Chemistry’s a funny thing.
Develop it early in training camp and the possibilities are endless.
Struggle to find it, and your opportunities won’t last.
With Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane and Spencer Foo staying back in Calgary while 25 others fly to China this week, getting a head start on the pre-season is never a bad thing.
The talented top-line trio proved to be lethal, combining for five points to lead the Flames rookies to a 7-3 win over the Oilers rookies Sunday at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Mangiapane potted three assists, Brett Pollock scored twice, and Tyler Parsons made 23 saves in the victory.
The Flames opened the scoring at 11:21 of the first period after surviving some early pressure from the visitors. Dube carried the puck down the right side, faked a pass into the middle and rifled a shot over Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner’s left shoulder.
Foo picked up the lone assist.
“At one point (Foo) looked at me and said, ‘This is fun!'” Dube said. “It’s good to be back. We were all anticipating this. I think guys were shaking before this one. I know I was.
“For us, the bullets are flying for real right now. We wanted to make our mark in the first game, first shift.”
The Oilers went right back on the attack and knotted the game with only 2:16 to play in the period. With Cooper Marody setting the screen in front, the 10th pick in the 2018 Draft, Evan Bouchard, delivered a bomb from well out at the right point, beating Parsons clean on the low, glove-side.
Pollock put the Flames back in front at 10:35 of the second. With neither team able to get a handle deep in the Oilers’ end of the rink, Oliver Kylington sailed one through traffic and off the end boards, where Pollock jumped on it, settled the bouncing puck and wrapped it around the far side to give the Flames a 2-1 lead.
Pollock, who played many a game on Saddledome ice as a member of the Edmonton Oil Kings, had quite the celebration, looking to the sky and reveling in the cheers of the thousands on hand.
The Flames took a two-goal lead just a short time later as the top line went back to work. Off the rush, Mangiapane took a nifty drop pass from Dube and fired a shot five-hole.
And the rout was on.
“It would have been nice to go over to China, but it’s good that I’m staying back and will be getting more opportunities; some powerplay and some more ice (time) – showing the team that I can play in the NHL,” Mangiapane said.
It’s a big year for the 22-year-old, who had his 2017-18 season cut short due to injury. However, in just 39 AHL games last year, he still managed to produce a career high 21 goals and 46 points.
And after a 10-game stint with the big club, he’s hungry for a full-time job.
“He showed some good tenacity on the puck,” said Stockton Heat assistant coach Cail MacLean, who was manning the bench for the Flames Rookies.
“Possession in this game is so huge and for someone like Mangiapane, if you can retain possession, then you can allow your speed and your offensive ingenuity to take over.
“He did a good job of showing that tonight.”
With 29.4 seconds left in the period, Jake Christiansen raced out of the penalty box, took a breakaway feed from Mangiapane, and hoisted a backhand over Skinner to make it a 4-1 game.
Juuso Valimaki and Glenn Gawdin extended the lead with a pair of goals on Dylan Wells early in the third. Caleb Jones got one back for the Oilers at the midway mark of the period, slipping one past Parsons after showing some nifty hands in tight.
After Marody brought the Oilers a bit closer with five-and-a-half minutes to play, Pollock picked up his second of the night to round out the scoring less than a minute later.