GAME STORY: Oilers Rookies 5, Canucks Rookies 4 (OT)
Shane Starrett made 42 saves and Kirill Maksimov scored the winner as the Oilers rookies defeated the Canucks rookies 5-4 in overtime
PENTICTON, BC -- Shane Starrett made 42 saves and Kirill Maksimov scored the winner as the Oilers remained perfect at the 2017 Young Stars Classic with their 5-4 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks - placing first for the fourth year in a row.
Head Coach Gerry Fleming said it best on Sunday: "I think goaltending, goaltending, goaltending."
And with the goaltending being as good as it has been all week, that remained the theme on Monday with Starrett's impressive outing.
"That was my first game since March," he said post-game. "It's funny because last year for Air Force in the second game of the season, the other team (Ohio State) put up 50 shots."
Fellow netminders Dylan Wells and Stuart Skinner established the precedent earlier in the week and Starrett was able to maintain it.
"They definitely came in and set the bar pretty high," he said. "I knew coming in the expectation for me to play good were a bit higher but at the same time, I didn't want to put much pressure on myself."
Up front, Joe Gambardella tallied two goals and Chad Butcher registered three assists. Ziyat Paigin and Ostap Safin also scored for the Oilers.
"I think we're all pretty quick and skilled players," Butcher said of his linemates Kailer Yamamoto and Gambardella. "We all just try to play our games out there and keep it simple."
On Maksimov's winner, the winger circled back into his own zone, gained speed and sliced his way into the offensive zone. He then let go a wrister that fooled Michael Garteig.
"I just got the puck, decided to go back to gain some speed then went through a couple guys, shot it and scored," Maksimov said.
It was all Canucks at the drop of the puck. Despite the Oilers generating early pressure and drawing a penalty in their first shift of the game, it was Vancouver who got the first real scoring chance. Shorthanded, Jakob Stukel got hold of a bouncing puck as it passed Oilers defenceman Paigin. He raced in all alone on Starrett, going right-left, attempting to jam the puck past Starrett's right side but the keeper, signed out of the Air Force Academy in April, stretched out his pad to make the save.
The Canucks would continue buzzing, though, ripping two shots off the post before Michael Carcone opened the scoring at 8:25.
With pucks being thrown at the Oilers net, a rebound eventually found its way to Carcone, who made no mistake by placing a wrister above Starrett's trapper for his first of the period.
Carcone scored his second at 17:44. The speedy winger barrelled in from the right side, then cut into the middle ice and fired a wrist shot top shelf to make it 2-0.
The Oilers were out-shot 16-4 in the first but Starrett kept the game within reach. As a result, Edmonton's rookies were able to strike three times in the second to take the lead.
"We kind of got off to a rocky start there in the first," said Butcher. "But we regrouped in the second and finished off really strong."
Gambardella got his first of two after a nice give-and-go with Butcher. The two worked the puck from the left corner and Gambardella capped the play with a one-timer blast at 9:44.
Then, it was Paigin's turn to show how hard he can rip the biscuit. Austin Glover broke into the offensive zone from the left side. Paigin, meanwhile, approached from the middle of the ice. He raised his stick in anticipation of a pass, and when it did come his way, shot a rocket past Tatcher Demko at 11:37 to tie it up at two.
Gambardella later added his second of the period to give the Oilers a 3-2 lead at 15:37. Yamamoto got a wrist shot through a maze of bodies and Gambardella pounced on the rebound.
The Oilers took the 3-2 lead into the third period by riding the hot play of Starrett, who had 27 saves by the end of the second, while Vancouver made a goaltending change to begin the final frame.
Garteig came in relief of Demko but he didn't get a warm welcome from the Oilers rookies, as Safin scored 45 seconds into the period. He sniped a short-side wrist shot from under the left dot to give Edmonton a 4-2 lead. Butcher got his third assist of the night on the play.
"He played well," Fleming said of Butcher's week. The forward led the tournament with seven points. "He's good on draws, he's physical. He's a good kid with some skill."
Vancouver tied it up late in the third, getting goals from Jonah Gadjovich and Matt Brassard. Gadjovich greased in a goal from inside the crease while on a 5-on-3, then Brassard's floater from the point slipped through Starrett.
In overtime, the Oilers maintained much of the play. Gambardella nearly scored his hat-trick goal on a partial breakaway but his backhander was snared by Garteig.
Then Maksimov ended the game with his overtime winner - making it four consecutive years the Oilers placed first at the tournament.
"We talked about it before the tournament started: do what you do as a player to showcase your talents and I thought guys did that," said Fleming.
Next up for the rookies is a game against the Nait-MacEwan All-Stars on Wednesday at Rogers Place. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM MDT.