After years of buildup and months of ado, there was finally a professional hockey game in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Well, sort of.
Golden Knights prospects squared off in the first of three intrasquad scrimmages as part of their developmental camp at the Las Vegas Ice Center.
Players were divided into two teams — white and gray — and the white skated to a 5-4 victory before about 250 spectators.
The prospects will scrimmage again Friday and Saturday, when they wrap up camp.
“I think the way the week has progress for our guys out there has been good,” said Rocky Thompson, the coach of the Chicago Wolves, the Golden Knights’ American Hockey League affiliate, who has helped run the camp.
“Ultimately when the game started today, it was good. Guys felt good. They were fresh — a little bit nervous at the beginning, of course. As the game went on, the pace of the play picked up and we were able to see some pretty nice goals, some good skill and some tempo.”
The first period was played 5-on-5, but the second half of the second period and the first half of the third period were played 4-on-4.
The game concluded with about 10 minutes of 3-on-3.
The white team built a 5-1 lead in the first 51 minutes. The gray made a late charge with three 3-on-3 goals.
Forward Alex Tuch, who scored for the gray, said everybody was eager to play a game after the first two days of skill-and-drill work.
“Everyone was pretty focused and excited for it … not only the players but the coaching staff and management,” Tuch said. “A lot of guys showed a lot of skill and effort … I thought it was a good, hard-fought game.”
Knights first-round draft pick Cody Glass said he thought the scrimmage was sloppy at times but expects better play Friday and Saturday.
“The chemistry will come along real well, especially with the passing,” Glass said. “As the games go on, we’ll get better as a team.”
Suzuki shines in third period
First-round pick Nick Suzuki said he needed some time to get used to playing with new teammates. By the third period, he seemed comfortable.
Suzuki scored two goals for the gray late in the third period of the 3-on-3 portion of the scrimmage.
“Giving me more space really kind of goes into my game,” Suzuki said. “I like playing in those situations.”
Suzuki said he wants to generate more offense in 5-on-5 situations, but Thompson said he’s been pleased with what he’s seen from the 17-year-old.
“He’s a very special player,” Thompson said. “Very dynamic, as you can see. Great release — an NHL release on his shot. And he’s a very smart player.”
McGill joins Gallant’s staff
McGill, 48, was the coach of the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League for the past two seasons and was the OHL’s and the Canadian Hockey League’s coach of the year in 2016-17. He played in the NHL from 1991 to 1995 before an eye injury ended his career.
“He’s had a long coaching career, and he’ll run the (defense) behind the bench,” Gallant said.
McGill, who coached Suzuki at Owen Sound, joins Mike Kelly and Ryan Craig on the staff.
The Knights’ off-ice officials worked the scrimmage, getting used to the NHL’s computerized system for tracking everything that happens on the ice.
Benny Ercolani, the NHL’s director of statistics, assisted the crew during the scrimmage.
“We’ve spent the last couple of nights teaching them the system, and the more they’re familiar with it, the more comfortable they’ll be,” Ercolani said. “This was a great opportunity to get a feel for what it’s like to work a game.”
— Friday: Joint scrimmage, 10 a.m.
— Saturday: Joint scrimmage, 10:15 a.m.
— Where: Las Vegas Ice Center, 9295 W. Flamingo Road
— Admission: Free