It was a picturesque, early morning for 3,500 Minnesota Wild fans at Xcel Energy Center, as the team hosted an open practice.
Along with the inaugural Wild Breakaway Run through downtown Saint Paul, the highlight of the day was an up-tempo scrimmage between Groups B (sporting Green) and C (wearing White). The scrimmage was split into two halves, with the first 20 minutes accounting for all seven of the contest’s goals. After giving up the first goal, Green scored three unanswered and eventually won, 5-2.
After spending the last two years in the Swiss Elite League skating with the HC Geneve-Servette, Cody Almond signed with the Wild in the offseason, returning to the organization. From 2009-2012, his first three years as a pro, he split time between the Wild and the club’s American Hockey League affiliate at the time, Houston Aeros. He decided to make the trek overseas so that he could work on his game, primarily in the offensive zone. Well, if today was any indication, the decision has paid dividends, as Almond paced the Green team with a goal and an assist.
“It was a little better pace today,” Almond said. “I think everyone’s got the first-day jitters over with so there were some better plays and some nice goals.”
With his team trailing by a goal, Almond took a pass from Brett Bulmer, cut around a defender and popped the puck into the upper-left corner of the net past goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
“It was a nice pass from my linemate, Brett Bulmer,” Almond said. “I saw the goalie go down a little early and chipped it over his shoulder. It wasn’t the hardest shot in the world, but it went in.”
The pair combined to help set up Green’s fourth goal, as well. Bulmer made a strong move to the net, holding off defender Stu Bickel, took a sprawling shot on goal. Kuemper made the save, but the rebound popped onto the sick of Almond at the right side of the net. He settled the puck and slid it across the crease to a wide-open Stephane Veilleux for a tap in.
Although it was only the second day of training camp, there was a pair of highlight-reel goals.
On the first score of the game, White used deft passing to start things off. Jason Zucker carried the puck across the blue line and whipped a cross-ice pass to Justin Fontaine. The former UMD Bulldog was at the side of the net with a bad angle, so he one-touched a pass back into the slot onto the tape of Brett Sutter, who whacked it into an empty net. Green goaltender Niklas Backstrom didn’t have a chance on the play.
Wild Captain Mikko Koivu closed out the scoring for Green. The center took the puck wide to his backhand, then used his reach to cut around to his forehand and tucked the puck behind the outstretched Kuemper.
There was no scoring in the second half, as things tightened up and goaltenders Ilya Bryzgalov (White) and Johan Gustafsson (Green) shut the door.
After the game, there was a short shootout. Thomas Vanek and Koivu, unveiling a forehand-backhand-forehand move, scored on Bryzgalov. Free agent signee Michael Keranen made a beautiful, one-handed backhand move a la Peter Forsberg, to beat Gustafsson.