John Ramage had one university hockey game left in his career after all.
Although he is looking forward to a professional playing career with the Calgary Flames organization, the four-year veteran and former captain of the University of Wisconsin Badgers knew better than to assume his squad of highly-touted Flames youngsters would have it easy in an exhibition game against the Dinos men’s hockey team.
“They play hard and they absolutely play at a high level,” said Ramage. “They definitely got some skill and some talent, and you never know where you can go with that.”
How it ended up Monday, Sept 9 was a 6–3 victory for the Flames prospects squad, although the feisty Dinos didn’t make it an easy task.
The Dinos played a highly physical game against the Flames, who were playing their fourth game in five nights. But they also proved to be dangerous offensively throughout the night, and were rewarded for their efforts with three third-period goals.
“Obviously they are high calibre players, so it’s tough to score against them,” said second-year Dinos forward Kevin King, who had several glorious point-blank scoring opportunities denied by stingy Flames net-minder Joni Ortio. “There were a lot of scoring activities from myself and the rest of the team. It could have gone either way tonight.”
The Dinos got off to a strong start and matched the Flames throughout much of the first period. King just missed a wide-open cage from the side of the net just four minutes into the game, and almost snuck one between Ortio’s pad and the post a few minutes later.
It was the Flames’s power play that would put them ahead early on. With first-year Dinos forward Adam Kambeitz in the box for spearing Flames forward Dylan Smoskowitz after the whistle, defenceman Zach Davies made the Dinos pay with a far-side slap shot on goalie Jacob DeSerres.
In the second period, Flames stand-out Michael Ferland snapped home a goal with Kambeitz in the box again for goalie interference. Ferland, who was coming off several impressive performances at the Young Stars Classic tournament in Penticton, displayed his pro-level speed, hands and physicality all night long. He scored again in the second period on a beautiful backhand move, leaving sprawling Dinos goalie Kris Lazaruk with little chance and giving the Flames a 3–0 lead.
Things got chippy at the end of the second period when Dinos forward Tyler Moir slammed Flames up-and-comer Sven Baertschi into the boards long after the buzzer sounded. In the resulting scrum, a seemingly fearless Dinos forward Max Ross got some quality face-time with massive 6’7”, 240-pound Flames defenceman Keegan Kanzig.
Fresh off of two fights during the Penticton tournament, Kanzig had some heated words for Ross, who was a thorn in the Flames’s side all-night long.
“They’re trying to make it to the main NHL camp,” said Ross, who admitted that his team’s undisciplined play factored heavily into their defeat.
“At the same time, we don’t want to come out here and get pushed around by these young guys, so it was a pretty good game in terms of physicality.”
Although he was pleased with his team’s intensity, Dinos coach Mark Howell was disappointed that his team struggled to keep their emotions under control.
“When you’re taking seven or eight bad penalties in a hockey game, it’s going to come back to hurt you,” said Howell.
“My view is if we don’t take those penalties, it’s going to be a real close one-goal game that we have a chance to win.”
It was a sentiment that King agreed with wholeheartedly.
“I don’t feel like the scoreboard reflected the actual game itself,” said King. “Penalties killed us, that’s for sure. But that’s something we got to work on this preseason before we’re shooting real bullets.”
The Dinos didn’t find their scoring touch until the third period. Down 4–0 after another Flames power-play goal, the Dinos got their own marker on the man advantage as fourth-year forward Walker Wintoneak went five-hole on Ortio to give the Dinos their first goal.
Ross was rewarded for his game-long workmanship, banging one in from close range for the Dinos second goal. First-year defenceman Drydn Dow capped off the scoring for the night with his first goal as a Dino.
Ben Hanowski and Baertschi added goals for the Flames in the third.
Despite a third-straight preseason loss for the Dinos, the team had an optimistic outlook for the upcoming season.
“The feeling in the room is full of excitement,” said King. “The boys are excited about the new guys that are coming in and the older guys that will be filling bigger roles.”
Coach Howell was pleased with his team’s overall performance, and was very clear when asked about his expectations for this year.
“It hasn’t changed in my four years here and it’s not going to change this year,” said Howell. “That’s for us to be near the top of the league, if not at the top, and put ourselves in position to win a national championship.”