YELLOWKNIFE, NWT - On the second day of Rookie Camp and first on the ice, Team White defeated Team Blue by a score of 3-0 on the strength of a three-point effort from Tyler Spurgeon.
Spurgeon’s line of himself, Stephane Goulet and Matt DePape provided all the offence in a game that was surprisingly physical with 38 players competing for a handful of passes to main camp.
“Everybody had a little bit of nerves but once we got rid of those we were flying pretty good out there,” Spurgeon remarked. “We didn’t know what to expect really but it was high tempo. It was a good scrimmage.”
Right from the opening shift, the capacity crowd at the Multiplex in Yellowknife were thrilled as the Oilers rookies pulled no punches. Ryan O’Marra got things going with a huge hit along the boards to set up a scoring chance.
O’Marra was impressed with his initiation into Oilers rookie camp.
“This is just great,” he said. “It’s intense and it’s fast. It’s a pinball game out there, a war – and that’s how I like to play hockey.”
Team White carried the tempo in the early going, pinning Team Blue deep in their end for shifts at a time and it eventually paid off in the game’s first goal.
Spurgeon set up DePape with a nice pass in the slot but DePape’s shot went just wide. Goulet picked the puck up in the corner before throwing it in front. This time, DePape made no mistake, jamming it five-hole.
The opening goal seemed to spark something on both sides as two fights erupted later in the period. First, Stockton Thunder fan favourite Adam Huxley dropped the gloves with defenceman Scott Todd. After sizing each other up for what seemed like minutes, they finally squared off. Huxley landed some late blows to the face before taking down Todd.
Several minutes later, Edmonton Oil King and Oilers camp invite Bretton Stamler fought Charlie Kronschnabel. This was a more spirited bout with fists flying from both sides.
Late in the first, Leblanc almost doubled Team White’s lead as he had a chance with the puck alone in front of Devan Dubnyk
but his shot from the top of the crease went wide.
The second period began much like the first ended with a lot of tough, physical play as well as some fisticuffs.
Geoff Paukovich and Troy Bodie traded some heavy blows at centre ice about three minutes into the second. Less than two minutes later, Mike Berube and DePape fought. Berube took DePape down heavily after a fairly even match-up.
The fights seemed to ignite Team Blue as they started putting some heavy pressure on the Team White end. Bryan Pitton, replacing first period goaltender Glenn Fisher in goal, responded to the challenge. Team Blue threw the puck on goal any chance they had in an attempt to tie the game but Pitton was solid in keeping his team up 1-0.
Midway through the period, the tide started to turn once again. A big reason why was the play of Theo Peckham
, who laid out some Team Blue players and did a great job keeping the puck in the zone to help his team maintain pressure.
“I just tried to keep the puck in the zone and take care of my own end before I did something offensive,” Peckham noted.
In one particular series, Peckham kept the puck in the zone twice before pinching in himself and creating a scoring chance. He later dished the puck to O’Marra on that same shift who found Colin McDonald in the slot with a nice pass. It may have resulted in a goal if not for a strong save by Dubnyk.
“I want to become a complete player. I don’t want to bring to the table just my physicalness but it’s definitely one of my assets,” Peckham remarked.
As the second and final period continued on, Spurgeon’s line started to really carry the play. At the 14:01 mark, Goulet fed Spurgeon to send him in on the rush. Dubnyk stopped the initial shot but Spurgeon was able to bang the rebound in behind the Team Blue netminder to make it 2-0.
27 seconds later, Spurgeon put the game away with his second of the game. After a turnover in the high slot, he wrested it five-hole to make it 3-0.
“Both times it was great plays by the wingers,” Spurgeon said of his two goals. “Putting pressure on the D, a couple of turnovers and took it to the net. “First one just backhanded it through five-hole and second one let a quick wrister go.”
Playing with DePape and Goulet, Spurgeon’s line was by far the most effective on the day among all the young players.
“Both those guys were doing a great job moving pucks. We just tried to go out there and keep it simple and we ended up created some offence off that,” he said.
However, Spurgeon knows that despite the strong showing there’s still a long way to go.
“It’s nice to get a start that way but it’s three days, too. One day is not going to make your weekend or your week so you’ve got to stay on it.” NOTES:
Vitaly Karamnov tweaked his back early in the practice session and did not participate in the scrimmage. He said he will try and skate on Saturday and see how it feels.