Getting goals from brothers Jackson and Noah Cates had to be the feel-good story of Saturday night’s Flyers preseason opener but there was an encouraging subplot as well.
Jackson Cates scored with just 4:40 to play to break a 1-1 tie, sending the Flyers to a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.
What may have caught the attention of the Flyers’ braintrust even more, however, was the physical approach a young lineup took in this game.
Both Wade Allison and Hayden Hodgson got into some major punch exchanges and that got the limited crowd out of patrons out of their seats.
Judging by the smile on the face of Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere, who was running the Flyer bench, it was all systems go.
Regular Flyers coach John Tortorella, watching from press level, also had to be pleased. In so many words, he had said during a pre-taped interview “I think we’re a little soft here.’’
Them’s fighting words. And the Flyers’ rookie-laden lineup obliged in style.
Allison watched Boston’s Connor Carrick level Flyers forward Antoine Roussel at center ice and immediately retaliated. That’s the kind of team camaraderie Tortorella is looking for.
“I stand up for my teammates,’’ Allison said after the game. “I didn’t like the hit. I saw it right in front of me and didn’t think twice.’’
Laperrriere doesn’t mind his players taking care of business when the need calls for it. Hodgson’s effort typified that.
“In training camp you need to get noticed and he did,” the coach said. “He’s a physical player and I know that people in Philly love that. He knows that, too. So he proved to the new boss that he’s willing to do that. Fighting is not part of our game as much as it used to but it’s still a part of it. He showed he’s not afraid to do that.”
After a scoreless first period, in which the Flyers played shorthanded for nearly half of the 20 minutes, a goal by Noah Cates put the Flyers on top at 1:42 of the second period.
Morgan Frost won a faceoff in clean fashion and got the puck to Cates for a shot past Keith Kinkaid.
That goal stood up until there was only 7:10 to play. Troy Grosenick, who took over in goal for Felix Sandstrom at the halfway mark, was unable to stop a shot from Jakub Lauko.
No matter. With the clock running down, Hodgson and Tyson Foerster assisted as Cates steered a shot past goalie Kyle Keyser for the winner.
Noah already looked like a good bet to make the team and now Jackson, a center, might be a possibility because centers Sean Couturier and Patrick Brown are injured.
“I’m going to stick to my game and do what I can do,” said Cates, who turns 25 on Monday. “If it works out, I’m going to work my hardest and take that last spot.”
Add Laperriere: “Jackson, I wouldn’t put him out of the race. He came to camp in top shape and came into camp to make the team.”
The Flyers return to preseason action on Tuesday when they visit the Buffalo Sabres. . .Media were allowed to conduct interviews in NHL locker rooms for the first time in 928 days, the stoppage due to previous pandemic regulations. . .The Flyers blanked the Bruins on six power-play attempts. Philadelphia is coming off one of its worst penalty kill seasons (2021-22) in recent memory.