In the Flyers prospects’ 6-3 victory over the New York Rangers’ prospects, the exhibition did not equal unphysical.
The game started with a bang just 16 seconds into the first period when Rangers forward Matt Rempe delivered a staggering hit in the corner to the right of the Flyers’ net, taking out Flyers defenseman Cooper Zech and Rangers forward Justin Richards. The hit set a physical tone through the game for both teams.
“I liked the intensity,” Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere said. “Kids were involved. They were engaged, and that’s the biggest thing for me. We asked a lot in the past three days in practice and they did pay attention to details and it shows today. Blocking shots, fighting, everything you like to see in those kids. It was great.”
The Flyers took an early lead with a power-play goal from right winger Tyson Foerster, the first of three unanswered goals in the opening period. But the Rangers surged back, notching three goals in the first half of the second period. The Flyers ultimately pulled ahead when right winger Linus Sandin scored his second goal of the game late in the period to seal the win for the club.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first rookie exhibition game the Flyers have held since 2019. The Flyers prospects proved they didn’t need much time to shake off the rust and showed no fear making hits along the boards.
Laperriere called Foerster a goal scorer following the second day of rookie camp on Friday and the label suited him well in Saturday’s game. Foerster notched two goals, one on the power play and one even-strength. Foerster played on the first power-play unit with Egor Zamula, Sandin, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Morgan Frost, and on the first line with Frost and Ratcliffe. The Flyers’ 2020 first-round pick played 24 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season when the COVID-19 pandemic halted the Ontario Hockey League schedule. Through two days of rookie camp and one exhibition game, Foerster showed why the front office should strongly consider keeping him on the Phantoms roster instead of sending him back to juniors.
“He’s a first-round pick for a reason,” Laperriere said of Foerster. “He’s a hell of a player. He’s a sniper. He works hard. He does everything right.
“The sky is the limit for a kid like that.”
Flyers defenseman Wyatte Wylie showed no fear standing in front of a shot when going up against Rangers shooters. He blocked one early in the third period with his left arm, keeping the puck from getting through to goaltender Samuel Ersson. Wylie, the Flyers’ fifth-round pick in 2018, skillfully maneuvered his way through the neutral zone later in the third period and ultimately helped set up defenseman Ethan Samson for the Flyers’ fifth goal.
“I love that about the kids,” Laperriere said of the team’s willingness to block shots. “They care and they show that they care for one another. When one kid would block a shot, the bench would go crazy. For me, it’s great to see.”
Undoubtedly, Rempe asserted himself as the villain early in the game when he took out his own teammate and Zech. Both players did not return to the ice for the rest of the afternoon. Rempe was sent to the penalty box, setting up Foerster’s power-play goal. Then, with seven minutes remaining in the first period, forward Wade Allison and Rempe dropped the gloves in the Flyers’ zone. Allison, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, left the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Rempe with a bloody face.
“I didn’t like that hit at the beginning,” Allison said. “There’s no need for that. I thought it was a cheap hit. So I’m just standing up for my teammates. That [stuff] don’t fly. We’re here to stand up for each other as a team. Somebody else would’ve done it. I just got there first.”
Between the pipes
For each exhibition game, Laperriere plans on splitting time equally between his two goalies, Kirill Ustimenko and Ersson. Ustimenko, the Flyers’ 2017 third-round pick, blocked every shot sent his way in the first period. However, in the second period, he let two goals slip past. One came when defenseman Jackson van de Leest turned the puck over in the neutral zone to Rangers forward Morgan Barron, who sent the puck sailing to the left corner of the net and over Ustimenko’s blocker. Later, forward Patrick Khodorenko pulled the Rangers within one when he put home a rebound. Ersson, the club’s 2018 fifth-round pick, entered the net for the second half. He let in a goal on the first shot he faced, but then held the Rangers scoreless the rest of the way.
The Flyers prospects will take on the Rangers prospects for the last time on Sunday to close out rookie camp. The game will be held in Voorhees, N.J., at the Flyers’ practice facility. While the game will be closed to fans, the Flyers plan to stream the game live on their website. The Flyers held several players out of Saturday’s first exhibition game, including center Tanner Laczynski and defenseman Cam York. Laczynski, who is coming off hip surgery performed in April, is expected to play on Sunday. York was a healthy scratch and could also see the ice in Voorhees.