The Flames played their second game of the 9th Annual Capital Winter Classic Tournament vs. the Kitchener Jr. Rangers. To the point, the Flames won 1-0 in a thrilling, tightly contested hockey game. The game was played on an Olympic sized ice sheet and the extra 15 feet of width did make a difference. The additional room to move East-West allowed teams to get back on defense, break up more plays through the neutral zone, and forced much of the play to the area between the face off circles from one end to the other. The other impact the extra room had been the ability of either team to clear the puck from their own end. This has been a sore spot for this Flames team all year, and tonight was no different. Let’s get to it.
1st Period: The two teams spent most of the first period getting a feel for each other, while trying to hit each other effectively, and trying not to laugh at an obnoxiously loud Ranger fan who was clearly yelling to be heard, but not actually cheer. The period ended scoreless and pretty even. The Flames got six shots to the Rangers four. Both teams each had one penalty.
2nd Period: The second period saw only 7 shots in total, and fortunately for the Flames, one of those shots found the back of the Ranger net. After sustaining pressure for the length of their shift, the Flames finally cashed in. Wil Hebert got the goal, after he, Ryan Douthart, and Sam Hebert had cycled the puck and generated a couple of shot attempts. It was one of those hard-working goals that makes a team feel good about working so hard. In a game that was scoreless for more than 22 minutes, a game that featured tight checking and few offensive chances, this goal coerced an eruption of applause and emotion from the Flames faithful. The period would end with the Flames leading 1-0.
3rd Period: The final period was a tale of two halves. The first half of the period was owned by the Flames, getting 7 shots on goal in the first six minutes, but no goals. Then at somewhere around the 6:00 mark the puck entered the Flames defensive end and it didn’t leave for a long, long time. After numerous chances, from numerous players, the Flames, clinging to a one goal lead, could not get the puck out of their own end. Finally, with 4:09 left to play, the Flames iced the puck. At 3:44 Jackson Puzzo was called for boarding. Four seconds later Keenan Alnahas made a great save to hold the lead. At 3:27 the Flames iced the puck, but were short handed and this marked the first time the puck had been successfully cleared in more than two and a half minutes. Let me tell you, that 150 seconds felt like an hour or more watching the Flames battling for the puck, defending their net, trying to clear, killing a penalty, while holding a 1-0 lead in a tournament game in Canada. At 3:09 the Flames got a shot goal while short handed. At 1:42 a Kitchener shot hit the post. At 1:05 Kitchener pulled their goalie. At 0:57 the Flames were called for icing as Sean Moore’s clearing attempt glanced off of the post of the open net and slid wide, and across the goal line. At 0:46.5 the Flames iced the puck again. Finally the horn sounded and the Flames won the game 1-0. Goaltenders, Anders Lindberg, and especially, Keenan Alnahas, were spectacular in the shutout victory. The tandem has allowed a single goal (on a penalty shot) through two full games. Wil Hebert was named player of the game for the Flames.
This win for the Flames was a nice team effort, as they battled on the bigger ice sheet, against a team whose only real strength was their ability to hit. The Flames defense and goaltending was immense in the win. The Flames enter Saturday with two wins, and hold their own future in their hands. A win or a tie vs. the Kanata Blazers will ensure the Flames a berth in the playoffs as winners of their division. Game time is scheduled for 3:40pm at the Ottawa Citizen Arena in the Bell Sensplex.