Young Leafs ready to rumble

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:45 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. — Ben Scrivens hopes his second career pro start in net won’t become the action-adventure novel that marked the first.

The Cornell University grad saw it all on Sunday, 31 saves, crease-crashing Penguins, a near-serious injury on his doorstep, a few fights, twice losing his stick and a puck or two swept off his goal line. But he’ll come away with one valuable, albeit painful lesson.

“Play the whole 60 minutes or things can swing the other way very quickly,” said Scrivens of Dustin Jeffrey’s goal with 34 seconds to play that gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 win over the Toronto rookies.

“I kind of want to calm it down for the next time I’m in, but to get the feet wet, it was good. I’m disappointed we lost and that last puck snuck in, but there were some good building blocks there.”

“I’m proud of the way the guys stuck together. There were a couple of vicious hits (Dave Cowan dislocated his right shoulder into the boards when ridden hard), but we stuck together as a group and bonded.”

The Leafs opened with a win and six goals against Chicago on Saturday and Sunday’s test against an older Pens’ lineup was a better test, as will Tuesday’s tournament finale against Ottawa, with shades of the parent teams’ rivalry.

If this is any indication what the Leafs’ kids can bring to the main camp, next week should be very interesting at the MasterCard Centre.

General manager Brian Burke was holding off on a definite number of rookies he will employ in the first days of Toronto’s workouts until after Tuesday. But in at least three instances, the kids gave him what he wanted, coming to the aid of comrades that had been run by the Pens. Combined with the offensive exploits of players such as Jerry D’Amigo, Brayden Irwin, Greg McKegg, Kenny Ryan and Nazem Kadri, there should be some challenges for all 12 forward positions.

“I like guys to spend time in the American Hockey League; Bobby Ryan, Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry,” Burke reminded of his Anaheim days. “You should look at my track record as far as Kadri, D’Amigo and Marcel Mueller playing right away. But my opinion will not be the one that decides this. The coach (Ron Wilson) picks the team. If he wants those guys, they stay. If there is any debate about it, they’ll spend some time with the Marlies.”

Much of Sunday’s chippy play had to do with boarding. And one of the Leafs to stand up for a mate was Mike Liambas, in his first game as he attempts to clear his name from an ugly incident in the OHL last season when his heavy hit fractured the skull and orbital bone of 16-year-old Kitchener defenceman Ben Fanelli. Liambas jumped in when fellow 5-foot-9 forward Dale Mitchell was hit by six-footer Zach Sill and fought the big man to a draw.

“We talked about it before, that even though we haven’t played together a lot, we have to stick up for each other,” Mitchell said.

The last goalie from Cornell to come to the Leafs ended up as team president, but Scrivens does not have ambitions to follow Ken Dryden to the executive office or bounce Burke. The hospitality management major just wants to get his pro career off on the right skate with the Leafs, via the AHL Marlies.

Scrivens followed Finnish newcomer Jussi Rynnas’ strong start on Saturday. Scrivens met Dryden last season on Cornell’s Ithaca, N.Y., campus en route to winning the ECAC Dryden Award as the league’s top goalie.

In 34 games, he led the NCAA with seven shutouts, a .934 save percentage and tied for the lead in goals-against average with 1.87,

“They just retired Dryden’s and Joe Nieuwendyk’s numbers this year and both were there for the ceremony,” Scrivens said. “I spoke to Ken briefly, but he’s a pretty hot commodity when he comes back to campus.”

Among the Albertan’s highlights on Sunday was stopping a Tyler Brown breakaway, but after the Leafs couldn’t solve Pittsburgh netminder Brad Thiessen on a long 5-on-3 in the second, all five Leafs and their goalie inexplicably backed off the puck on a harmless-looking rush on Jeffrey’s winner. Irwin, in for the injured Kadri, had Toronto’s first-period goal.

Andrew Engelage, who was a Marlies backup last year, will complete the goaltending rotation on Tuesday against Ottawa.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos