EDMONTON, AB - A quick goal by the University of Alberta proved to be no match for the Oilers rookies, who produced a 6-3 victory over the Golden Bears in the 26th annual game for the third consecutive year.
It took no more than 30 seconds for the Golden Bears to really put the Oilers Rookies on their toes as they came out hard and fast in the first.
Advancing into the Oilers defensive end, the U of A team wasn't shy, letting the rookies know whose turf they were intruding on.
Golden Bears forward Tanner Clarkson was quick to the puck, wrapping around the back of Oilers goaltender Nick Ellis' net to put it away, taking a 1-0 lead.
Eight minutes later, a back-and-forth scoring battle began as the Oilers rookies responded when forward Tomas Soustal spotted teammate Collin Shirley, who quickly buried the puck on Golden Bears goaltender Luke Siemens for the equalizer.
But the celebrations were short-lived as the U of A regrouped and Golden Bears forward Jamie Crooks advanced to give his team the 2-1 lead a minute later. Moments later, Oilers forward Braden Christoffer caught a rebound in front of Siemens crease and to tie the game up 2-2.
The rookies took the lead for the first time in the game at the 8:25 mark when Oilers forward Tomas Soustal rocketed a shot from below the hash marks for a 3-2 lead.
Shots on goal at the end of the first were 25-6 for Edmonton.
"We came out flying, I think we had 25 shots in the first period, close to 25 shots in the second," said Oilers forward Drake Caggiula. "I think we took our foot off the gas a little bit in the third period there but we still closed out the win and went 4-0 and that was our goal starting the weekend and we accomplished that goal."
A smaller playing surface may be just the reason for what was a fast-moving game, but Caggiula, who played for the University of North Dakota for the last four seasons, said he felt quite at home on the rink.
"It's a nice rink, great atmosphere, it's a smaller barn an it's got that old-school feeling to it, but it's a lot of fun playing in here," he said.
"It's a tight-checking game, it's a little bit of a smaller rink [but] those are fun games to play when you're playing in the trenches all night long, and I know it's kind of the style I like to play and I felt very comfortable playing here."
The middle frame saw the Oilers rookies off to a hot start when less than two minutes in, Oilers forward Patrick Russell got his stick on the puck, directing teammate Jesse Puljujarvi's shot from the centre of the hash marks into the net, giving the oilers a two-goal lead.
The remainder of the second period saw both teams with plenty of opportunities, but both Ellis and Siemens proved to be impenetrable.
With less than two minutes remaining, Caggiula finally found a weak spot, increasing the NHL rookies' lead 5-2.
"We've been clicking [as a group] all weekend," said Caggiula. "Playing with each other more and more, getting more reps in with each other at practice, you're going to start to feel more chemistry and as you can see today, we had chances all over the ice - Jesse was actually giving me a little bit of crap there for not scoring on some of those opportunities - but it was a good game for us and hopefully we can build off that heading into [main] camp."
Early into the third, Golden Bears forward Lucas Nickles ripped a shot in front of Edmonton's crease, from the top of the circle, sending the puck over Ellis' blocker, cutting the Oilers lead to two.
Tensions began to rise between both teams as the remainder of the period played out, with each seeing players sent to the box for roughing.
With one minute remaining, the Golden Bears pulled Siemens from the net, but Oilers forward Joey Benik spotted Caggiula on his own in the neutral zone, sending the puck up the ice, Caggiula slid behind the puck, guiding it into the Bears empty net, securing the 6-3 win.
The Oilers rookies win their third straight game in the annual Golden Bears match-up, - with both teams now tied 13-13 in 26 all-time matches - and remain undefeated in their last game of rookie camp.
"We played great," said Oilers defenceman Caleb Jones. "We got a little cute sometimes, causing some turnovers which led to a few goals but I think they came out hard and we responded really well by the end of the first period. And I think we just kept rolling with it, they were taking penalties and we were burying our power play chances."