Calgary native Reid Duke led Team White's stampede against Team Green by scoring twice in the 12 to 4 victory during Tuesday's Development Camp scrimmage.
Duke, who spent last season playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings, scored 20 goals and 51 points in 52 games in the Western Hockey League.
But, it's the other areas of Duke's game that the Wild asked him to focus on during the past week.
“He’s a highly skilled kid, and he always has been,” said Brad Bombardir, the Wild’s Director Of Player Development, who coached Team Green against Duke and Team White. “[Duke] just has to play the game the right way in order to earn some of those opportunities.
He wanted to make a name for himself at his second Development Camp with the Minnesota Wild. Little did Alex Tuch know, his final day of Camp would result in thousands of new fans knowing his name on social media.
The 2014 First-Round selection, currently playing for Boston College, scored a slick shootout goal for Team White after last night’s scrimmage, and decided to go out in style, much to the delight of the crowd at Xcel Energy Center.
The 2015 Wild Development Camp scrimmage ended with a full-team shootout on Tuesday night.
The Baldwinsville, NY native lined up for his turn in the shootout at the far blueline. Entering the zone wide right, Tuch brought the puck through his legs, avoiding the poke-check and held his shot until roofing a goal-line snipe in the top corner.
Then, Tuch decided to have a little fun with the crowd, and his fellow Wild prospects.
For his celebration, Tuch holstered his stick like a pirate's sword, then smoothly "walked" past Team Green's bench to his rejoicing teammates on Team White.
Was it a forward moonwalk? A model's walk down the runway?
“A little bit of a slow walk,” Tuch described postgame, adding the move was inspired by a coach at Boston College.
"Guys weren’t having as much fun as they should have," Tuch said. "So I thought I’d spark it up a little bit, chirping and laughing...I’ve become good friends with a bunch of them over the week and it was a lot of fun."
Not surprising to Wild fans, Tuch's incredible goal and ensuing celebration became instant Internet fodder.
New Puck Daddy: Alex Tuch of Wild scores sick shootout goal; celebration was sicker (Video) http://t.co/JRtld27F4S— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) July 15, 2015
On Tuesday, Tuch helped Team White defeat Greenway and Team Green 12-4 to close out the Minnesota Wild’s 2015 Development Camp, and Tuch stole the show with a shootout goal and celebration.
With every skater on each team taking a shootout attempt to end the scrimmage, Tuch moved in on goalie Brody Hoffman, stick-handling the puck wide of the crease before shooting it into the goal from a sharp angle.
After scoring, Tuch arched his celebration route in front of the Team Green bench, where he high-stepped his way past Greenway and his opponents.
“The shootout move wasn’t even planned,” Tuch said. “I was planning to do something else but the goalie kind of threw his stick on me so I kind of had to hold onto the puck, hold onto the puck, and hope that he didn’t get to the post. It was kind of lucky.
But the celebration...guys weren’t having as much fun as they should have, so I thought I’d spark it up a little bit, chirping and laughing.”
Tuch and Greenway met playing for the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., and have the same family adviser. The two friends were each able to enjoy Tuch’s antics after the scrimmage ended.
“It was a little gutless, you know what I mean?” Greenway said with a laugh. “No, I was happy for him, it was a nice move. I’ll give him a little harassment tonight, but it was good; it was fun.”
Tuch and Greenway will go their separate ways with Development Camp over, but won’t wait too long to see each other again. Both players were invited to the United States National Junior Evaluation Camp in August, held in Lake Placid, NY from August 1-8 to help decide the 2016 United States World Junior Championship roster.
They will also cross paths, playing college hockey this year in Hockey East in one of the country’s biggest rivalries, with Tuch at Boston College, and Greenway at Boston University.
“[Jordan is] a really funny kid, lots of energy, loves a good laugh, and just a really good, all-around kid,” said Tuch, who is entering his sophomore year. “I still have some friends over at BU that I played against, and you stay friends. When it’s on the ice, it’s all business. Off the ice, it’s a lot of fun still.”
Greenway, an incoming freshman, said he is eager to get a taste of what’s known as The Battle of Comm. Ave: the two schools, each located on Commonwealth Avenue, are separated by about three miles.
“Obviously it’s a big rivalry, right?” Greenway said. “But going forward I’m looking forward especially going to BC, with their crowd, and playing against them, and hopefully coming out with a win.”
Greenway, selected in the second round of the 2015 NHL Draft, was attending his first Development Camp. Tuch, participating in his second camp after getting drafted in the first round in 2014, made an impression on the Wild coaches.
“I will give [Tuch] a ton of credit for his off-ice work,” said Brad Bombardir, the Wild’s Director Of Player Development, who coached Team Green. “He’s gone home this summer, and he’s come in great shape, in incredible shape. He’s worked hard off the ice, and he’s done a ton of work, and you can see it.
He’s done the right things that we’ve asked him to do so far, so we’re very happy with him, and very proud of the work he put in this summer.”
In a spirited, yet festive, Minnesota Wild Development Camp 3-on-3 tournament, the gray squad knocked off team black 1-0 on a 2nd half goal by forward Kurtis Gabriel.
“It was just a shot from a high place, and it just squeezed through by the back, passed his glove,” explained Gabriel. “They say good things happen when you go to the net, and that’s what I’m trying to get into my game more, so I was fortunate to get a little bounce there and put it in.”
Goalies were not assigned teams for the tournament, rotating in and out, but Stephen Michalek (Team Gray) and Brody Hoffman (team black) had excellent performances in the final, allowing only the one goal scored between them.
There were five teams of six players and one team of five, with squads wearing color coded jerseys: yellow, green, white, black, red and grey as the likes of Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk played over the PA system giving the empty arena some extra energy for the private event.
“During skates, during practices guys are working and obviously you don’t have that background noise so it’s more of that workman-like mentality for the guys,” said Brad Bombardir, director of player development. “So to be able to throw the music on there I think actually helps settle them down a little bit and realize that it’s supposed to be fun.”
Starting in the early afternoon there were 10 rotating games played, two at a time on one half of the ice, with a winners and losers bracket to set up the final. Each game consisted of two 4-minute halves, with a three-minute break between.
After the final game, Gabriel accepted the trophy for team grey prior to a team picture posing together with the trophy, and then explained the best part of the victory:
“It’s pretty fun. We’re a tight group of guys, especially the Iowa guys, and going against them there were a couple heated battles between friends. It’s all part of the game and it’s fun to rub it in the guys faces a little bit because we’re always joking off the ice a lot.”
The rosters for the teams in the championship were as follows:
Rugged defenseman Alex Gudbranson, as confirmed by his name being on the trophy from last year, becomes the first player to win the 3-on-3-tournament trophy twice.
Back At It Tuesday Night
The 2015 Minnesota Wild Player Development Camp comes to a close on the evening of Tuesday, July 14 with another free scrimmage open to the public at Xcel Energy Center. Gate 1 will open at 6 p.m. for the 6:30 scrimmage.
WildTV caught up with 2015 Draft picks, Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway and Gustav Bouramman, who admitted to sleep walking in front of his roommate, Alex Gudbranson.
Eriksson Ek also signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Minnesota Wild after skating on Monday morning.
Day two of Development Camp focused on conditioning, skating and strengthening as part of a traditional approach. But the Minnesota Wild isn’t just working to refine and enhance ice hockey skills of future stars.
The Wild also focuses on the development of these young men off the ice, including classroom sessions with financial literacy professionals, sports psychology experts and a nutritionist to help educate them how to take care of their bodies even better.
Julie Nicoletti, nutritionist from Kinetic fuel, flew in from Boston this morning to take the players through her presentation “Eating to Compete” and a Q&A session to ensure they are adequately prepared for daily life food choices, whether it be on bus rides across the country to games or in their dorm cafeteria.
The Minnesota Wild took another step towards the 2015-16 NHL season today as prospects hit the ice at Xcel Energy Center for the team’s annual Development Camp.
Forward Alex Tuch and defenseman Louie Belpedio, both draft picks from 2014, were two of the familiar faces pulling on practice sweaters and getting back to work with team white this morning, in what is now a more familiar setting.
“To come in the second year, the comfort level is a lot higher,” said Tuch. “I already have some friends and stuff so hanging out with them the first couple nights is a lot more fun and a lot easier.”
In a do or die Game 4, the Minnesota Wild will do everything in its power against the Chicago Blackhawks to not, well, be eliminated. The not-dying part includes making a number of changes in its line, trying to take the jumper cables to the offenses.
Even at the lowest point of the season after losing six straight games in early January, the Minnesota Wild has been able to blur its vision of the larger picture, like looking into a 3-D Magic Eye image, so smaller details become pronounced.
Down 3-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks and on the edge of elimination in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Wild knows what it’s up against. However, the Wild isn’t gazing wide-eyed at the enormity of the hole. Instead, the team’s focus is narrowed solely on a single purpose: Game 4 tomorrow night at Xcel Energy Center.
“We’ve got to focus on tomorrow, that’s plain and simple,” forward Matt Cooke said. “The picture is tomorrow, it’s not any larger than that. Doesn’t matter further than that.”
Minnesota came out of the gate fast against Chicago in Monday’s Game 3. However, when the Wild wasn’t able to get anything past goaltender Corey Crawford, the club began to press.
“I thought we started great last game. We had three or four scoring chances in the first three minutes. It didn’t go in and I think we changed,” Cooke said. “We worry too much about scoring the first goal, and we started to take chances which led to us not playing Minnesota Wild hockey, which then brings in frustration.”
After falling behind late in the first on a Patrick Kane power play tally, the Wild had plenty of chance to even the score. Minnesota fired 22 shots on goal in the final two periods but was unable to crack Crawford. The Blackhawks defense collapsed and helped alleviate second chance opportunities.
“The last two periods we pushed hard and just came up short,” forward Kyle Brodziak said. “That’s why it’s extremely important against a team of that caliber that when you have those opportunities you have to take advantage of them.”
While a majority of the attention has been paid on how the Hawks have handled the Wild, the club believes it has better. Minnesota wants to make better decisions with pucks when on the attack, especially in dangerous areas around the blue lines. Forward Zach Parise doesn’t think the team needs to change its system, just execute on its opportunities.
“I don’t think that’s the solution,” Parise said about making changes. “It’s about being better in different areas and doing a little more in the offensive zone and try to break through.”
The Wild can’t try to press the situation against the Hawks, who have showed its ability as counter-punching specialists.
“When we weren’t grabbing the lead in the second-half of the first period, that’s when we started to turn pucks over at the offensive blue line as opposed to continuing to get puck behind their defensemen,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
“I think that we started to get impatient that we didn’t grab the lead even though we had a great start. That’s counter-productive to creating offense and it’s counter productive to being successful against a team that counters as well as they do.”
Patience is a virtue against Chicago and the Wild has been a model in perseverance all season.
“It’s about going out tomorrow and winning that first period. And if it’s tied after the first, you win the second. We all want to get that goal and make that difference. But be patient and let it come to us,” Parise said. “That’ll help us. Not try and win the game in the first 10 minutes and not try to erase a 3-0 deficit in the first 10 minutes. Win shift and win periods. Hopefully that will add up to winning games.”
Keeping things in focus is something the club has done all season. So, despite being in a hole that looms like the Grand Canyon, the club is keeping things in perspective.
“You don’t want to look at the big picture at this time right now,” Brodziak said. “It’s important for us to come to the rink tomorrow to try to win one hockey game. When you look at the big picture it might seem a little daunting, but I think the only way to go about it is take it one game at a time. Tomorrow night’s the first game, we’ve got to come out with our best and try and get a win and go from there after.”
It’s no secret, after a pair of losses in the Windy City the Minnesota Wild will have to play better in Game 3 if it’s going to get back into its second round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
In a 4-1 loss on Sunday, the Wild was careless with the puck, which led to odd-man opportunities for the Blackhawks. Minnesota knows that it has to be more meticulous with plays coming out of the defensive zone and at the offensive zone blue line.
Heading into the Second Round series with the Blackhawks, the Wild had a new hope in this year’s installment of the matchup.
The club felt their alliance was stronger than in years past, as did many around them, strong enough to make a real move against Chicago. The anticipation was building to Death Star proportions.
But in Games 1 and 2 of the series, when the puck finally dropped, Chicago — led by a dark-helmeted Corey Crawford in goal — put the Wild in an extremely familiar position: down 2-0 in the series as it shifts back to the State of Hockey.