After a week of drills and conditioning during the Minnesota Wild's annual Development Camp, prospects and invitees finally got to show off their skills in game situations Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in the first of two scrimmages this weekend.
Both teams staged three goal spurts, but a late goal by Team White knotted the score as they tied Team Green 5-5. The game was played in two 25-minute halves sandwiched around a 15-minute resurfacing break.
Almost 3,300 fans showed up to catch a glimpse of players they hope will be playing in front of them in coming years. With all Wild selections from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in attendance, fans were able to see most of those picks live for the first time. And with the Wild's added emphasis in signing college players in recent years, folks also saw plenty of names familiar to them from watching games at WCHA arenas around the State of Hockey over the last handful of years.
One of those names, Jason Zucker
of the University of Denver, opened scoring at 13:50 of the first half with a snap shot that beat Team Green goaltender Stephen Michalek
through the 5-hole, giving Team White a 1-0 lead.
Zucker's goal was the first of three straight for Team White, as Joel Broda
's wrister beat Michalek after a nice pass by Chad Rau
less than two minutes later.
With eight minutes left in the first half, former University of North Dakota captain Chay Genoway
turned in the play of the day -- beating all five Team Green players on a nifty coast-to-coast play that was reminiscent of plays the former Sioux defenseman made at Ralph Engelstad Arena. He capped the break with a pretty wrap-around goal to make it 3-0 with 7:56 to play before the break.
"We were talking on the bench about how much fun it was to get back out there," Genoway said of getting to play in more of a game atmosphere. "We're all competitive guys. Drills in the middle of summer can sometimes get tiring, especially when you don't have your legs. But when you're in a competitive setting, I don't think it really matters. That's what we're used to."
Team Green finally got on the board a minute later when Zack Phillips
-- the second of the Wild's two first round selections in the most recent draft -- potted a goal thanks to some puck luck. Traffic in front deflected a shot by Marco Scandella
to Phillips, who was all alone at the right circle.
That goal capped first half scoring.
"I try and be an offensive player so it was good to get a couple goals for the fans out there today," Phillips said. "That was important to me, so I'm glad they went in."
Team Green got on the board early in the second half when Dylan Busenius capped a 4-on-3 rush with a goal just three minutes in to make it 3-2.
Perhaps the most recognizable name to the hometown faithful extended the White lead to 4-2 when Wayzata's Mario Lucia
, Minnesota's second round pick in last month's entry draft, took advantage of a turnover and fired a wrister past Green goaltender Matt Hackett
to make it 4-2. The crowd reaction was the loudest of the day, and Lucia had a huge smile on his face as he celebrated with his linemates.
"It was nice to get that first one out of the way," Lucia said. "Going in it was tough, but I was just trying to do my best and it was a nice present to get rewarded with."
With goals by both Genoway and Lucia, Team White got markers from the camp's oldest player (Genoway) and the camp's youngest (Lucia). Genoway just finished his fifth year at UND while Lucia, still a month and change shy of his 18th birthday, wrapped up his career at Wayzata High School.
"When you play against a lot of good players all the time, I think the WCHA is one of the best league's out there. It doesn't hurt to get experience there," Genoway said. "But for [Lucia], he's got lots of time. For him to be out there and play as well as he did, that was pretty impressive."
"Being the youngest here, that was never really in my mindset," said Lucia, who is almost seven years Genoway's junior. "I was a little nervous going in, there were a lot of people here, but I got the nerves out of there after it was 1-0."
Trailing by two, Team Green staged a three-goal outburst of its own to grab a 5-4 lead with just five minutes to play.
Phillips struck again, capping a pretty 2-on-1 rush after a great pass through the defenseman by Kris Foucault. Just 11 seconds later, Apple Valley's Kyle Medvec
blasted a snapshot past White goalie Darcy Kuemper
to tie the scrimmage at 4. Foucault netted a goal of his own from the left circle to give Team Green its first lead at 5-4.
"Foucault made a nice pass to me, I thought he was going to shoot but he made that nice saucer pass and I just slapped at it and it went in," Phillips said of his second tally.
With time running down, invitee Kyle Thomas tied the game with just two minutes remaining. Thomas, out of Division III Norwich, skated around the net, through the left circle, and into the slot, firing a shot from the hashes to beat Hackett.
Neither squad threatened over the final two minutes and Green dominated the full-squad shootout. Among the scorers for Team Green in the shootout were Scandella, Medvec, Johan Larsson
, Jack Connolly. But undoubtedly the highlight of the shootout came from Mikael Granlund
, which was no surprise.
"It's been a long week of workouts and practices so it was to get back to playing," Phillips said. "I think we made a good impression."
The second scrimmage of the weekend and the conclusion of 2011 Wild Prospect Camp is set for 11 a.m. Sunday at Xcel Energy Center. The event is open and free to the public.