LONDON, ON. — The Montreal Canadiens opened their 2015 Rookie Training Camp at Budweiser Arena in London, Ontario on Friday. 26 Habs prospects are participating in a weekend tournament with rookies from the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators.
Practice / Pre-game
At 9:30 am. the Canadiens rookies took the ice for their game day skate, just six and half hours before their opening game of the Rookie Tournament with all skaters on the 26-man roster participating in practice. Head Coach Sylvain Lefebvre had his players begin by working on line rushes and screened point shots. As the practice wore on, Lefebvre rehearsed his squad on faceoffs and backdoor plays, something the Habs used notoriously.
The Canadiens had four healthy scratches for the game against the Penguins including rearguards Travis Brown, Josiah Didier and forwards Sam Studnicka and Jamal Watson. Three of the players were invitees to camp indicating coach Lefebvre wanted to focus on his own players.
The Canadiens went with a first line of Nikita Scherbak along with Charles Hudon at centre and Daniel Carr on the other flank, the duo of Hudon – Carr having a lot of success last season with the former AHL Hamilton Bulldogs. The remaining lines suited up as Tim Bozon – Mike McCarron – Jeremy Gregoire, Connor Crisp – Daniel Audette – Dryden Hunt and Brandon McNally – Angelo Micelli – Jeremiah Addison.
The first period saw two fights starting with Dalton Thrower and Evan Wardley, followed by Jeremy Gregoire versus Matt Murphy. They were two good fights to say the least.
Before the period ended, J.S. Dea set up Scott Wilson with a beautiful cross-ice feed for the game’s opening goal. Zach Fucale had no chance to make the save. It was a beautiful pass and an even better shot.
The Canadiens had two powerplays in the first period, including a long 5-on-3, however they could not capitalize on either of the opportunities. The period ended with the Penguins up 1-0.
The Penguins and Canadiens each struck twice in the second period. Montreal tied the game at one with Jeremiah Addison notching his first of the tournament from Angelo Miceli and Brandon McNally. Then the Pens Ty Loney was hauled down on a breakaway by Charles Hudon but somehow managed to slide the puck through Fucale to give his Penguins a 2-1 lead.
Later in the period, Daniel Carr finished a two-on-one on a cross crease feed from Angelo Miceli to tie things up. However seconds later, Penguins forward Oskar Sundqvist scored from the slot allowing the Penguins to retake the lead. Sundqvist’s goal was assisted by Dominik Simon and Tyler Biggs.
Both Canadiens forwards Nikita Scherbak and Angelo Micelli were nicked up in the second but they both returned later in the period. There were two posts hit in the second, Penguins Mickael Beaureguard on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle and Canadiens Charles Hudon on a four on one. Hudon decided against passing to take a slap shot and he hit the cross bar. The physical play and roughness subsided a little bit in the second period as both teams got more comfortable.
As the third period began, the Penguins had a shot advantage of 34-to-25. The first few minutes of the period came and went without much of a whimper, then Canadiens Charles Hudon laid a hit to the mid-section of Evan Wardley. The Penguins defenceman went down in severe pain. When helped to the dressing room by his teammates Wardley could not put any weight on his right leg suffering an apparent severe knee injury.
With 11:05 left in the final frame, Nikita Scherbak took a two-minute penalty for cross-checking but the Penguins could not capitalize on the power-play. Through the next seven or so minutes, Fucale came up big on two occasions to keep his team within one. With less than two minutes left the Penguins were issued a bench minor for too many men on the ice. With Fucale pulled for a 6-on-4 advantage, Angelo Micelli and Nikita Scherbak set up Tim Bozon for the game-tying goal with only 1:09 left in the game. The teams remained tied and headed off to 3-on-3 overtime.
3-on-3 overtime is always very fast-paced and fun for the fans to watch. The crowd at Budweiser Gardens relished the back and forth game especially a flurry of action in the span of a minute or so. The Canadiens Hudon rang the post on a 2-on-1 to be quickly followed by Daniel Carr driving to the net only to see the puck squeak past the gaping Penguins cage. Within seconds it was the Pens 2015 second round pick Daniel Sprong with a breakaway chance. Sprong deked Fucale to score the game-winner to give the Penguins won their first victory of the rookie tournament by a score of 4-3.
The Canadiens got off to a slow start in the first period being outshot 7-1 very early in the game. Zach Fucale held the fort early with the Canadiens fortunate to only trail 1-0 after the first frame. Once the second period started, the Habs rookies had their legs under them, seemed more comfortable, and made adjustments.
Angelo Micelli took the offence on his back with his three primary assists. As both teams became more comfortable, play started to open up a bit more. The Canadiens showed a desperate side to tie it late in teh third period. However Sprong’s nice move in overtime ultimately sunk the Canadiens.
The Penguins take on the Senators on Saturday, September 12th at 4 pm. The Canadiens are matched against the Maple Leafs in the later game at 7:35 pm., the second game for each team.
Nikita Scherbak’s entire post-game scrum
My one-on-one with the game’s 3rd star, Angelo Micelli
Post-game scrum with coach Sylvain Lefebvre