Time was running out and Ryan Jones was locked in a battle behind the opponent’s net. Less than two minutes before, he had scored the goal to draw his team within one.
Jones dug it out, freeing the puck from a cluster of players to an awaiting Boyd Gordon who fired the shot heard around the Millennium Place rink in Sherwood Park, netting the equalizer.
It may not have been as dramatic as described above, but Gordon’s game-tying goal with just five seconds remaining in the third period was exciting and it was thanks to some tough play by Jones.
“I thought he played very well in the scrimmage,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said.
Much to the excitement of the roughly 200 fans in attendance at training camp, you couldn’t have scripted the scrimmage any better with the game heading to a shootout.
Jones finished the game with an unofficial stat line consisting of two points, a goal and an assist while adding in a handful of shots.
“It’s intrasquad before the season and you just want to get the cobwebs out and get back into full intensity and full game style and get all of the shinny out of you that you pick up over the summer,” said Jones. “It was really nice to get that game in before we get into exhibition games. It went well.”
With 1:42 left on the clock in the third, Jones received a perfect centering pass from Gordon and connected, deflecting the puck up over goaltender Olivier Roy.
This kind of performance, although very early in training camp, is a good sign for Oilers fans.
Jones came into camp with extra motivation to have a successful year. He signed a one-year contract with the team in July. It was an emotional moment for the winger as he returns to a team that believes in him, coming off of a serious injury.
"I was ecstatic to come back and be able to put on the blue and orange again and play in this city."
“I’m getting to know him and my first couple conversations (with him tell me) this guy is appreciative that he gets to come back from injury,” said Coach Eakins. “That usually lights a fire under the guy. It makes you step back and say, ‘Hey, I was this close to being, maybe, done and now I’m back and I’m going to do everything I can to make the most of it.”
Jones suffered a scary eye injury during last year’s work stoppage. He required emergency surgery when an errant puck was deflected into his face and hit his left eye. He’s back however and the Oilers are happy to have him, knowing he can contribute to a skilled roster.
“He’s a guy that I think has got some upside,” said Eakins. “You can put him with a couple of more skilled guys and he’ll do some of the grunt work and chip in with some goals. He’s one of those guys you cheer for. You want him to do well and he’ll definitely be a guy here going forward that I do have to look and see how he does with couple more skilled forwards.”
Coming back to the team that believes in him is a rush for the 29 year-old out of Chatham, Ontario.
“I was ecstatic to come back and be able to put on the blue and orange again and play in this city,” said Jones.
The 6-0, 205 pound forward has played for the Oilers since 2009. He has played in 195 games for Edmonton, scoring 66 points (38-28-66).
After signing his deal with the team, Jones had one focus for his offseason, come back to camp ready to contribute.
“I went into the summer just trying to put all of my blood, sweat and tears into the summer to be ready to come back. I tried to prepare myself to be the best hockey player I can could be and help this team. It felt great to get back out there today and play with guys that you’re going to be playing with all year, again.”
Motivated is the word that best describes the 2013-14 Ryan Jones. He expressed this much from the opening media interviews of training camp. Jones has people he wants to prove wrong, the doubters, and people he wants to prove right, his supporters.
“My main goal is to play for the people that are loyal to me… This organization, family, friends and the fans that were sticking by me, I want to play for those guys. It means a lot that when things aren’t going great, you have people that have your back and still believe that you can be a very good hockey player.
“That’s going to be my motivation from this year and it’d be great to prove people wrong but I am not so much worried about that as I am proving people right.”
The scrimmage is just that, a scrimmage. But if his excitement and level of play today is any indicator of things to come, Jones may be in for a successful season.