They certainly weren't ideal circumstances for goaltender Justin Pogge's Maple Leafs debut last night.
An experimental larger net, a big Montreal Canadiens lineup and a 2 1/2-minute five-on-three to kill, combined to set up Toronto's top prospect for failure. But Pogge, with plenty of help from the line of Brent Aubin, Jiri Tlusty and John Mitchell, overcame a 3-1 deficit for a 6-5 overtime win in the Leaf-hosted four-team rookie tournament last night at Ricoh Coliseum.
The nets, eight inches wider and six inches taller, are part of a National Hockey League test during the exhibition schedule.
"I just tried to look as big as I could," said Pogge, who already is 6-foot-3. "It probably looked bigger to their guys, but they missed a lot of shots (many on the crucial extended second-period power play) and I have to thank my guys for blocking a lot of them."
Pogge stopped 18 of 23, including a couple of breakaways. The plan is to play him in a couple of real pre-season games after the main Leafs camp opens Thursday, but unless there's an injury to Andrew Raycroft, Mikael Tellqvist or Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Pogge likely will be with the Marlies in October.
Aubin, who had 57 goals last year in the Quebec Major Junior League and was part of the Remparts Memorial Cup drive, was naturally in favour of the extended twine, pumping in two goals and adding a pair of assists.
"I'm a shooter and I think bigger nets would be better for fan excitement," he said. "I don't know if the goalies will say the same thing."
Mitchell had a goal and two assists with this year's No. 1 draft pick Tlusty adding two helpers. Phil Oreskovic, Jaime Sifers and Robbie Earl also scored, Earl ending it at 1:11 of overtime.
The Leafs play York University at 7 p.m. tonight at Ricoh.