The two final scrimmage games from Battlefords North Stars training camp Friday morning were blowouts, but the intrasquad game Saturday was anything but.
From start to finish, the Black versus White game, which was the last part of camp before pre-season, was a back and forth affair that came down to the wire.
In the end, Team White defeated Team Black 4-2 with an empty net goal.
"I was extremely pleased with the effort level, the emotion, and intensity," North Stars head coach and general manager Brandon Heck said after the game. "A lot of players stepped up. We challenged quite a few in meetings yesterday and almost all of them responded positively, so I'm very, very happy."
Team White's top line of Layne Young, MacGregor Sinclair, and newcomer Josh Sielsky was in on all four goals, but it was Team Black who opened the scoring, thanks to Logan Spence.
That was followed by a second period snipe from Young, which knotted things up 1-1 heading into the third. A one-timer from defenceman Jayden Cantre gave Team White a late lead, but defenceman Noah Form would then tie it on a point shot.
Young responded almost immediately with a ricocheted shot that somehow found the back of the net. Silesky added the empty net goal.
"The biggest thing that stood out was...the intensity. Both teams wanted to win and they played like it. I just loved the competition," Heck said. "There were bodies flying everywhere and once [players] took the hit to make the play, they also tried to beat the guy that hit them."
Team White defenceman Connor Manegre, who is returning to the North Stars for his final season of junior, said he felt it took a while for both teams to get comfortable.
But after the adjustment period, he felt the intensity as well.
"A lot of these boys haven't played with each other before so at the start, it was a little choppy," Manegre said. "Once we got into the second and third period, boys starting figuring out their places and we started to get things rolling, for both teams."
Newcomer Tre Doyon, who was acquired from the Lloydminster Bobcats this summer and played for Team Black Saturday, agreed.
"It was one of the most competitive intrasquad games I've been in, that's for sure," Doyon said. "Near the end, like every other game, everyone wants to win so everyone goes harder."
The strong showing from both sides meant coaching staff didn't let many bodies go after the scrimmage.
Only four players were released - goaltender Noah Wiens, defenceman Turner Rea, and forwards Luke Fennig and Michael McTighe - meaning the team will carry a 42-man roster into Sunday's pre-season opener against Bonnyville.
The club plays seven pre-season games in eight days, so cuts will be made along the way.
"We've been telling a lot of the guys, 'You're hanging on and your goal is to make it to the next day,'" Heck said. "We're going to drop a few guys each day. Live to fight another day is the mentality."
The current roster makeup by position is five goaltenders, 13 defenceman and 24 forwards.
When asked what the team might be able to learn from an out-of-province opponent like Bonnyville, Heck pointed out it's not the opponent who matters.
"One thing I want to preach to our guys is I hate losing. I hate it more than I want to win," he said. "I don't care if we're playing Bonnyville or the Saskatoon Blades. We want to win and you've got to believe it."
Puck drop for Sunday's pre-season opener is at 7:30 p.m.
On Twitter: @NathanKanter11
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