Posted on September 19, 2008 by Tia Lalani

An appetizer for the upcoming NHL season was once again served up in Camrose’s Encana Arena on Thursday night, as the host Augustana Vikings . . .

by Dylan McConnell
 
An appetizer for the upcoming NHL season was once again served up in Camrose’s Encana Arena on Thursday night, as the host Augustana Vikings teamed up with the northern ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference) All-Stars to challenge the Edmonton Oilers’ rookie squad.
 
It was the fourth and final game of an NHL rookie tournament that saw the future faces of the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers play in the newly built Encana Arena, home of not only the Augustana Vikings, but also the  Camrose Kodiaks. The NHL rookie tournament began on September 14th, when the Calgary Flames defeated the Edmonton Oilers 1-0, which was followed by Monday’s game between Calgary and Vancouver, where the Flames’ rookies continued their winning ways, handing the Canucks’ rookies a 6-3 loss. Tuesday wrapped up the NHL matchups, with the Oilers taking a second loss, this time 5-2 against the Canucks.  
 
But the Oilers’ rookies had a different end in sight for Thursday’s matchup against the ACAC All-Stars. Despite not having some of the bigger names from the Oilers’ circle of prospects – like Jordan Eberle, Ryan O’Marra, Colin McDonald and Devan Dubnyk – the Oiler squad was able to cruise to a 7-0 victory in front of a respectable crowd.

 
The game was not as one-sided as the score may indicate, however. In fact, the ACAC squad, which was made up of players from Concordia, NAIT, Grant MacEwan and Augustana, had the first quality scoring chance of the game. Early in the first, Augustana’s own Tyler Bellamy snatched up a loose puck in the neutral zone and flew in all alone against the Oilers’ Andrew Perugini. His shot went wide. But Bellamy continued to play hard in front of the hometown crowd, capitalizing on another Oiler turnover to cruise in on a 2 on 1 with Augustana teammate Stephen Cavanagh, only to be robbed on a spectacular blocker save by Perugini.
 
The Oilers’ rookies opened up the scoring just over three minutes into the game on a shot by Kyle Paige, which found its way between the legs of NAIT goaltender Anthony Heuer. Only a minute and a half later, Toby LaFrance scored on a beautiful passing play that included teammates Garet Hunt and Marc-Andre Bernier, to put his team up 2-0. LaFrance had great game, eventually adding two more assists. No surprise, considering his statistics from last season in Victoriaville of the QMJHL – 89 points in 68 games.
 
A couple of ACAC players that played well were NAIT’s Jeff Topiko – whose third period wrist shot nearly broke the Oiler shutout, but instead ricocheted off the crossbar – and Concordia goaltender Justin Cote, who replaced Heuer midway through the second frame. Cote’s sharp glove hand and solid play had the fans buzzing on more than one occasion, and he did not seem out of place against the celebrity opponent.

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