The third day of NHL training camps is typically marred by sluggish play because of tired legs, but that wasn't the case for the Wild on Sunday.
By far the most up-tempo, competitive scrimmage in three days took place at White Bear Lake Sports Center, and in coach Jacques Lemaire's mind, the team owes 604 fans and 16-year-old Dominic Nardini a debt of gratitude.
"The motivation was the fans today," Lemaire said. "[The coaches and management] could see it. The action was good. The intensity was great. You always give a little more when your fans are there."
The Wild practiced in White Bear Lake because Nardini, the captain of the B1 Bantam Orange team that recently won the state championship, won an essay contest in January about what sportsmanship means to him.
"I thought it was like when millions of people put their name in for a free car and have no chance of winning," said Nardini, who beat out 200 entrants. "This is crazy. They're right here, right in front of me. It feels like I'm dreaming."
Skating to impress
Team Passion took a 5-3 victory over Team Preparation, with Marian Gaborik leading the way with two beauties. The game was a hard-hitting affair that at times got chippy, thanks to 26-year-old Aaron Voros, traded to the Wild from New Jersey in March.
The hard-nosed forward has gotten under a number of players' skin as he has tried to make his mark on the Wild staff.
Saturday, Voros creamed Mark Parrish from behind, drawing Mikko Koivu's ire. Sunday, Voros was punched in the face by defenseman Brent Burns after Voros bumped goalie Nolan Schaefer after the whistle, was tackled by Burns after he got too close to goalie Barry Brust and was challenged by veteran defenseman Keith Carney and a fuming Stephane Veilleux after Voros scored following his hard, open-ice hit on Carney.
"I'm trying to earn a spot, and those guys are obviously trying to get fine-tuned for the season," Voros said. "But I'm trying to open some eyes. Obviously I don't want to take liberties on certain guys, but I have to play my game but also be respectful. I just try to play a tough game within the rules."
For more information on Sunday's scrimmage, go to www.startribune.com/blogs/wildblog.