Spencer Foo showed exactly why he was such a highly-coveted college free agent this past summer, scoring a goal and playing a strong game from beginning to end with plenty of powerplay time and lots of shots as the Flames beat the Vancouver Canucks 6-2 Sunday at the Young Stars Classic tournament.
It was his first goal in Calgary silks since inking a deal with the organization on July 1 after being courted by a bevy of NHL clubs.
Skating on the club’s top line with centre Mark Jankowski and left-winger Andrew Mangiapane, Foo was credited for two goals in the tilt after he appeared to open the scoring with a nice tap-in off a Jankowski pass early in the first period.
However, post game he said he never touched the puck and it deflected in off the defenceman’s stick. In the second period he almost scored what would have been another marker when he beat Canucks netminder Michael DiPietro with a great shot but it clanged off the cross-bar.
“If you want to score goals you have to shoot the puck obviously,” said Foo. “That’s what you want to do out here, especially in a tournament like this, you can kind of shoot anything and anything can kind of go in. You just want to put pucks on net.”
Brett Pollock scored twice, while Zach Fischer and Adam Ruzicka added singles for the Flames and Nick Schneider made 24 saves.
Aaron Irving and Yan-Pavel Laplante had the markers for the Canucks, while a busy DiPietro ended the night with 28 saves.
Just over five minutes into the first period after Jankowski’s goal, Fischer put his side up by a pair after Ben Hawerchuk feed him from the half boards as Fischer skated into the high slot and he fired it past DiPietro stick side.
The Canucks got on the board at the 9:01 mark when Brett McKenzie won the faceoff in the Flames zone and Griffin Molino smacked the puck back to the point where Irving rifled a shot top corner, stick side on Schneider.
The first period ended with a spirited fight between big 6-foot-7, 225-lb. Flames winger Hunter Smith and the 6-ft., 183-lb. Laplante, with the pair exchanging a flurry of punches in a lengthy dust-up.
Later it was Laplante who tied things up in the second period, finding the loose puck in the crease and slipping it across the line after a Vancouver point shot and initial save by Schneider.
Moments earlier, Schneider had stoned Laplante on a breakaway.
Adam Ruzicka Photo by Marissa Baecker
However, Ruzicka answered right back, grabbing the puck behind the net and skating out with a wraparound that eluded DiPietro.
Foo increased the lead when he fired an absolute rocket on a powerplay one-timer from Rasmus Andersson with less than five minutes to go in the second stanza.
Pollock scored his goals in the third period, first going end-to-end and driving the net as he flipped the puck up and over DiPietro’s glove before adding an empty-netter on a strange play with 7:11 still to go but DiPietro pulled for another extra attacker while Vancouver was on the powerplay.
Coach Ryan Huska praised his club for playing a solid 60 minutes in the outing and agreed Foo’s play stood out in the contest.
“You can tell he’s a shooter,” said Huska. “We talked after the last game that he had a few chances where the puck was bouncing over his stick. I think when he’s probably feeling good about his game, when he has the confidence or that swagger going, I think you’re going to see him score quite a few goals.
“It’s nice to see a guy on the powerplay that isn’t afraid to shoot because a lot of times you have guys that always feel they like they have to move it or make that perfect pass where he seems to be the type of guy that’s almost the shot first mentality type guy and I think every good powerplay needs to have someone like that.”
Foo was asked if he felt like it was a bit of a statement game for him.
“I guess a little bit,” said Foo. “But at the end of the day, you just want to show well and compete hard out there in both ends of the ice. Tonight was one of those nights where the bounces kind of go your way where as a couple of days ago it was a little bit different.”
The victory improved Calgary to 1-1 at the tournament after losing its opener 4-2 to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.
The Flames wrap up the tournament Monday when they take on the Winnipeg Jets at 12:30 MTN. The game will be livestreamed at calgaryflames.com.