The preseason starts on Monday but Isles fans got a taste of Isles hockey a couple of days early. Yesterday the Islanders’ prospects scrimmaged against the Flyers’ prospects at Northwell Health Ice Center in the newly named Al Arbour rink. The game started 6:00 pm ET and the tickets were $20, all general admission. All proceeds benefited the Islanders Children Foundation.
A normal NHL team dresses 12 forwards and six defensemen. Sometimes they might even change it up and go 11 up front and seven back on defense. It wasn’t an NHL game last night, not even a preseason game but the Isles really did come in with an interesting choice of their 18 skaters in terms of what their positions were. With only 11 forwards on the rookie camp roster, dressed for last night’s game was all but one of them, Anthony Beauvillier. So the Isles went with three lines of forwards with one guy rotating in. The lines were as followed…
Dal Colle – Barzal – Ho-Sang
Verhaeghe – Schempp – Johnston
James – C. Graham – McDonald
The Islanders also decided to go with eight defensemen, four pairings. With 10 defensemen on the rookie camp roster, the two that sat (Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock) were two of three with NHL experience, Ross Johnston who played in the Isles final regular-season game last year is the third. The defensive pairings were as followed…
Finn – J. Graham
Leduc – Wotherspoon
Vande Sompel – Burroughs
Queneville – Toews
Eamon McAdam got the start in goal and would play just over half the game when he switched out for Stephon Williams with 9:16 to go in the second period.
Most of these guys hadn’t played a game in awhile, maybe some scrimmages but this was probably the first real test for most of these guys. So the first period was really a race to see who could shake off the rust first. The Isles were given many opportunities on the power play and that helped them shake off the rust for sure. The Isles definitely were the better team in the first period. Their best chance came on one of their power plays. Ho-Sang brought the puck behind the opposing net, played around with it and then nudged it over to Barzal. Brazal passed it out to the point and then got it right back. He began to cut in as if he were to take a shot coming down the left side but as two Flyers were on him he toe-dragged his way out of trouble and then sauced it across for Dal Colle on the other side of the ice. Dal Colle got the pass and quickly got a shot off. The shot was stopped but the rebound bounced out to Ho-Sang who was standing even with the goal. Ho-Sang caught the pass with his skate, got it on his stick, and turned out in front for the shot. With the goaltender not in position to make the save it looked the Isles had themselves a goal but in desperation the Flyers defenseman went down on one knee in the goal crease and wound up blocking the shot. The Islanders had a couple of other close calls but the first period ended scoreless. When tested McAdam did his job, the offense looked good, the defense looked good.
The Flyers were the better team during the second period, I thought it was quite obvious. Early in the second things started to intensify with a scrum behind the net. With that the hitting picked up and sure enough we would have a fight but it didn’t go the Isles way. With 9:16 to go in a scoreless second period a whistle allowed for a goaltending change, a chance to get both goaltenders to play. So in came Stephon Williams for Eamon McAdam. Williams was tested early and proved he was up for the task. However, the pressure the Flyers had been applying all period finally came through for them when Anthony Salinitri opened the scoring with a little over two minutes to go, 1-0 Flyers. The second period ended that way, a 1-0 lead for the Flyers.
The third period was a little bit more even in terms of who the better team was. The Isles came close to tying it on several occasions but just couldn’t find the back of the net. With under 11 minutes to go the Flyers lead was extended with a goal by Steven Swaveley. The Flyers would then get another one and then another one in what became a 4-0 win for them.
I am not concerned with the loss. There were a lot of positives to take away from the game.
The first line of Dal Colle – Barzal – Ho-Sang looked very good. They got a lot of ice time. They were effective and had very good chances but just couldn’t solve the Flyers’ goaltenders. The defense looked good too. I was seeing a lot of those guys play for the first time and I was very impressed with the play of all of them. Quenneville impressed me the most. He was listed as the fourth pairing alongside Toews but it didn’t seem like they got fourth pairing ice time, they were out there a lot. I noticed that players on both teams were hesitating to let it go from the point which I was a little confused by but Quenneville wasn’t afraid. Quenneville was able to get shots through traffic and create good scoring chances. It seemed like the Isles always had a guy right by the net which was a good thing too. The goaltending looked solid. We all know about how good the Isles goalie prospects are with the likes of Linus Soderström, Ilya Sorokin, Stephon Williams, Eamon McAdam, and Christopher Gibson. Last night it was McAdam and Williams sharing the crease and the score doesn’t really tell the story of how well they played. McAdam did his job, shutting down every shot he faced. Williams came into the game when the Flyers were heating up and had to make some key saves right away which he did. When it was a one goal game and even a two goal game, Williams made a couple of big saves, doing everything he could to keep the Isles in the game. Overall, good intensity for a game that didn’t mean all that much. It was entertaining to watch, everyone played well and I can’t wait for the preseason but more importantly the regular-season. Either way, Isles hockey is back!!!