THUNDER BAY – Carter Benoit says the Calgary Buffaloes were probably the better team in five-on-five situations.
So when the host Thunder Bay Kings battled back to tie the score 3-3 in the second period, Benoit wasn’t worried about pulling it out in the third – as long as the Buffaloes stayed out of the penalty box.
Calgary scored four times in the final stanza on Monday night and went on to defeat the Kings 7-4 to open the 2019 TELUS Cup in winning fashion.
“We were behind the eight-ball early, a couple five-on-threes against us, but we just stuck with it, stuck together as a team and it’s a huge win for us going forward in this tournament,” said Benoit, who had nine goals in 32 games with the Buffaloes this season.
He can thank goaltender Garin Bjorkland for ensuring Calgary, the No. 2 ranked midget hockey team in the country, wasn’t playing from behind entering the final 20 minutes of play.
After Christian Veneruzzo and Nicholas DeGrazia scored 1:23 apart in the second – the latter goal from a sharp angle on the power play – Calgary first killed off a 1:47 two-man disadvantage, then did it again with two of their own in the box for 1:25.
Peter Hannula and Veneruzzo were stopped on back-to-back chances on the first power play, then Veneruzzo was absolutely robbed by Bjorkland on the second, leaping across his crease to knock away a sure-fire go-ahead goal with less than two minutes to go in the period.
It was just the boost his team needed, Benoit said.
“We just got in the room and we’ve done it all year, we’ve had big third periods and we just had to be more disciplined and play five-on-five because we know we were the better team five-on-five. We got the result we wanted.”
Benoit, who scored the opener at 4:14 on the first and the game-winner 3:13 into the third, said it’s a good feeling to contribute to such a big win.
“It always feels good to get a couple of goals, especially early in a tournament. I can build off this and hope to keep it going into the other games,” the 17-year-old Calgary native said.
It was the opposite emotion for DeGrazia, recently taken by the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League’s U18 draft.
“We just took some dumb penalties, the bounces weren’t going our way and they just capitalized on it. That’s it,” he said.
“It really sucks, especially the first game in front of all the fans. We’ve just got to bounce back and come back better.”
Personal success doesn’t matter much if the win doesn’t materialize, DeGrazia added.
“My stats look good, but I don’t think I played that good of a game,” he said.
Kings coach Darrin Nicholas said they knew they’d have to weather the penalty kill in the third, after spending so much time on the power play in the second.
It’s just the hockey gods’ way of evening things out.
“We just didn’t get the job done,” Nicholas said. “We’re playing hockey at the highest level here. We’ve just got to make plays and get the job done. We had a few plays that didn’t go our way that we’d expect to have to happen.”
Braden Plaschewsky, Jayden Grubbe, Jack Zayat, Carter King and Stephen Rosier also scored for Calgary (1-0-0).
Travis Hensrud and Bryson Cataldo, who made it a 5-4 contest with his first tally of the tournament midway through the third, had the Kings other goals. But Carter King responded 24 seconds later to steal back the momentum and Cataldo’s goal was the lone shot Thunder Bay managed in the final period. Jordan Smith made stops on 39 of the 46 shots he faced for the Kings. Bkorkland was good on 22 of 25.
Thunder Bay (0-1-0) takes on the Tisdale Trojans on Tuesday night. Calgary plays Toronto at 4 p.m.
Scoring: 1. Calgary, Benoit 1 (Lopez) 4:14. 2. Calgary, Plaschewsky 1 (Shostak, Witzke) 15:30 pp. 3. Thunder Bay, Hensrud 1 (Biniaris, DeGrazia) 18:59 pp. Penalties: Magowan CGY (cross checking) 11:35, Biniaris TB (slashing) 15:02, Zayat CGY (hit to head) 18:39.
Scoring: 4. Calgary, Grubbe 1 (Armstrong, Zayat) 1:01. 5. Thunder Bay, Veneruzzo 1 (unassisted) 12:01. 6. Thunder Bay, DeGrazia 1 (Belluz, Hensrud) 13:24. Penalties: Grubbe CGY (hooking) 1:53, Lampi TB (roughing, boarding, served by Dunmore), Grubbe CGY (roughing) 4:05, Rosier CGY (roughing) 6:53, Witt CGY (hit to head) 8:15, DeGrazia TB (hooking) 10:39, Rosier CGY (cross checking) 11:10, Zayat CGY (hit to head, double minor) 12:22, Ross CGY (slashing) 13:11, Magowan CGY (hooking) 17:17, Armstrong CGY (hit to head) 17:52.
Scoring: 7. Calgary, Benoit 2 (Lopez, Homersham) 3:13. 8. Calgary, Zayat (Shostak, King) 6:17 pp. 9. Thunder Bay, Cataldo 1 (DeGrazia, Campbell) 10:02. 10. Calgary, C. King 1 (E.King, Ross) 10:26. 11. Calgary, Rosier (Grubbe, Plaschewsky) 15:00 pp. Penalties: Veneruzzo TB (hit to head double minor) 4:22, Goodman TB (hit to head, double minor) 13:47, Veneruzzo TB, Lopez CGY (hit to head double minor) 17:31.
GAME DATA – SOG – Thunder Bay 6-19-1-26, Calgary 13-12-21-46; Power plays (goals-chances) – Thunder Bay (2-12), Calgary (3-7); Goaltenders – Thunder Bay: Jordan Smith, Calgary: Garin Bjorkland; A: 2,000 (estimated).