Following an organizational shift towards a more competitive atmosphere, the youngsters at the Caps’ Rookie Camp divided into two teams and got it on tonight, a welcome bit of talented and well-contested hockey amongst yet another humid scorcher in the D.C. Metro area.
The setup is two refs, and instead of playing three 20 minute periods, there will be two 30 minute halves, with the a running clock. I didn’t see any penalties called, and the faceoffs gave new meaning to the term ‘hurry-up’. We were stationed at one end of the rink, so we caught the action from our vantage point much easier, and it was somewhat confusing the action at the other end.
The Susan O’Malley Memorial Attendance Count: 17,833
It was hard-working affair with excellent pace of action, with several solid hits being thrown early. Oskar Osala, in particular, was a physical presence, throwing 4 big hits, and also placing a well-aimed cross-check to the back of the head of an opposing forward. He didn’t figure in the scoring from our vantage point, but his physical presence was well-noted and Darren Machesny won’t remember Osala crashing his cage fondly.
Jamie Hunt was also involved in the physical side of the game, and at one point he and Osala had a 15 second long battle for a loose puck along the boards that warmed the heart — neither player gave an inch.
Reigning QJMHL MVP Matheiu Perreault was conspicuous for his ability, and with his stick-handling and willingness to go into the heart of the defense more than once. He used his puckhandling well in the first half, throwing a deke then beating Varlamov who didn’t know where the puck was until it was behind him.
Big Joe Finley showed some surprising vision, making two excellent head-man passes springing a forward for a scoring chance. He had a few errors as well, particularly in bringing the puck up the ice himself. One of the funniest moments of the night involved forward Andrew Gordon bringing up the puck along the right boards, with Finley lining him up for the big hit. Gordon, who has played against Finley in the NCAA, wanted no part of it, jumping to avoid the hit and gladly surrendering possession of the biscuit to the big defender.
Gordon’s discretion involved him and Joudrey in maybe the best passing play of the night, with the pair working the puck, then one going behind the opposition net and resulting in a centering feed which Patrick McNeill buried. Gordon followed that up with an excellent shift later in the game, showing determination on the forecheck and throwing a solid bump on an opposing defender on the breakout.
Swedish import Nicklas Backstrom didn’t stand out offensively outside of a few slick puck-handling moves, but his defensive awareness is sound — he worked diligently and effectively on the backcheck, and gave good effort on the defensive side of the ice.
Russian wrecking ball Viktor Dovgan continued his physical brand of hockey, but may have been most obvious when his kamikaze style caused him to miss a check and windmill kick the boards.
Darren Machesny had a decent game, giving up a rattling 5-hole tally, but also doing well to look through a screen to save a tipped point shot.
Other random observations: Francois Bouchard had two solid chances on net, including a flashy run swooping in from the right that caused some goaltender stress. Sean Collins made a strong feed to a streaking forward while skating backwards at an awkward angle into a defensive corner. Karl Alzner is as smooth as advertised, making the right decision in most situations.
Kettler IcePlex’ first taste of NHL talent competing was clearly a happy occurrence for all: employees could be seen watching from the offices, and General Manager George McPhee and Ted Leonsis observed the proceedings from the porch overlooking center ice.
My personal player of the game was Oskar Osala, who played with high energy and had a decidedly hard edge to his game. Jamie Hunt was physical, but combined it with several clever offensive forays, and Matheiu Perreault played a creative and fearless game, and both deserve mention.
The White team won the game 5 – 3, but the real winners were those who had a chance to quit the humidity and enjoy well-fought puck.