A good blend of old and new highlighted the end of the Spokane Chiefs’ first weekend of training camp.
A pair of 15-year-old draft picks kick-started the Red-White Scrimmage at the Arena on Sunday afternoon by scoring, there were a pair of 17-year-olds with a good chance to make the Western Hockey League team who had two points apiece, and three veterans put their stamp on the game with goals.
In the end, the 2,787 fans were treated to a 4-3 win by the Red team.
“I think the young kids played well,” second-year coach Don Nachbaur said. “They all asserted themselves well. We’ve got some size from our young guys and some good talent. Some are going to need a little longer, another year in Midget, some we think are ready now. We’re going to find that out, that’s why they’re staying, so we can see them in some games.”
After watching 64 players scrimmage through the first three days, 44 dressed for the intrasquad matchup, including five who are too young to make the team as 15-year-olds.
It was Tanner MacMaster, the Chiefs’ first-round pick in the Bantam Draft this year, who opened the scoring at 6:13 of the first period.
“It was exciting, hearing the fans chanting, it’s a good experience,” the Calgary, Alberta, native said. “I was quite nervous at the start (of camp) but once you get in the swing of things, the nerves calm down and you just go out there and play hockey.
“It was a good experience to see how it all works. Hopefully I’ll be here down here next year.”
Another 15-year-old – Jacob Cardiff, a seventh-round pick – made it 2-0 for Red at 10:47 with veteran Darren Kramer, 20, scoring 1:13 later on a power play.
White got the first of Cody Nelson’s two goals near the midpoint of the second period, shortly before the goalies switched out. Returning goalie Mac Engel, 18, replaced 16-year-old Brett Lewchuk for the Red with Kevin Jacyna going in for Zach Rakochy in a switch of 18-year-olds.
Defenseman Brenden Kitchon, 19, the top returning scorer, made it 4-1 for Red with a goal early in the third, with Jarid Hauptman, 17, getting his second assist.
“It was nice but they were also nice plays by Kitch and Kramer,” Hauptman said. “Playing with good guys really helped me out getting those assists.”
Veteran Blake Gal, 19, scored for White and then Nelson’s second goal with just under a minute to play made things interesting.
“It felt good,” said Nelson, a 17-year-old from Brandon, Manitoba. “I played with some pretty good linemates. I kind of got lucky on both goals. You’ve got to be good to be lucky and you’ve got to be lucky to be good, I guess. It felt pretty good to bury a couple.”
Nachbaur didn’t want to get specific since he was headed in to tell about a dozen players, plus the 20 who didn’t suit up, they were headed home.
“I’m not going to name young guys, I don’t think that’s fair to the young guys,” he said. “If you want the name of an old guy that’s having a hell of a camp: Kramer. He’s played hard since the start of camp. His passion shows every time he steps on the ice. He scored five goals in one game. I think he scored in every scrimmage.”
Kramer led the league in fights and penalty minutes last season and scored only seven goals, but he was still selected in the June NHL draft.
“He came in great shape with a great attitude and he portrayed that every time he stepped on the ice,” Nachbaur said. “That’s not to say the other guys didn’t but he stood out, he stood out like a sore thumb.”
Kramer and two other draft picks head to pro camps after the Chiefs play in the Everett tournament next weekend, which is why Nachbaur is keeping more than 30 players.
“Hopefully,” Hauptman said about his chances. “(Coaches) don’t really say a lot. You never know what they’re thinking. Just work your hardest.”
“I think camp went really well,” Nelson said. “It took the first couple of days to get your feet wet, get rid of the jitters. … As time goes by it gets harder and harder for the coaches to make decisions. The competition goes up because everyone is battling for the few spots there are. You try to just worry about yourself, work the hardest you can and do what you can do. If you’re worrying about someone else you’re not putting 100 percent into yourself. You have to just keep going all the time. It doesn’t hurt scoring a couple of goals. The last impression’s always a good impression. I’m not here to score 40 goals a year, but as many as I can get definitely helps.”