It might’ve taken yesterday’s scrimmage for the Houston Aeros to settle into training camp, presented by Andersen Windows, because the second scrimmage at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday was a much livelier affair.
In the first half, Team Green jumped out to a 4-1 lead over Team Red, and held on in the second half, securing a 5-2 victory and a weekend sweep.
Mikael Granlund made an impact with his playmaking ability yesterday, and today he showed off his nose for the net, banging home a rebound goal on Team Green’s first power play of the game. Signed in the summer, Brian Connelly ragged the puck at the blue line and slid a pass to his defense partner, Steven Kampfer, who one-timed a shot on goal. Matt Hackett made the initial save, but kicked the rebound to his left, where Granlund was stationed at the side of the net. The Finnish prospect whacked home the rebound to open the scoring.
Training camp is used to develop chemistry, but also to try and prepare for the season. So, occasionally each team was given a power play opportunity to try and work things out with the man advantage, even if no infraction had occurred. This was the case as Team Red knotted the score, 1-1. Kris Foucault blasted a shot with the man advantage to bring Red even. He took a pass from Tyler Cuma, cut left in the high slot and went low beating goaltender John Curry on the blocker side.
After Foucault’s, Green responded with three straight goals.
Justin Fontaine was the recipient of a fortunate bounce, as Zack Phillips flipped the puck in on net. The lofted dump-in took a bounce before hitting goaltender Matt Hackett, and rebounded right onto the tape of Fontaine. The former University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog controlled the bouncing puck and fired it over the shoulder of an outstretched Hackett for a quick strike.
The good bounces continued for Team Green as Jarod Palmer scored his first goal on the weekend taking a carom off of the end boards. Colton Jobke fired a slap shot wide of the net, and the puck fortuitously found Palmer’s tape. The former Miami University RedHawk fired the puck high into the open net.
No luck was needed for Team Green’s fourth goal, as Charlie Coyle finished off a beautiful passing play to make it 4-1. Connolly again started the play, cutting across the blue line and fired a cross-ice pass to Jason Zucker. The former Denver Pioneer skated the puck to the left faceoff dot and found Coyle stationed on the right side of the net for a tap in goal.
In the second half, Team Red came out strong and cut the lead to two goals on a Johan Larsson rebound. Marco Scandella started the play with a slap shot from the point, which Larsson deflected on its way to goaltender Darcy Kuemper. The goalie made the initial save, but Larsson picked up the rebound and shelved a backhand over Kuemper. Larsson was impressive offensively for the Red team, and showed signs of the skill that made him the Rookie of the Year in the Swedish Elite League last season.
Despite their opportunities, Larsson’s goal was the last for the Red Team, as Kuemper shut the door for the rest of the scrimmage. Kuemper was again impressive, allowing only one goal on the weekend. At the other end of the rink, Matt Hackett shut down the Green team in the second half. Houston looks like it again will be served well in net this season with Hackett and Kuemper.
Phillips added an empty net goal to end the game and sealed Team Green’s victory, 5-2, and a weekend sweep over Team Red. The State of Hockey showed its support for the Wild’s prospects, with 2,500 fans attending the two scrimmages at Xcel Energy Center on the weekend.
Aeros staff and players will depart for Houston following today’s session. The team will hit the ice at the Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center in suburban Houston for the first time on Tuesday, Oct. 2. Houston begins its preseason games by visiting the Texas Stars on Wednesday, Oct. 3. Houston opens it regular season action at home against the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday, Oct. 13.