CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Despite the wet weather outside, fans flocked to South Suburban Family Sports Center Thursday and witnessed a fast and physical first day of Colorado Avalanche training camp.
Head coach Patrick Roy said afterwards that the fast and physical play was something the team discussed the previous day during their pre-camp meeting.
"We spoke yesterday about the criteria that we wanted," Roy said. "We don't want guys to be hurting each other, but at the same time we certainly want to see some physicality in our play. This is something that we would like to bring in our games [during the season] as well."
With 54 players taking part in the first day of camp, the coaches broke the group into three teams (Gray, Black and Blue) with 17-19 players per squad. Each team will take part in two scrimmages and a practice session with the coaches during the three-day camp.
The day began with Roy's first on-ice practice as Colorado's head coach as he and his assistant coaches Tim Army, Andre Tourigny and Adam Foote worked with Team Blue on the Hamilton Ice at the arena. Team Blue has three goaltenders on the squad – Calvin Pickard, Kieran Millan, Kent Patterson – and they received special instruction from Avs goaltending coach Francois Allaire and Lake Erie Monsters goalie coach Jean-Ian Filiatrault during the practice.
Defensive-zone coverage was the primary focus of day's practice session.
"We felt at times last year, the D-zone coverage—especially with our second defenseman in front the net—was not quite what we would like to see," said Roy.
For Avalanche first round selection Nathan MacKinnon and the rest of the Team Blue, it was their first chance to work with Roy.
"He's very smart," MacKinnon said of the Colorado coach. "He explains the systems very well. Right away, we have an idea of what they are; we have a feel for them. He does a great job of managing things out there."
After the practice, the day's activities moved over to the Avs' regular practice ice for a scrimmage between the Team Gray and Team Black.
Team Gray defeated Team Black, 6-3, in the scrimmage that featured two 40-minute periods with a running clock. Another unique element to the game was instead of awarding power plays when penalties occurred, teams were awarded breakaway penalty shots instead – which had a player taking a penalty shot from center ice while the other players chase him from the far blue line.
For Duchene, his goal came after he missed just wide on a shot in an earlier penalty shot attempt.
"The first one I could barely breathe and I wasn't even ready when the ref blew the whistle. I almost got caught," Duchene said. "I wasn't a big fan the first time, but the second time went a lot better."
Team Black had an early lead in the game after defenseman Mason Geertsen scored, but the lead didn't last long as Team Gray scored three straight goals in a matter of eight minutes to take a 3-1 advantage with 25 minutes left in the period.
Black held off Gray for the rest of the period, but in the second frame, Team Gray got hot once again. Sgarbossa and newcomer Cory Sarich each scored in the first 15 minutes of the period, giving Team Gray a 5-1 lead.
Team Black would make a run as Duchene scored via five-hole on his second penalty shot attempt and a one-timer tally by Ryan O'Reilly cut the squad's deficit to two with 15 minutes left to play. O'Reilly's goal was set up with a nice pass from Troy Bourke, who was in the left-wing corner and found the center-turned-winger with space in the slot.
However, that was as close as Team Black would get as Paul Stastny sealed the win for Team Gray with a goal of his own minutes after O'Reilly found the back of the net.
Amateur scouts John Harrington (Team Gray) and Guy Perron (Team Black) coached the players during the scrimmage while the Colorado and Lake Erie coaching staffs watched from outside the boards.
"I enjoyed what I saw," Roy said. "The guys were sharp. They came to work. I was very impressed by our game today."
Joey Hishon was once again held off the ice as he attempts to get back from a groin injury. The 2010 first round pick also missed all three days of rookie camp earlier in the week with the same injury.
The second day of training camp will mirror Day 1, but Team Gray will take part in the practice at 9 a.m. with the coaching staff while Team Black and Team Blue faceoff in the scrimmage at 10:30 a.m.
"It was real fast, high intensity, not a lot of room out there. It was a war out there a little bit."
-Matt Duchene on the first day of training camp
"He's a great player. He's so good, he's so fast that if I get him the puck, I just have find a spot to get open and he'll find me. It's the same to play with, and hopefully we'll continue to have success."
-Ryan O'Reilly on playing on a line with Matt Duchene
"I'm little bitter about that."
-Black Team defenseman Erik Johnson on the Gray Team getting so many penalty shots opportunities
"There are a lot of talented players in this locker room, and a lot of good leaders as well so I can learn from those guys and try and help this team win as many games as possible."
-Nathan MacKinnon on his approach to the upcoming season
"There is some, but not that much. Obviously, we have 54 guys here. A big part of these guys know where they are going to play next year, but it is important for them to try and impress us and to make a good impression. That's what they are here for. There are a couple of spots that guys to battle for, but at the same time we want them to make a good impression on us. These are the guys of our future."
-Patrick Roy on if there are open spots on the roster.
"I like offense, but that doesn’t mean we aren't going to play well defensively."
Mikael Tam – Markus Lauridsen
Karl Stollery – Daniel Maggio
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