Trio of roster hopefuls dazzle in Flames’ rookie game

Canada's Dillon Dube smiles during team practice at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. (Mark Blinch/CP)

It’s a little early to start anointing their line a nickname or even handing out opening night gigs.

But what Andrew Mangiapane, Dillon Dube and Spencer Foo did as a unit in Sunday’s rookie game against the Edmonton Oilers sure ought to have Calgary Flames fans excited.

For a franchise now beaming over the newfound depth it finally has at the NHL and minor league levels, the trio represents the club’s bubble boys.

All three have a legitimate shot at cracking the big league roster at some point in the season, but what they demonstrated Sunday is they want to be in the conversation for opening night spots.

The trio combined for five points in a 7-3 win that saw Dube named the game’s first star, Mangiapane the third as both had a goal and an assist.

“For us these are real bullets flying right now – these are our games and we’re trying to make a mark first shift, first game,” said Dube, a 20-year-old, who is turning pro following a stellar junior career in Kelowna that also saw him captain Team Canada to world junior gold last year.

“For us it’s getting that chemistry so we look good and making it hard for them to send us down because we want to be here, together.”

They weren’t the only ones piling up points.

Swift Current’s breakout star Glenn Gawdin, who signed as a free agent with the Flames in November, had a goal and an assist, as did Flames 2017 first round pick Juuso Valimaki.

Diminutive Victoria Royals star Matthew Phillips had three assists and Brett Pollock has two goals and a helper.

The crowd of roughly 8,000 who made a $5 donation to the Flames Foundation to populate the Saddledome got a rise out of several big saves by former World Juniors and Memorial Cup hero Tyler Parsons who played the whole game for the Flames.

He was the difference in a game that saw the score 1-1 after one period, thanks to several highlight-reel saves, including a sprawling stop on Oilers hopeful Kailer Yamamoto.

“It feels great to get that first one out of the way – it’s good for my confidence,” said Parsons, the game’s second star, who battled injuries while spending the bulk of his time in Kansas City of the ECHL.

“There were a lot of ups and downs last year but I don’t let that get me down. I’ve got a lot more in me – I’m going to keep pushing.”
Mangiapane, who spent ten games with the Flames last year in the midst of a 21-goal AHL campaign, said Parsons was in vintage form.

“He played really good today – I remember him in junior the same way, robbing me,” smiled Mangiapane.

“He’s back to that form.”

The Oilers got a goal from 2018 first rounder Evan Bouchard as well as Caleb Jones and Cooper Marody.

In a nod to the old days when such games were littered with wannabe tough guys, there were three scraps including two involving Flames camp invite Igor Merezhko who tussled with Nolan Vesey and then Joseph Gambardella. Zach Fischer fought Jared Wilson early in the afternoon tilt.

The Flames veterans leave Tuesday for nine days and two exhibition games against Boston, leaving all the rookies in Sunday’s game in Calgary where they’ll continue to get every chance to shine.

“It would have been nice to go to China, but it’s good I’m staying back here to get more opportunity and get more ice and show I can play in the NHL,” said Mangiapane, whose rookie squad plays the Oilers in Red Deer Wednesday.


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