The Vancouver Canucks smoke the Calgary Flames 7-1 in Penticton Young Stars tournament debut
Photo credit:@degermanfoto on IG
2 months ago
Yes! You read that correctly! Hockey’s back!!!!
Mercifully, the dog days of summer are drawing to a close and hockey season is back within arm’s reach. The Young Stars tournament is a must-watch annual institution for Western Canadian hockey fans everywhere, bringing us one step closer to the 2023-24 season.
The Young Stars has always been a favourite of mine, as the stakes are simultaneously very low and extremely high. It’s a tournament for invitees to throw hits and chuck mitts, trying to earn an AHL or NHL contract. It’s a proving ground for teams’ top prospects to show why they were drafted in the first place as they match up head-to-head against other clubs’ top prospects. It’s an opportunity for returning prospects to pad their highlight reels and show their coaching staff what they improved over the offseason. Simply put, it’s hockey at its purest and most fun for fans.
The Canucks rolled into the tournament with the deepest roster in terms of experience. Four players entered the tournament with NHL games under their belt: Aidan McDonough, Aatu Räty, Akito Hirose, and Cole McWard. Danila Klimovich led all skaters in AHL experience with 129 games played.
The Edmonton Oilers brought a team light on pro experience of any kind. Six Oilers skaters featured on the Bakersfield Condors last season, with eight appearing in games in the ECHl or AHL at all. ATO (amateur try-out player) Xavier Bernard was the Oilers’ most experienced skater of the bunch, featuring in 50 AHL and 43 ECHL games over the past two years.
The Winnipeg Jets brought a team light on experience but brought the tournament’s deepest “top prospect” pool, with Colby Barlow, Chaz Lucius, and Brad Lambert featuring on their forward group.
The Calgary Flames entered Young Stars with the tournament’s #1 prospect in Matthew Coronato, who scored 20 goals for Harvard in the NCAA last season before putting up three goals and five assists with Team USA at the World Cup.
With that barebones analysis of roster composition, let’s get into the Canucks first game of the tournament!
Scratched for Vancouver was defenceman Kirill Kudrayatsev, who is almost certainly a bust based on this roster maneuver.
Sorry, I have a migraine. Do not take a lot of my snide remarks seriously.
Editor’s note (Faber): Throughout this article.
Three men in a trenchcoat took the ceremonial puck drop for the Calgary Flames prospect group. Though, on second look, it was likely the 6’8″ behemoth Adam Klapka. Taking the puck drop for Vancouver was centerman Max Sasson, who signed out of Western Michigan last season and was a great add to the AHL centre depth for Abbotsford’s playoff run.
The fanbase has spent the past couple of weeks excitedly pumping the tires of Akito Hirose to an unfathomably high PSI. Naturally, he brought the game to its first stoppage by icing the puck.
Hirose figured on a pair with Hunter Brzustewicz throughout the opening frame where, outside of the initial icing, the two dominated possession in the offensive zone with crisp d-to-d passing to create space for shot attempts from the point.
Approaching the five-minute mark of the first period, Arshdeep Bains, Josh Bloom, and Aatu Räty combined for the first substantial scoring chance of the game. Bains kickstarted the sequence with a slick floating pass through traffic to a racing Bloom on the right wing. Bloom showed some quick hands on the sequence, receiving Bains’ pass and immediately tapping the puck cross-ice to Räty at the net front.
The Canucks were all over the Flames’ prospects early. The following scoring chance came off a neat play behind the net set up by Max Sasson for Aidan McDonough.
The Flames’ first sustained pressure in the Canucks’ zone didn’t come until the midway point of the period. Despite some misplays of the puck behind the goal line by Brzustewicz, the line of Klimovich, Sasson, and Räty did well to disrupt shooting lanes and hold the Flames to low-danger shots off the blue line.
Then the big man scored.
Let’s rewind a bit first, though.
Off the bench, Vilmer Alriksson immediately cruises onto a loose puck for a backhand chance on net.
The big man then plays the puck back to the blue line to Cole McWard before angling back to the slot. Using his big frame to screen the goalie, Alriksson gets a clean deflection on McWard’s shot to squeak one by Calgary’s Matt Radomsky to make it 1-0 for Vancouver.
GOAL – 1-0 Vancouver Canucks – Vilmer Alriksson (1) from Cole McWard
I’d never hear the end of it from Chris Faber if I didn’t include this clean faceoff win by Dmitry Zlodeyev that led to a wild point shot from Sawyer Mynio.
Editor’s note (Faber): Zlodeyev won four draws and lost two by my count. 66.6% is pretty good for the kid they call ‘villain’.
With under four minutes remaining in the first, McDonough drew the evening’s first penalty, a tripping call against Jaden Lipinski. For the game’s first power play, a unit featuring Bains, Bowman, Brzustewicz, Klimovich, and Räty hopped over the boards first. Unfortunately, they didn’t generate much.
Then, the club rolled out a unit featuring Filip Johansson, Hirose, McDonough, Alriksson and Sasson.
Max Sasson kickstarted the goal sequence, drawing Matt Coronato out of the slot to open up the ice for McDonough in the right circle. McDonough then put the moves on a Flames defender to create enough separation for a wicked wrist shot over Radomsky’s blocker side.
GOAL – 2-0 Vancouver Canucks – Aidan McDonough (1) from Max Sasson (1)
Now, it wouldn’t be a Vancouver Canucks game without a poor line change resulting in a high-danger rush scoring chance against!
Fortunately, Nikita Tolopilo stood (quite literally) tall to make his <checks notes> second save of the night.
And then we were off to the second period.
Adam Klapka kept the good vibes going for Canucks Nation when he took a hooking penalty in the opening 30 seconds of the middle frame.
The good vibes didn’t carry to the man-advantage, however. Outside of blocked shots from Sasson and Johansson, the Canucks’ power play struggled to muster any considerable offence.
After a lengthy shift hemmed inside the d-zone, Karel Plasek gave the Canucks their first real chance of the period, springing Dmitry Zlodeyev on a breakaway with a nifty backhand pass from the high slot.
Johansson featured in the game’s first lowlight of the night. Caught out on a much-too-long shift, the dead-tired Johansson was caught overreaching and stumbling around Tolopilo’s crease following a Flames’ zone entry. After having his pocket picked, a sprawling Johansson could only watch as a shot from Adam Klapka ricocheted off of Lucas Ciona and past Tolopilo to put the Flames within one.
GOAL – 2-1 Vancouver Canucks – Lucas Ciona (1) from Adam Klapka
After effectively sleepwalking through the first period, the Flames woke up in the second, testing Tolopilo early and often off the rush.
Following a speedy rush chance from Sasson, Klimovich, and McDonough, the Flames responded in kind with a cross-ice play that forced Tolopilo into heroics.
You could hear Quadrelli celebrating the post-integration from here in Port Moody.
Tolopilo’s save allowed the Canucks to reset, giving way to a nasty toe-drag goal from Marc Gatcomb that regained the two-goal lead.
GOAL – 3-1 Vancouver Canucks – Marc Gatcomb (1) from Sawyer Mynio
No notes. Very cool move.
Past the midway point of the frame, Quinn Schmiemann and Lucas Ciona got in a little scrap after getting tied up behind Tolopilo’s net. It was not worth wasting GIPHY’s bandwidth. Schmiemann drew an extra minor penalty for the fray, handing the Flames their first power play of the game.
To start the penalty kill, Jeremy Colliton rolled out a unit featuring Josh Bloom, Räty, Hirose, and McWard, who promptly lost the draw but cleared the zone.
The next group on the PK for Vancouver was Johansson, Mynio, Sasson and Bains, with Marc Gatcomb and Dmitry Zlodeyev replacing Sasson-Bains as the third-up PK forward pair.
Ultimately, it was a successful kill for the Canucks and another excellent period overall. Though they nearly gave up their two-goal lead in the dying minutes of the period following a brutal lapse in coverage.
After being turned around watching a routine dump-in, Rory Kerins took advantage of a sleepy Brzustewicz to set up Matt Coronato for a violent one-timer off of Tolopilo’s blocker.
Klimovich rounded out the period with a tenacious forechecking effort, attempting to force multiple turnovers.
Early into the period, Jaden Lipinski took his second minor penalty of the night to hand the Canucks a third power play opportunity.
The first unit struggled to get shots through traffic, and the second unit gave up a shorthanded chance after Klimovich lost a board battle. Though they didn’t score, they didn’t get scored on! #LittleVictories!
The man advantage didn’t matter, though! Off an offensive zone faceoff win by Max Sasson, Cole McWard picked up his second point of the night with a slick goal off a deflection.
GOAL – 4-1 Vancouver Canucks – Cole McWard (1) from Max Sasson (2)
Seconds later, Vancouver’s Jacob Maillet capitalized on a brutal turnover from Charles Cote for a nasty shot past a screened Radomsky.
GOAL – 5-1 Vancouver Canucks – Jacob Maillet (1) unassisted
It was more power play time for Calgary after the Maillet goal. Fortunately, the Canucks’ penalty kill stood tall for a second time, holding the Flames power play to the perimeter with crisp player rotations around the high slot and active sticks down low to disrupt shooting lanes.
More positivity about the Canucks’ youth group came midway through the period, with Brzustewicz showing well reacting to a developing Flames’ rush through the neutral zone, boxing out and wrestling puck possession back before springing McDonough out of the Canucks’ d-zone with a simple outlet pass.
Josh Bloom almost picked up his first goal of the tournament past the midway point of the third after nearly redirecting a pass from Arshdeep Bains off his shinpads and into the net.
Late in the period, William Stromgren took a tripping penalty to hand the Canucks their fourth power play of the game. After shattering the bones of two Flames’ penalty killers with a slap shot, Akito Hirose set up Filip Johansson for his first goal of the game, a nasty snipe from the top of the left circle.
GOAL – 6-1 Vancouver Canucks – Filip Johansson (1) from Akito Hirose (1)
Not long after Johansson’s power play snipe, Karel Plasek capitalized on a rebound from an Aatu Räty point shot to pick up his first goal of the tournament.
GOAL – 7-1 Vancouver Canucks – Karel Plasek (1) from Aatu Räty (1)
Plasek had missed the net on several scoring chances earlier in the game, so it was great to see him finally hammer one home.
Seven goals. Seven different goalscorers.
Baby, it feels good to be back! Even if it’s a for-fun tournament where reading into anything too much is a foolish thing to do!
In the meantime, start planning the parade.
CanucksArmy Three Stars
Max Sasson earns our first star of the night for his two assists while pulling power play, penalty kill, and 1st line center duties. He was a threat every time he was on the ice, consistently setting his linemates up for high-danger scoring chances while never taking a break on his defensive obligations. Sasson looked great in Abbotsford’s Calder Cup Playoff run on a line with Kyle Rau and Nils Höglander. It’s nice to see him carry that momentum into this tournament.
The second star belongs to Cole McWard for the sheer volume of offensive contributions made from the blue line. Don’t be surprised if he sees some power play action later in the tournament. His shot from the line is legit against this level of competition.
Sure, he didn’t face much in the way of total shot volume. But our third star belongs to Nikita Tolopilo (no, Quadrelli didn’t tell me I had to pick him) for coming up big whenever the team needed him to. Several times, the Flames capitalized on bad defensive coverage from the Canucks rookie d-group to spark omega-danger chances (NaturalStatTrick, patent pending). Were it not for Tolopilo’s steady and giant hands in the crease, this game could have been much closer and potentially way messier for Vancouver.
The Canucks’ young stars return Sunday for a matinee game against the Winnipeg Jets’ young stars.
Editor’s note (Faber): The Canucks will play the Jets on Sunday 2:00 pm PT and then wrap-up the tournament with a 1:30 pm PT game against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.
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