It’s time to come in from the heat for a new edition of live in-game commentary. We’ve pulled this off with 82 regular season games, and last month’s NHL draft. Today, we’re going to do it during the final day of Wild Prospects Camp where the youngsters will wrap up a week of work with a hard-nosed scrimmage.
This gives us a chance to let you know who’s looking good during game action as a team of scouts, coaches and front office big wigs watch with eager eyes. More importantly, it gives me a chance to cool off after nearly suffering heat stroke eight different times over the weekend.
Some might call it a "blog," but considering my utter disdain for that term, I’m going to keep to the code, and refer to it as "live in-game commentary." It just sounds nicer, even if it requires me to type a few extra characters.
James Sheppard, the Wild’s most recent first round pick is here, as is everybody else with the exception of Shawn Belle, who is still nursing a sore shoulder.
We’ve got a green team, and a white team, but they’re about to begin, so I’ll fill you in who’s where as we go along.
Two players are looking strong early. Danny Irmen of Team Green, has already gotten two solid shots off. But Kristofer Westblom has already made three tough stops in the game’s early going.
Irmen gets another great chance off a Julian Walker centering feed. Irmen gets a stick on the pass as he fights off a defender, but that attempt goes just wide.
Our referee for today’s game is Mike Ramsey, who gets a taste of his own medicine as Assistant General Manager Tom Lynn yells at him from the stands for a blown call. Ramsey is notorious for being hard on the zebras every now and again.
Apple Valley’s Kyle Medvec tries to slam Ryan Jones against the glass in the neutral zone, but it’s Medvec that gets the worst of the hit. Jones braces himself perfectly and the lanky Medvec goes down hard.
The first goal of the game goes to the best hockey name. Cal Clutterbuck winds and fires (sorry, I’m still on baseball terms in July) from the blueline and the puck skitters through traffic and past Miroslav Kopriva for a 1-0 lead for team White.
Miroslav Kopriva rebounds quickly from that goal. He makes a sprawling glove save on Sprunger, who causes a turnover and moves in alone. He appears to have the netminder beaten on the move to the forehand, but Kopriva comes up large and in charge.
Team Green gets on the board courtesy of...Matt Kassian? Skating on a line with Benoit Pouliot the WHL enforcer has a layup goal from the side of the net, putting home a feed from Pouliot. The victim on this goal is 6-foot-7 Niko Hovinen.
Pouliot gets hauled down by Ryan Hamilton after blowing by him with a burst of speed.
This Westblom kid is solid between the pipes thus far today. He calmly flicks out the left leg pillow to deny Peter Olvecky who makes a nice pull up move in the slot before letting go with a hard low wrister.
Julian Walker is the beneficiary of a Danny Irmen feed, and he tips home a shot that draws a smattering of oohs from the viewers in the stands. Irmen and Westblom continue to highlight today’s contest so far.
| Roman Voloshenko showed Monday why he is one of the club’s highly-regarded prospects. |
On the ensuing faceoff, Irmen and Clutterbuck exchange a few shoves, which is typical of a couple agitators like these two. Nothing serious. Just thought I’d point it out.
That’ll do it for period number one. The two teams will retreat to the locker room as the Minnesota Swarm ice resurfacer makes its 2006 debut. The Xcel Energy Great Goalie Races were a late scratch from today’s intermission, due to Dutch Schnell having to drop out to meet with a wedding caterer.
Period number two begins after a saucer pass contest between Ramsey and free agent prospect, Paul Albers. The full benches offer a few good natured barbs to Albers after on errant pass.
James Sheppard comes out of the gates with some gusto in his giddy-up. He makes a nice rush that ends with a backhanded stop getting turned away by Kopriva.
That was just too pretty to describe, but when you have Roman Voloshenko and Benoit Pouliot on a line, good things are going to happen. Those two work a pretty give-and-go, but Pouliot’s shot misfires. He quickly gains control behind the net, centers a no-look feed to Anthony Aiello, and the B.C. Eagle swoops in and buries a wrister off the crossbar and in. Mr. Bob Naegele, Jr. was visibly pleased with that one.
I don’t want to say that Team Green has an unfair advantage, but in looking at their roster, they have Pouliot, Voloshenko, Irmen, Sheppard and Sprunger. That makes for a formidable lineup.
I have to say - knowing that my opinion is worth about as much as a space heater on a day like today - I really like this Westblom kid. He has been up to every challenge thrown at him on this day.
What Danny Irmen was to the first period, Benoit Pouliot is to this period. He has been everywhere with the puck, and here, he fires a missile of a wrister off the crossbar.
Clutterbuck is a feisty little bugger. He stands out on two plays - the first being a rush which ends with him getting stood up by 6’7 tryout defenseman John Scott. Clutterbuck, who is dwarfed by about a foot, still offers up a shove to the behemoth. The next time down, Cal gets loose, makes a nifty move, but is robbed of a goal by Kopriva who snares the puck with his glove from the stacked pads position.
You aren’t going to keep Voloshenko off the board long. He finishes a nice rush for Team Green. He’s starting to look really good too. I’m going to make the call right now that the Houston Aeros will have a solid AHL squad next season.
Westblom may have earned a spot in Houston this year with his performance today. He has been absolutely stellar. His save sparks a rush the other way that ends with...
...speaking of stellar, how about Jean-Michel Bolduc, a Wild draft pick, who this year is a tryout player. He gets his name on the imaginary scoresheet by burying a shot from the slot past Kopriva.
That will do it, as Irmen makes a nice defensive play on a Team White breakaway. Team Green scores a resounding victory and Westblom gets my First Star of the Game honors. That and a quarter will get him a gumball.
Score some solid performances for the big-namers like Pouliot, Irmen, Voloshenko and a nice game from Anthony Aiello as well.