Friday, September 11, 2015

Penticton 2015: Flames 3, Jets 1 - Ten Post-Game Impressions (with quotes)

The Flames opened the Young Stars rookie tournament in Penticton on Friday night with a 3-1 win over Winnipeg at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Here are 10 takeaways from a Calgary perspective, including player reaction.

Did You Miss it? Friday's game preview -- that you can read here -- posted after the morning skate, included conversations with:
  • Kenny Agostino - On adjusting to the AHL and his red-hot finish to the season.
  • Emile Poirier - On how No. 28 came about and a "stressful" first six NHL games.
  • Andrew Mangiapane - On his size and why he actually prefers playing his off-wing.

There were also quick quotes from Bill Arnold, Sam Bennett and Hunter Smith.

Ten Post-Game Impressions

1. Magic-iapane

Man, we sure saw lots of flash from Andrew Mangiapane as the highly-skilled 5-foot-10 sparkplug set up both goals. The first one by Bryce Van Brabant from the top of the face-off dot came after Mangiapane dipsy doodled around at least three Jets defenders.

"He's a shifty little guy, he's super skilled and does everything at high speeds. He's exciting to watch," said Van Brabant.

For more on the Flames sixth round pick from 2015 including when he switched from centre and why he likes playing right wing despite being a left shot, see the game preview.

2. Everybody Up

It's safe to say coach Bob Hartley hasn't strayed from his team's entertaining playing style from last season that is replicated in the AHL. We know this because Friday night was same old, same old as the Flames defence were continually and quickly jumping up into the rush whenever opportunity knocked. One guy particularly noticeable in that regard was Brett Kulak, who found himself closer to the opposing net than his own on a few occasions.

"You see his quickness and because of his speed and how he can move laterally and straight ahead, he's got confidence to maybe try a few things," said AHL/Penticton coach Ryan Huska. "He's feeling pretty good about himself right now and I thought it showed in his game tonight. exciting to watch."

3. Dynamite Pro Debut

Jon Gillies wasn't busy early but he was good. Then he got really busy later and was great, finishing with 25 saves.

Having no chance on the tic-tac-toe goal that beat him, one of his best saves was a superb pad stop in the second period when Andrew Copp was sprung in alone but as he cut across the face of the net, Gillies acrobatically stuck out his left leg and somehow kept the puck from crossing the line.

"I tried to keep it out and then the kid that came in to try and hit the puck after that, he just hit my pad, he missed the puck completely and the puck just squirted back out for me to cover," recalled Gillies.

The 6-foot-4 native of Maine was back at it again in the third period, using his size to be big in the net and thwart Copp on another dangerous shot from 15 feet out after he was neatly set-up in front.

"That was a phenomenal team effort tonight," Gillies said. "You saw (Sieloff) going down and blocking shots left and right, everyone on the PK on that 5-on-3, they didn't even get a shot. That's how committed our team was to blocking shots and doing the little things. Awesome job."

Huska liked what he saw from the guy likely to be between the pipes for a large majority of Stockton's games this season.

"Big, that's the one thing I noticed," said Huska. "When he gets across quickly, it's hard to beat him because of his size. I thought he was very good tonight. It was a good first impression and hopefully it's a sign of good things to come for him."

4. Human Earthquake

This is not breaking news but goodness, Hunter Smith is tall and when he lays a bodycheck, the glass rattles forever and the boards shake. In fact, there are still tremors being felt around the Okanagan at this moment.

There are three older players in the organization that hope to turn pro instead of return to junior and of the three -- Keegan Kanzig (had some miscues on Friday) and Morgan Klimchuk (was not a factor against the Jets) being the others -- Smith would top my list if I was to rank them in terms of being ready to play in the AHL. He's just too damn big to go back to the OHL.

5. Missing in Action

Not sure exactly what happened but highly-touted defenceman Oliver Kylington left the game very early and was held out the rest of the night for precautionary reasons. He was on the receiving end of a Brendan Lemieux hit just prior so perhaps that was the culprit. He's listed as day-to-day.

I see him post-game in his dark blue suit and bright white shoes and he didn't look the worse for wear. Huska also did not seem overly concerned, saying it was minor.

6. Small but Scrappy

Ryan Lomberg caught management's eye in July at development camp and he's surely already done the same in Penticton.

Showing lots of spunk, the 5-foot-10 (ish) 20-year-old scored the eventual game-winning goal in the first period, making it 2-0 by controlling the puck along the sideboards then taking it to the net and beating Connor Hellebuyck.

"Mangiapane made a nice play, he dished it off to me and cut back. I was just driving low and put the puck on net and luckily it found a hole," said Lomberg.

In the second period, he then showed that size doesn't matter. Giving up at least four inches and 20 pounds to Aaron Harstad, he outmuscled him in a race for a loose puck and ended up being pulled down by the big defenceman to draw a penalty shot.

Lomberg was thwarted on the chance though -- regrettably.

"Wish I could have had that one back," he said. "I had low blocker the whole time in my mind and he gave me about a foot on the glove side. He was baiting me and I fell for it and right in his glove."

After playing last season in the USHL again, his second tour of duty in that league -- this after he was essentially kicked off the team at the University of Maine for an off-ice incident -- Lomberg recently signed an AHL deal with Stockton for 2015-16. It could lead to an NHL deal eventually like it did for Garnet Hathaway, who was in the same situation last year. It's up to him to earn that next step.

"If a guy can control the situation instead of letting the situation control him, then you can be a very effective player. I thought he showed that tonight," said Huska. "He's a guy that will be hard to play against."

How Lomberg Got on the Flames Radar

Flames assistant GM Brad Pascall, who oversees Stockton's hockey operations, took a few minutes Friday night to discuss what the organization liked about Lomberg, who they really started to take notice of last year at Youngstown when the team was frequently at the USHL team's games scouting potential first round pick Kyle Connor.

"His hard work. He likes to hit guys. That's his MO," said Pascall. "Real tenacious on the forecheck and a really good skater. He's stocky, a well-built guy and can provide some energy, that's for sure."

The one-year deal comes with no assurances but it does give both sides a chance to see if there's a longer term fit.

"We said hey, this is an opportunity for us to get to know you and for you to get to know us and if things work out, there's some potential," Pascall said.

If you Google his name, Lomberg's aforementioned troubles off-ice come up before his hockey statistics, but Pascall said the organization is not worried.

"We did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people and have no concerns from our standpoint. If we did, we wouldn't have brought him in there."

Lomberg sounds genuinely appreciative of Calgary giving him a chance.

"Like Mr. Treliving said, it's competitive to make both rosters --Stockton and Calgary.  It's a big opportunity and I welcome the challenge," he said. "I couldn't be more grateful for the chance they gave me and I'm just here to make the most of it."

7. No. 93, Looking the Part

Sam Bennett looked how you'd expect and that is one of the best players on the ice, who had a game-high five shots. The way he cuts laterally at high speed as he flies into the zone is so impressive. He was constantly around the puck, controlling the puck and spending lots of offensive zone time with linemates Emile Poirier and Kenny Agostino.

He also showed his surly side later in the game, getting under the skin of the Jets and igniting a couple of skirmishes as he sought retribution for indiscretions against Calgary while also dishing out his own reasons for the Jets to seek retribution.

"The fiery part," said Huska when asked what separates Bennett. "You know his skill package, you know he can play the game, but special players have bite and when they're playing against other people, they have a tendency to raise their level no matter what type of game it is. He's got an ability to play whatever style teams want to play against him."

Huska says Bennett's insatiable compete level coming out in a rookie camp game in mid-September shows the type of player he is.

"That's what makes him special," Huska said. "It doesn't matter the situation. Those guys, they raise their level. They want to be the best and it's a great trait for a hockey player to have."

8. Swedish Minute Muncher

Criticized by former Flames great Hakan Loob on local Calgary radio recently for being "a little bit lazy" and "a little bit unfit", that may change soon. Kylington leaving after only a few shifts forced the remaining five blue-liners to log big minutes and Andersson surely was the ice time leader as he seemed to be out there all the time.

"Lots of ice time for those guys on the back end for their first game after a number of months off and I think they handled it well. Rasmus Andersson was the guy that I was impressed with. He seemed to handle the extra ice time very well," said Huska. "He's composed with the puck. He has that ability to open his hips and shuffle away from people so even though guys would try to take runs at him from time to time, he rarely got hit."

Once he caught his breath, Andersson shared his thoughts on his first game.

“I was pretty comfortable in my own zone. In the offensive zone, I missed – in my opinion – one or two too many passes. But, it's the first game. Hopefully tomorrow or on Monday, I'm not going to miss those passes.”

9.  Shooter Van Brabant

The benefactor of playing with skilled players in Mangiapane and Tyson Baillie, second-year pro Bryce Van Brabant had four shots on net and was noticeable.

"Those two are easy to play with," Van Brabant said. "They're not scared to get in the dirty areas, which is nice. Everybody knows where they need to go, they read off each other. They're smart players.

"It makes it easier and it's fun when you have the puck all the time as you don't have to play defence!"

The native of Morinville, Alberta, who signed with the Flames 18 months ago after playing three years at Quinnipiac University, had a solid game for someone that is a long way down the depth chart.

"It's nice to get the first one under the belt," said Van Brabant, who has good size at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. "Obviously missing a month at the end of last year (due to injury) was tough. Other guys have played more hockey than you and you just have to get back into it and get your timing down."

10. Austin Carroll, Baby. Oh Behave.

You see a lot of good things every game from Austin Carroll. Two sequences caught my eye on Friday. Bursting down the wing, he tried a toe-drag into the slot, that he almost executed to perfection. Later on a 1-on-2, he almost split the D successfully with a little juke. There is lots to like about a guy 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and physical that also has that type of offensive panache.

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.


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