"It's a really cool experience."
That's how University of Calgary men's hockey captain Brock Nixon described his team's contest against the Calgary Flames prospect squad last Friday. Nixon and the rest of his teammates took on the best prospects and future NHLers in front of over 1,100 people at Father David Bauer arena. While being on the wrong end of a 4-0 score may not have been the result the Dinos were hoping for, the team was competitive with the Flames the entire game.
The Dinos's aggressive nature clashed early on with the Flames rookies' speed and agility.
"We got a little tired," said Dinos head coach Mark Howell. "[We] turned over some pucks and you know when you get tired, all of a sudden you're watching a little bit."
That's where the skill and speed of the Flames took over the game. The Flames 2011 first-rounder, Sven Baertchi, scored early in the second period and added an assist later to cap off what was a stellar week for the 18-year-old.
"It's special here . . . this organization loves hockey. It's always good to be on a big rink, especially for the skilled guys," said Baertchi. "We were able to create a lot of scoring chances. It's good for us to play against such skilled opponents."
Flames defenseman and local product Peter Kosterman echoed that sentiment.
"We got the result we wanted," he said. "I think we played well against a good team. It was kind of our last chance to show what we can do as individuals and to have a challenge like that was definitely a good thing."
So while the score was a bit lopsided, one can't help but wonder what this sort of game means for the rest of the Dinos's season. The chance does not come often to face an opposition as skilled as the Flames-- whose roster included three players who played games in the NHL last season.
"It gives us a good measuring stick of where we need to get to," Howell explained. "We have really good players here. I think our guys are confident and we can contend for first place and try and go to Nationals."
One of the players who will have a major impact on the season is Nixon, a fourth-year kinesiology student. While he and the rest of his team may not have been able to find the back of the net in the game, the Flames knew the Dinos meant business. There was lots of gritty, physical play from the U of C and the team made the Flames work for the win. Nixon was hopeful that good, hardworking play will translate into a successful season.
"Getting a taste of Nationals last year really motivated us going into summer . . . we want to win the league, we want to go to Nationals, we want to win Nationals and I think we have the guys in here that'll give us the opportunity to make a good run at that."
The Dinos start their quest for the University Cup Sept. 30 at home and Nixon wants to see fans there.
"We're hoping we can get a packed house and start our season off on the right foot."