Scandinavian Stars Shine at Panther Scrimmage

By Mark Fischel
The estimated 2000 fans who showed up tonight expecting to get their first glimpses of Bure, Nilson and Kozlov might have been a little bit surprised to see some unexpected changes in the lineup. Instead of those proven talents weaving their magic and producing points, the trio of Marcus Nilson, Olli Jokinen and Kristian Huselius took their place instead, and didn’t dissapoint.

Tonight’s intra-squad scrimmage was set up with three referees, and the game was played with two periods of 30 minutes each. Teams were composed of 10 forwards and 5 5 defenseman, and the teams were “coached” by Panthers scouts Tim Murray and Joe Patterson. In the beginning, it looked like really talented shinny with no action for the first half of the 1st period, until bruising right winger opened up the scoring with a blast from the right circle that beat Wade Flaherty under the near side post.

Once the first goal was on the board, both teams started to up the ante a little bit with the physical play. Defenseman Lance Ward took Eric Godard into the open door at the bench and caused some emotion to rise. Soon after, Pete Worrell and John Jakopin started trading some shoves after the whistle. Jakopin’s little bout with Worrell served notice to the red team to get into the game, and they didn’t dissapoint.

The Scandinavian Connection of Jokinen, Hagman, and Huselius at this point started to take over the game. The reds were able to go up two goals when Jokinen found Huselius streaking in over the line on a two on one. With the defensive coverage not knowing who to choose to cover, Huselius made a perfect pass to his breaking partner Hagman. With the puck off his stick, Huselius burst into open space while bearing down on Flaherty, and received the give-and-go pass back, went to his backhand than to his forehand to beat the defenseless goalie at around the 24 minutes mark.

Not to be upstaged, the whites answered right back with a goal from Mike Cirillo who beat a stunned Andrew Allen between the 5 hole. After a Brad Norton penalty, the leading red team found themselves suddenly only up by 1 when Stephen Weiss re-directed Lance Pitlick’s shot from the left point in a series of tic-tac passing that left the red’s d-men flat-footed. Pitlick suddenly looked like a major player in the game when he was able to catch up Ivan Novoseltsev who had a partial breakaway, but the puck was knocked away before Ivan could deke Flaherty out.

The game looked like it was ready to head to half-time when another Scandinavian connection came through. Huselius was behind the net on the left side when he found some open space to pass to Krajicek at the point, who unleashed a rocket-shot that Jokinen was able to redirect behind Flaherty with only 28 second remaining.

To start the second half of the game, Novoseltsev must have been a little agitated with his rough game. In the first, he fanned on two shots that he had in prime scoring areas, so when he had the chance to get physical, he happily dumped fellow speedster David Morriset into the team bench. But Morriset would have the last laugh when he was able to steal an errant Dan Boyle pass and rip a shot from the right circle past Andrew Allen.

After Pitlick drew an interference penaltly, the open ice allowed Huselius and Jokinen to have free reign on the power-play. Huselius showed the knack to always be in the right space for a pass. Jokinen seemed determined to grab the open second line spot on the Panthers, and simply looked like a player possessed. He showed amazing speed and a deft passing touch, being able to draw the defenders to him and finding Huselius who jumped into the open space constantly looking for scoring chances.

Those chances would come when Red got the two-man advantage when Grant McNeill drew a cross-checking penalty. The deft passing skills of Krajicek from the point was able to find an open Huselius again, who let off a shot from the top of the circle, but Flaherty was able to make the save. Another scoring chance was wasted when Ivan fanned on another chance yet again, this time coming off a Matt Herr pass to the streaking Novo.

For most of the night, Kristian Huselius showed why he was able to dominate the SEL last year. He knew when to head to the net, how to wait for the right time to make the pass, especially when Worrell leveled him in the open ice about half-way through the second. Huselius hit the ice with a thump, but not before he was able to make a perfect pass to Marcus Nilson. Nilson all night also looked like one of the quickest players as well, showing remarkable stick-handling skills and a tenacious nose for the puck.

at 17 minutes of the second half, the White team was able to move ahead on a series of heads-up passing. Majesky intercepted a turnover at the blue-line and the transition game quickly developed with a pass to Morriset, who was able to find Denis Shvidki at the top of the right circle. Shvidki didn’t hesitate with a shot from the bottom of the right circle that beat Allen under the far post.

The frustrating night for Novoseltsev continues at the top 3rd of the game. All game long Ivan showed the speed needed, but not the head required. Novo tried several times to try to beat defenseman with his speed to no avail, and at one point had a whole open rink to play with, but inexplicably turned right into three opposing players to try to go through them. Stuff like that might have worked in Sarnia but it didn’t work tonight. He also kept up with his old tricks with his patented burst of speed around the defenseman, cruising in on the right side toward the goalie, only to crash the net and knock it off.

A penalty to Jokinen for tripping gave the Panther’s 9th round pick, Ivan Majesky, a chance to shine. Playing the point on the power-play, Ivan corralled in a puck determined to go out of the zone, which came off the carom of a Weiss shot that missed just to the left of the goal. Majesky than teed up a heavy shot that Flaherty just got a piece of, but not after it dinged off the post.

The red team was looking at a loss until a timely penalty gave them the opportunity to force the game to overtime. Again, the Scandinavian connection came through with Jokinen starting the chain of events. Huselius received the pass as he was crossing the blue line on the left side, and when the defenseman stepped up to make a challenge, Huselius cut right to the open ice, keeping the puck away from the other team. Nilson confused his defenseman when he crossed with Huselius when streaking to the net. Nilson received the pass on his forehand, went to the back-hand and back to the forehand to deposit the puck in the now-empty net at the 25 minute mark. Overtime was coming up.

When it was announced that the OT would be a 4 on 4 game, the only question was which Nordic player would be the hero? They were that dominant tonight, and there was no way they wouldn’t factor into the GWG. Huselius and Hagman had a few shots but weren’t able to to beat Flaherty….yet. All they needed was a break, and they got one when Worrell (why was he on a 4-4 in OT?) took yet another penalty when he interfered with Novoseltsev. The 4 on 3 simply was going to be all the red-team needed to end the game.

At 3 minutes into the OT, Olli Jokinen made an incredible pass from the point to a wide open Huselius at the bottom of the right circle. Huselius simply just maneuvered the puck back and forth between what appeared to be 4 of his sticks, and the covering defenseman couldn’t recover quick enough when Huselius deked him out with a fake pass to the point, than a real pass to Marcus Nilson who was right across the crease. Nilson quickly went top-shelf on Flaherty to end the game and give the small but appreciative crowd something to think about as they drove home.

White Team

Forwards: Peter Worrell, Kevyn Adams, Denis Shvidki, David Morisset, Ryan Jardine, Nick Smith, Mike Cirillo, Sean O’Connor, Eric Godard, Stephen Weiss.

Defenseman: Lance Pitlick, Ivan Majesky, Brad Ference, Kyle Rossiter, Lukas Krajicek, Grant McNeill.

Goalie: Wade Flaherty

Red Team

Forwards: Olli Jokinen, Marcus Nilson, Serge Payer, Kristian Huselius, Niklas Hagman, Joey Tetarenko, Ivan Novoseltsev, Eric Beaudion, Josh Olson, Matt Herr

Defenseman: Brad Norton, John Jakopin, Dan Boyle, Paul Elliott, Lance Ward.

Goalie: Andrew Allen

Three Stars of the Game

3rd Star with 1 goal and 3 assists: Olli Jokinen
2nd Star with 1 goal and 3 assists: Kristian Huselius
1st star with GW and GT goals: Marcus Nilson