With only five days from the start of training camp and the start of the regular season, the Panthers changed up their practice schedule and hosted a night scrimmage to prepare for the season.
Panther fans packed the Saveology.com Iceplex on Wednesday night to give those players a game-like atmosphere. It started from the get go as the packed Iceplex welcomed Panther players to the ice with loud cheers and applause.
“I think we accomplished everything we wanted to tonight,” said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen. “We wanted to get a good feel for an evening game. We wanted to have a high tempo pace and fortunately for us, I think we had a very high turnout by a bunch of people that are excited to see hockey back.”
The first period had a couple of scoring chances on each side and saw chippy play but ended in a scoreless tie with both Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen starting off strong in goal.
“I felt really good,” said Theodore following the scrimmage. “It was fun to have a game, a real 15-minutes stop time kind of thing.”
A mid-game shootout then ensued as Team White netminder Theodore stopped all three shots including attempts by Stephen Weiss, Scottie Upshall and Kris Versteeg. Peter Mueller, Jonathan Huberdeau and Mike Santorelli all had better luck on Team Red goaltender Clemmensen as they all found the back of the net on several nice moves.
The second period saw back and forth action for both teams once again. Team Red got off to a good start with a few good shots on Clemmensen. However, Team White came back with a quality scoring chance from Mueller and a few good chances towards the end. The second period would also end in a scoreless tie as Theodore and Clemmensen made several in close stops.
“No matter what the score is out there, not much to read into it,” said Clemmensen. “But it’s fun to be back playing competively, very structured and everybody going all out again.”
“There was lot’s of chances,” said forward Tomas Kopecky. “I think the guys are trying to pass to each other more often in these scrimmages. This scrimmage, we have to treat it like it’s a game.”
During the second shootout, Tomas Fleischmann was stopped by Theodore as was Alex Kovalev by Clemmensen. Marek Svatos would be the first to score shooting top shelf on Clemmensen while Shawn Matthias came back for Team Red scoring with a nice move around Theodore. Final shooters Brian Campbell and Jack Skille were stopped so the shootout ended in a 1-1 tie.
A five-minute overtime once again ended in a scoreless tie although there were many scoring chances by both teams. After a second five-minute overtime, the score was still at 0-0, which is how the game would end.
“The intensity was there,” said Dineen. “I think we got a little tuckered out at the end. It’s exciting to see some guys returning that had some jump to them.”
The players ended the scrimmage in thanking fashion by going to center ice and giving a fan salute to the cheering fans.
While the goaltenders ruled the night, the Panthers did take some things away heading into the season opener on Saturday against Carolina.
“It’s a building process,” said Theodore. “It’s going to happen quick. Tonight you could see a lot of guys that wanted to push. For myself, I really wanted to try and approach like it’s a real game because normally you have three-four pre-season games to get your rhythm going.”
“When it comes to Saturday, all the teams are going to be gunning for every point,” said Kopecky. “We have to be ready and keep it more simple, especially from the beginning and the first couple of games.”