Though the Wild prospects created an outpouring of offense in the opening round of the 2014 Traverse City NHL Prospects tournament, they weren’t able to pull off a late comeback, falling to the Blue Jackets, 6-4.
Minnesota created plenty of chances, according to Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr, but it simply wasn’t able to finish.
“We had lots of chances to score and go up throughout the second period,” Flahr said. “We didn’t finish when we could have and that was probably the difference. We were in the game with lots of chances, it’s just one of those things. ”
Despite holding a one-goal lead for much of the first and second period before entering the third period tied 2-2, some costly penalties allowed Columbus to take the lead on a pair of power play goals netted by 2013 first rounder Marko Dano.
The Wild drew within one with 1:15 left in the game as forward Zack Mitchell, who Minnesota signed as a free agent last March, deflected in a goal on a faceoff play. About 45 seconds later, the Blue Jackets put the game out of reach, sending home an empty net goal.
Regardless of the outcome on the stat sheet, Flahr noted there were positives to take away from the outing.
“Overall we got better as the game went on — execution and passing and things like that,” Flahr said. “There are lots of things to build on and take those positives and go from there.”
Some of those positives included the individual efforts of a few players. According to Flahr, 2013 second rounder, defenseman Gustav Olofsson, was the Wild’s first star of the game. The Assistant GM also lauded the defensive corps play overall, led by the likes of Matt Dumba and Christian Folin.
Flahr also noted forward and 2013 third rounder Kurtis Gabriel who drove to the net and tallied a goal in the third to tie the game, 4-4.
“That’s what Kurtis is,” Flahr said. “He’s not going to score pretty goals, but he’s a big, strong guy … He can make those chances himself.”
Though these Wild draftees stood out, it was invitee Ryan Walters who made a huge impact early. Walters, a Rosemount, Minn. native, was responsible for the Wild’s first two goals. In the first, he netted a feed from Brady Brassart 7:49 into the period for a 1-0 lead. In the second, he gave the Wild a 2-1 lead at the 8:58 mark with his second of the game.
The Wild is back in action again tomorrow against the Blues at 3 p.m.