After a week of physical and mental challenges by head coach and general manager Darryl Sutter & Company, the Calgary Flames returned 18 prospects to their junior clubs Monday.
“I’ve been physically drained now,” admitted 2005 NHL Entry Draft selection Matt Keetley. “It’s been a great week. Mentally too, it helps us out and it makes us think a lot more and focus on all our game. The first two practices really get you into it. When you start up with the games it’s a lot faster than you expect.”
Moose Jaw Warrior forward Dustin Boyd had no option but to agree, worn down physically from the intense few days put on by Sutter. No stranger to the Sutter Brothers’ method of coaching, Boyd spent last season at the Flames rookie camp, as well as two camps under Brent Sutter for the Canadian Junior squad.
“You learn the schedule and what to expect here at camp,” said Boyd. “We had a camp last year and it was pretty much the exact same style as this year. It was expected.
“All the Sutters bring the same intensity to the rink, so you know what to expect when you come to a Sutter camp.”
Prepared for camp, Boyd still admitted that he had been run ragged by the camp. Arguably the most impressive forward in camp, Boyd exited the weekend exhausted.
“It’s been a tough week working out twice a day and it starts taking a toll after a while,” confessed Boyd. “But you’ve got to put your best game forward, you don’t want to look bad out here!”
But before sending Keetley, Boyd and the rest of the junior players in the organization home, the Flames opted to end with one final intra-squad game at the Don Hartman Northeast Sportsplex on Sunday.
With goals from Ryan Donally and Tyler Johnson, Team Red and Team Black finished the three 30 minute straight-time periods deadlocked, despite numerous attempts by Red to solve Medicine Hat Tigers goaltender Keetley late in the third period and extra frame. Keetley, one of five goaltenders at the rookie camp, dazzled the most, with several spectacular saves in overtime.
“I just wanted to make the stops I could, follow the puck as best I could and make the stops I needed,” he admitted, spending the entire third period between the pipes for Team Black.
Given the intense nature of the camp, it seemed natural that the game be decided by a friendly shootout, in which each member of the team was offered up at least one opportunity at putting on a show for the 500+ illegally parked Calgarians craving some on-ice activity.
The save of the shootout though did not go to Keetley, a robbing of former Red Deer Rebels defenseman Dion Phaneuf in a display of goaltending excellence. It was a down-and-out Brent Krahn who protected a seemingly empty net.
The conclusion of the shootout saw Team Black, which was backstopped by Keetley, Kevin Lalone and Andrew Leslie, defeat Team Red 6-5.
The experience was something that Keetley hopes to take back to Medicine Hat, where it’s expected that he’ll carry the franchise on his shoulders after former starting goaltender Kevin Nastiuk turned pro the Carolina Hurricanes.
“Hopefully I can take this intensity back to junior and have a good season,” remarked Keetley. “It gives you a good edge.”
Players returned to their junior squads:
Western Hockey League
Shaun Heshka – Everett Silvertips
Kris Hogg – Kamloops Blazers
Adam Cracknell – Kootenay Ice
Brett Sutter – Kootenay Ice
Gordie Baldwin – Medicine Hat Tigers
Matt Keetley – Medicine Hat Tigers
Dustin Boyd – Moose Jaw Warriors
Aki Seitsonen – Prince Albert Raiders
Fred Wikner – Prince George Cougars
Andrew Leslie – Red Deer Rebels
Tyler Johnson – Red Deer Rebels
Myles Rumsey – Swift Current Broncos
Matt Schneider – Tri City Americans
J.D. Watt – Vancouver Giants
Ontario Hockey League
Kevin Lalonde – Belleville Bulls
Ryan Donally – Kitchener Rangers
Dan Ryder – Peterborough Petes
Matt Pelech – Sarnia Sting
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
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