By Glenn Odebralski for floridapanthers.com
Hockey Day in South Florida was a hit for the fans and the coaches and players a like as Saveology.com Iceplex was packed to watch Team White down Team Blue 3-2 in a scrimmage to cap a day long of festivities.
Starting early Sunday morning, head coach Peter DeBoer and the rest of the Panthers and Amerks coaches held a coaching clinic for 30 South Florida youth coaches.
And then the Panthers hit the ice for an hour long practice at one pm with one team practicing on the Panther Den and the other on the Mezzanine ice before coming together for the scrimmage at two.
"I thought overall that it was a good scrimmage," said DeBoer. "We went hard yesterday for three hours between on ice and off ice. Today we practiced a good hour before the scrimmage. I was happy to see the tempo stayed where it was considering that."
There were inflatables outside the rink and a used equipment sale in and after the clock hit 0:00, the whole team walked between the fans signing autographs.
Each of the rinks were busy throughout with numerous youth games being battled out.
In the main event, Team Blue jumped out to a 1-0 lead as Rostislav Olesz set up Steven Reinprecht midway through the first half (two halfs of 25 minutes, running time), with Reinprecht roofing the puck over a downed Tomas Vokoun.
New forward acquisition Michael Grabner knotted the score at one before the half ended however after converting on a penalty shot against Scott Clemmensen
The Panthers suffered a scare right before the first half ended as Michael Frolik went hard into the boards after his stick got caught in the net. He did return to the ice in the second half of the game.
Tyler Plante (for Clemmensen) and Jacob Markstrom
(for Vokoun) took over between the pipes for the second half and Team White capitalized on the change as Chris Higgins beat Plante for two goals to give them a 3-1 lead.
"It feels good but just because it's the first scrimmage," said Higgins about the production. "I've been along enough to know that it doesn't mean absolutely anything but it's an important year for me as far as the offensive end goes. I'm just trying to take it game by game and get off on the right foot."
Team Blue made it close in the end as Frolik scored from the doorstep with just over two minutes to play. They had a chance to tie it as time expired but the puck went high over the net.
"We're getting right into things so that's good," said defenseman Dennis Wideman.
"You can go out and you can practice but you can't simulate what it's like in a game and everything is flying at you and there's a little reading and reacting and battling in the corners. You can't simulate that in practice so it's good to get out and scrimmage."