Despite a strong effort in net behind and an offensive effort that saw no shortage of opportunities, the Wild prospects fell 3-1 Thursday night to the Red Wings in the opening round of the Traverse City Tournament.
While the Wild took the loss, Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr was pleased with initial effort the young prospects put on the ice.
“Our guys got their feet wet with systems, which are new for a lot of these guys,” Flahr said. “It’s a young group, a lot of tryouts, but they played hard. They came to play.”
Goaltender Johan Gustafsson allowed three goals over the course of the game, but he made 32 saves, giving the club a chance to stay in the contest. Something Flahr didn’t fail to notice, naming the netminder his star of the game.
“He played well,” Flahr said. “He kept us in the game early and kept it close. He played solid.”
While Gustafsson kept the Wild in the game, the offense was unable to capitalize on its chances. That is somewhat expected with a number of player skating together for the first time and getting their first taste of game action of the season.
Eventually the Wild got on the board at the 17:59 mark of the third period, capitalizing off a turnover created by forward Kurtis Gabriel. Fellow forward Tyler Graovac tapped in a pass from Oliver Archambault from behind the net.
“It was a nice goal,” Flahr said. “Nice puck movement and something that we’re trying to do and to get rewarded.”
But the tally wasn't enough to overcome the Red Wings' three-goal lead. Forward Andreas Anthanasiou led the way, scoring Detroit’s first two goals of the evening at the 17:26 mark of the first and the 2:56 mark of the second respectively. Riley Sheahan netted their final score of the night 31 seconds into the final frame.
While Flahr noted the guys played stronger as the game went on, their shortcomings were simply a result of not executing.
“We had a tough time just making plays. Whether it wasn’t moving our feet or not making passes at the right time, or turnovers,” Flahr said. “That’s kind of expected this time of the year, the first game. The guys are nervous and haven’t skated together before. It was a little scrambly both ways, but we had a couple opportunities to score, a couple power plays, and we didn’t bear down our chances and it cost us.”
Flahr also noted that prospects like Gustafsson, defenseman Matt Dumba and forward Zack Phillips played well, just as he expected. With some tryouts on its roster, forward Cater Sandlak stood out early — taking a major penalty for fighting in the first — and was credited as Flahr’s tryout star.
“He had five or six big, big hits and the fight which got our team going,” Flahr said. “He brought some leadership too so it was good to see.”
In its next matchup, the Wild will face St. Louis at 6 p.m. Friday.