The Battle of Ontario’s prospects ended in triumph for the Senators in an action-packed, end-to-end tilt featuring 12 goals split 7-5.
The night started brightly for the Maple Leafs following Phil Oreskovic’s bout with Geoff Waugh three seconds after puck drop that was seemingly a spill-over of bad blood from last AHL season and/or an arrangement made in warm up. Off an early face-off in the Sens’ zone, Darryl Boyce drew the puck back to 5th overall pick Luke Schenn who fanned on his point-shot only to have it land on Dale Mitchell’s stick and promptly shelved by the Windsor Spitfire with a no-look snap shot. Boyce, skating alongside Mitchell and Stefano Giliati for most of the night, donned the ‘C’ for the Leafs‘ rookies and was the team’s top offensive performer (DiDomenico a close second). The Summerside native looks like he could contribute in the bottom end of an NHL roster one day. Boyce didn’t show any ill-effects of the season-ending shoulder separation as he emphatically threw his weight around with regularity. Boyce will play a prominent role with the Marlies again this year and is likely the first-to-call in the depth chart.
Shortly after Mitchell’s marker, defenseman Korbinian Holzer of the DEL (Germany) had his point-shot tipped by St. John’s Sea Dogs center Chris DiDomenico to make it 2-0 early on in the proceedings. DiDomenico also caught the eye tonight. More gritty and tenacious than I imagined, DiDo provided an energizing presence and gave Sens defenders fits along the end boards. Definitely under-sized for a center, but he plays a smart, two-way game and has the capacity to surprise.
Holzer (4th round pick in ’06) kicked off an unremitting stream of penalties with a holding infraction mid way through the first period. The Senators capitalized quickly after a passing sequence led to a goal by Jesse Winchester.
Slovakian defender Juraj Mikus’ terrible give-away at the blue-line allowed Ilya Zubov to walk in alone on invitee goaltender Michael Ouzas and tie the game at two’s. The pairing of Slovakian defender Juraj Mikus and Marlie blue-liner Phil Oreskovic were regularly undressed one-on-one. A lack of foot-speed and positional sense left me underwhelmed with Mikus of Dukla Trancin.
The Senators gained the lead after Jim O’Brien tipped home a point-shot shortly after the onset of period two. Holzer’s second costly penalty of the night led to Winchester’s second goal of the night off of Karlsson’s rebound. Karlsson, who is a hell of a good looking prospect (sky high mobility and skill level), would then increase the gap between the two sides with a soft wrist-shot from the point that never should’ve beat Ouzas.
Kyle Rogers drew one back late in the second after a deft move opened space for the Niagara U student to finish with aplomb.
Oreskovic was left exposed after an undressing from Benoit Doucet who restored the three goal cushion at 6-3.
During a 5-on-3 advantage late in the third, Schenn slide the puck across to Niagara defenseman Josh Day (invitee), who released a cannon from the point to narrow the gap to 6-4 with a minute left on the score clock. With Ouzas pulled, Day would spoil his effort shortly thereafter, mishandling the puck at the blue-line and allowing the Sens forward a free shot at the yawning cage.
Schenn would record his third helper of the night after defenseman Juha Uotila (signed on Sep.4), an offensive defenseman out of Finland, fired home the Leafs‘ fifth from the point but it was all academic at that point.
On to the hot button topic: Luke Schenn. Impressive. Schenn showed poise, composure and strength way beyond his years. He was immovable by pursuing fore-checkers. He identifies danger, eliminates it, and supplies a reliable outlet pass.
It was one game, but Schenn looks ready physically and mentally. It’s just a question as to whether or not it’s practical to usher him into a crowded Leafs‘ blue-line. I don’t think Schenn needs to be cosseted and we can trust that he’ll be in good hands under Ron Wilson. However, in what has been dubbed a re-building year, it might make more sense for Schenn to log monster minutes with Kelowna, hopefully gain further playoff experience and captain Team Canada at the WJC.
Mikhail Stefanovich. There was the occasional flash of skill from the rangy Belorussian but he was mostly a background figure. His work rate and consistency must improve if he’s to realize his vast but untapped potential.
*Invitee Jadran Beljo, formerly of the London Knights, left the game midway through the second with a shoulder injury.
*Eric Wellwood is faster, bigger and more industrious than Kyle but does not have the innate talent of his older sibling. If you fused the two together you would have one hell of a hockey player. Wellwood scored last night against Pittsburgh in a 5-2 defeat but didn’t accomplish much tonight.
*Joe Cooper, signed by the Leafs on September 4th, offers an energizing physical presence.
*As bad as Mikus was defensively, he showed good vision offensively.
*Dan Rudisuela didn’t dress; neither did summer signing Scott Langdon.
*Mitch O’Keefe started between the posts for Ottawa but Kevin Desfosses took over after the second period.
THOUGHTS FROM YESTERDAY’S FLORIDA – PITTSBURGH GAME:
In warm-ups prior to the Pittsburgh-Florida prospect tilt, there were two noticeable Pens absentees – 51 goal man Luca Caputi of the Niagara Ice Dogs and St. John Sea Dogs defenseman Alex Grant. Both took in the game from the stands dressed in their warm-up tear-aways.
The Panthers’ rookies carried the play in the early stages, but sharp saves by David Brown kept it goal-less. Resident tough-guy Aaron Boogard mixed it up with hometown favourite Mike Duco early on in the proceedings. Boogard would win the bout but was assessed a 10 minute misconduct for his troubles having instigated the tussle by dragging Duco back on the ice as the Kitchener Ranger attempted to change.
The game’s momentum began to shift late in the period as hard work by Kevin Veilleux lead to a goal by Casey Pierro-Zabotel.
Shortly after serving his 10 minute sentence, Boogard returned to the bench only to slew foot an opponent on his next shift. The tripping penalty would carry over into the second frame and compounded with another Pens penalty to put the team at a two man disadvantage.Â It was inevitable that an all-star Panthers’ powerplay unit comprised of Michael Frolik, Michal Repik, Shawn Matthias and Keaton Ellerby would capitalize. So they did just seconds into the 5-on-3 with Repik beating Brown on a rebound.
The Pens would restore the lead 13 minutes into the second period as Dustin Jeffrey beat Panthers’ goaltender David Shantz. David Brown’s night would take a turn for the worst when Kendal McArdle’s soft wrist shot from the point trickled under his blocker arm and past the goal-line while Florida was short-handed. 2 minutes before the second intermission Brown inadvertently dispatched the puck into his own net with his stick while trying to locate the biscuit in a scramble, leaving the Pens 3-2 down going into the third.
A defensive break-down two minutes into the third would send 10th overall pick Michael Frolik in alone on David Brown and the Czech sniper, who looked excellent as a 2006 top 10 pick should in this tournament, finished surely. A Duco slap shot from the half boards should never of beaten Brown but did, although a deflection might have played a part. The Pens suddenly found themselves down 5-2.
Boogard found his second dance partner of the night in David Jarram. Boogard emerged as the clear victor of the bout but this time was assessed a game misconduct and sent to the dressing room.
Brown would save some face with a penalty shot save against Dan Collins.
*Alex Goligoski was in a class of his own amongst the Pens blue-line corps. He showed considerable poise and composure on the team’s back-end and played a strong two-way game. His vision and puck-handling was of the highest-order. “Go-Go” played and thrived in all-situations.
*Jonathan D’Aversa logged a ton of all-situation minutes.
*Elgin Reid was a pleasant surprise as a diminutive but shifty blue-liner who loves jumping in on the attack.
*Kevin Veilleux and Goligoski shared MVP honours in my books.