PENTICTON, B.C. – It was quick practice for the Oilers rookies as they hit the ice to prepare for their third and final game against the Winnipeg Jets Rookies on Monday.
Currently sitting with a 2-0 record, the Oilers would like to hit the double trifecta — a perfect record at this year’s tournament and a third consecutive Young Stars Classic Championship.
“Going into the weekend, we talked about wanting to win the tournament,” said Oilers forward prospect Drake Caggiula.
“We’ve done it two years in a row now, we want to make it a third time, and a win on Monday means you win the tournament. That was a goal of ours coming in and I think our teams done a good job so far doing that, we’re just trying to prepare as well as we can for tomorrow.”
Last year, the Jets rookies were the only team that handed Edmonton their first and only loss of the tournament when Winnipeg netted the game-winner in a 5-4 overtime win.
Last night, Edmonton was on the precipice of a win-loss situation when they entered 3-on-3 overtime against the Calgary Flames rookies, but Oilers rookie Jaedon Descheneau helped secure the 4-3 overtime win for his team.
“That’s what we came here to do,” said Young Stars Head Coach Gerry Fleming. “Win and for the guys to showcase their abilities and their talents and we’ve liked the effort so far, so hopefully we can just build upon that.”
Three games in four days can easily be overwhelming, but it’s a reality that Oilers rookie Aaron Irving said they have to prepare for and the Young Stars tournament certainly exposes them to a higher level of compete.
“The calibre and the size of the guys and the speed definitely improved, so I think it’s kind of a feel out process at the beginning, and then you start progressing as a player and a teammate and trying to see what you can improve on each and every day,” he said.
The rookies have been working hard in developing and churning out a strong team bond in a short timeframe. Though it was a brief practice day, Caggiula said it was good to get back out and refresh.
“I think [there’s] a little bit of fatigue but it’s nice to have a quick 30-minute practice, kind of get your feet under you and then have the rest of the day to kind of recover and get ready for tomorrow,” he said.
“Two games in two nights — especially after fitness testing [on Thursday] — is going to be pretty tough on the body, but guys are recovering and making sure we’re taking care of our bodies and getting ready for Monday’s game.”
FINDING COMMON GROUND
It’s been an impressive tournament for the Oilers rookies, thus far.
With two wins under their belt, it’s a positive reflection on how the players have been able to overcome any exterior league rivalries they may face outside of rookie camp, while quickly and efficiently pulling together to find a rhythm that works for the team.
“It’s definitely been nice to get along with some of these guys, you never know coming into a new team what it’s going to be like, but everyone here has been great,” said Irving.
“I think we’re really gelling as a team and it’s showing on the ice. [We’ve faced a little] adversity, losing a few of those goals last game [when the Flames] tied it up 3-3, but then we kind of pulled it back in overtime. I think it shows we kind of have that bond together and we’re willing to push through whatever. There’s a lot of good guys here, a lot of [Western Hockey League] guys so it’s kind of nice to meet some of the guys from the other teams, but it’s been good so far.”