Echoing a familar pattern from last year, the Blackhawks bounced back from a tough loss in the tournament opener to gain a win over the hometown favorite Detroit Red Wings. Unlike last year, however, this year’s game was much more tightly contested, which was a good thing for the overall watchability of the product on ice.
The first game of the tournament was all about the kids getting their legs back into skating. For most of them, this has been the first actual competitive hockey for them since their respective seasons ended. Based on their performance on Saturday afternoon, they caught on very quickly, peppering the Red Wings with 17 shots over the first period. Free agent invitee Michael Cramarossa opened up scoring in the first, carrying the puck into the zone himself and scoring off the rush.
Scoring in the second went back and forth, with Darren Raddysh scoring on a big shot to tie things back up. Detroit took the lead again near the end of the second after Graham Knott blatantly cross checked a player and sent the team on the penalty kill. The second ended with a surprise for anyone who didn’t actually watch any Erie Otters games — Alex DeBrincat dropping the gloves against the much larger Dylan Sadowy (6’1”). I didn’t see what sparked the fight, just gloves flying, but DeBrincat has always had some grit to his game, when he’s not busy scoring goals. He’s certainly not a player who you want to see fighting — anyone else remember that time Connor McDavid broke his hand — but DeBrincat is no stranger to fighting, or to standing up for his teammates.
The third period was all Chicago, with the team putting up 14 shots and Carl Dahlstrom and DeBrincat both scoring, for a final score of 4-3.
- I was impressed with goalie Matt Tomkins in this game. Despite giving up the lead, he generally seemed more secure and confident in net. I’ve only seen him in prospect camp and scrimmages over the years, but have never been too impressed by his numbers, even playing behind a mediocre team at Ohio State. The Blackhawks seem to still want to see what they’ve got with him, signing him to an AHL contract so they can keep an eye on his development.
- Anthony Louis, bumped up to the first line with David Kampf and Alex DeBrincat, had a much more noticeable game. His speed was on full display and he had several opportunities, including at least one breakaway, but wasn’t able to convert. I’m looking forward to watching him find his consistency.
- Aside from his goal, Darren Raddysh had a great overall game, including one noticeable play where he hustled to disrupt a Red Wings breakaway attempt. The blue line in Rockford (and by extension the Indy Fuel) is getting a big crowded with “let’s see what happens” types of prospects, but Raddysh, who was one of junior hockey’s more sought after free agents, didn’t win OHL Defenseman of the Year for nothing. Keep an eye on him as he adjusts to pro hockey.
- Alexandre Fortin sat the game out, as he’s still working his way back from surgery in the off-season. Nathan Noel left the game after an awkward hit sent him flying, and then limping off the ice. He’ll be evaluated but we may not see him again just as a precaution, even if the injury isn’t serious.
All of the teams have a rest day today; the Blackhawks return to action tomorrow to face off against the Carolina Hurricanes at 6:30 pm Eastern.
Stats and boxscore from this game can be found here.
Photo: Sarah Avampato