Rookies got another power play in the first when Ty Stanton went to the box for a cross-check at 15:27. On the ensuing man advantage, Evan Polei had an up close and one-on-one look at the net but snapped a shot right into goaltender Marc-Olivier Daigle.
A few moments later, Paigin's high shot from the point blasted past bodies but Daigle made the glove save.
As the penalty expired, Edmonton took the lead in shots 12-7 and had gained momentum.
Back at even strength, Oilers defenceman Caleb Jones wristed a shot past Daigle, but off the crossbar.
Despite being shorthanded, following a too-many-men on the ice call, Edmonton nearly tied the game late in the first. 2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto fed Chad Butcher a centring pass in front but Daigle made the save.
Daigle continued to impress in the second period, as the Oilers Rookies began peppering the 22 year-old with shots, but he kept turning them away. Daigle spent 2016-17 with Grant MacEwan, playing 19 games and recording a 2.23 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
Daigle would eventually be replaced by NAIT's Nathan Park, midway through the game. Daigle ended his nights with 19 saves on 19 shots.
Despite the earlier plan to play Wells the entire game, Edmonton also swapped its netminders midway through the second. In came Stuart Skinner: the 2017 third-round pick.
Through two periods, Edmonton was controlling the game with 30 shots to the All-Stars' 11, but the score remained 1-0.
Less than five minutes into the third, William Lagesson took the puck to the net for Edmonton and the loose puck made for an excellent scoring chance but the rookies couldn't bury it. A short scrum ensued in front of the net.
Midway through the third, Edmonton held a 38-17 lead in shots but they had yet to beat the goaltenders.
"I thought we played well," Jones said after the game. "We ran into a couple hot goaltenders. They changed halfway through, and their goaltenders played good. That whole team worked hard. It was a tough night. We were trying to bear down in the third there and it just didn't happen."
The All-Stars went up 2-0 with 2:31 to play when NAIT's Jake Mykitiuk found his teammate Jarid Hauptman on the other side of the net and the centre buried the insurance goal.
Edmonton finished the game leading in shots 49-19, but they never could put the biscuit in the basket. Despite the loss, the Oilers Rookies had a successful pre-season, beating the Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks prospects in Penticton.
The Oilers open training camp Thursday at Rogers Place with medicals and fitness testing. EdmontonOilers.com will have full coverage.