Rookie Faceoff: Notes, Quotes, and Pics from Kings-Ducks

Given the level of experience on both sides of the puck, 60 minutes of hockey produced the likely outcome in this season’s first Kings-Ducks matchup – with Anaheim skating to a 4-1 victory over Los Angeles in the nightcap of Day 1 at the NHL Rookie Faceoff.

All four of the host team’s goals came from players with NHL experience; and it was that experience that largely told the story. Anaheim was icing a team with over 200 games played int he NHL. Meanwhile, Los Angeles had Jaret Anderson-Dolan (6 NHL GP) and Blake Lizotte (1 NHL GP). On paper, it looked more like the AHL San Diego Gulls vs. an OHL team coming in. Through the first 10 minutes of the game, it was anything but that. LA dominated, with relentless puck possession and a continuous barrage of shots. Eventually, Arthur Kaliyev smacked the puck in during a scramble in front, producing what would be the Kings only goal of the evening. The play itself was set up after a nice pass by Akil Thomas along the boards moments earlier.

There was a noticeable momentum shift soon thereafter and it was something the players and coach Mike Stothers spoke about after the game (see below). Following a decidedly one-sided second period in favor of the Ducks, the younger Kings players more than held their own – and showed a good amount of fight; quite literally at one point when Sean Durzi opted to take things into his own hands.

All in all, it was a solid performance by the home team in front of a sold-out crowd and capped Day 1 of the rookie event. After going 3-0 in the tournament last year, they kept on rolling behind from Max Jones, Max Comtois, Kiefer Sherwood, and Sam Steel. Next up, they’ll faceoff with the Sharks in Sunday’s late game. Opening up Day 2 at 1pm will be a contest between the Kings and Avalanche.

First round draft pick Bowen Byram and his Colorado teammates had an impressive showing in the first game on Saturday, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2. In the day’s other matchup, it was the Sharks pulling off a 5-4 win over the Coyotes in a game that was close throughout.

KINGS POSTGAME NOTES

Durzi on his fight with Comtois:

It’s just the emotions of the game and obviously when you’re down, you want to do something to spark your team. I think it’s just the heat of the moment. He’s a good player on their team and we just had a little tussle. Looking at the clock, there was about 13 minutes left in the period, 4-1. We want to win the hockey game… just trying to get something going for our team.

Durzi on the team’s compete level late in the game:

I thought in the first ten minutes of the hockey game we out-competed them, we out-worked them. It doesn’t take any skill to outwork someone. I thought we did a good job of that. A couple parts of the game, I thought we lost a little bit of our physicality and it showed. They got the momentum from a few goals, a couple good tips, a couple good bounces and that’s just the way the hockey game went. I’m proud of the guys, they battled for each other, and our focus now is to get better every day.

Samuel Fagemo on the overall game experience:

For sure, it was a tight game. There was a lot of physicality out there, lots of hits and scrambling – fighting too. It was a great experience for us and a great game to play in… I was prepared for this type of a fast game, a tough game.

Austin Strand on being named Kings captain for Game 1:

Stutts had mentioned in a few meetings that the guys could lean on [me, Mikey Eyssimont, and Brad Morrison]. Then, when I got to the rink today, I saw it on the jersey. It’s a pretty big honor. It’s nice for us three to get that kind of recognition. He has a certain way of coaching and the certain way he wants things to be done – little things, like when to be at the rink, things to wear, a certain intensity that you have to bring to the rink every day.

Strand on the defense:

I think it went really well, including with my pair [with Markus Phillips]. Jordan Spence had a really solid game. He’s my roommate, but I thought for a young guy to come in and have the confidence that he had in tonight’s game was really good. I thought the whole backend had a solid game. There are some little things that will come with time and experience, but overall I thought the D had a pretty solid effort.

Strand on possibly playing more with Phillips:

It would be nice to be paired with that solid D partner who helps us get in the O-zone a little quicker. I thought we had some decent chemistry too. I told him I’m always going to be open and I think he was good with that. We had a lot of talk out there on the ice. Plus, being together at camps over the past two years has helped us get to know each other a little bit.

Stothers on the overall game:

I thought we had a great first ten minutes in the opening period and then you can see that their size and physicality kind of got them going and maybe took a little of the legs out of us. That being said, you look at their lineup, they had quite a few experienced players for a rookie tournament. But I was real proud of our guys, especially in the third period. You’re trailing and it’s been a hard game… but I thought there were a lot of positives to it. You have guys still blocking shots, Durzi mixing it up, and I was really impressed with Kupari. He stood his ground and that’s all we’re asking. Physically, we weren’t going to be able to anything to those guys. You know what, they showed a good indication that they’ve got good character and they’re going to be good teammates. Then, you take the skilled aspect, and all these guys need is a little experience and size.

Stothers on Rasmus Kupari:

I thought that line was good. I thought he showed some real positive things and I thought he was guilty of maybe being a little too cute. Any time you’re crossing the opposition’s blueline and you try to put one between your legs, you’re going to get some attention. He’ll learn from that, but you don’t want to discourage a guy like that, who has some skill and ability, why not try it in a game like this? He’ll learn fast enough.

Stothers on the powerplay:

I thought our powerplay was good, in the fact we won some faceoffs, but we were guilty of not getting the puck to the net quickly enough. If you win a faceoff and get it back to the D, you want to have a quick strike. We were maybe over-handling it. Then, as the game went on and we decided we were going to start taking some pucks to the net, recover and get the puck back, then get into our set-up – I thought that looked real good.

All photos courtesy of Scott Brinegar / Anaheim Ducks

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