The Red Wings took their exhibition season to the Upper Peninsula on Thursday — specifically, Calumet — and everyone appeared to enjoy the experience.
Playing the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in the annual Hockeyville USA game, the Red Wings prevailed, 4-1.
Anthony Mantha and Michael Rasmussen both scored two goals, Dennis Cholowski added two assists, and goaltender Calvin Pickard made 20 saves to lead the Wings.
Ryan O’Reilly scored the lone Blues goal.
The game was played in the historic Calumet Colosseum — with seating for approximately 700 fans. The Colosseum was built in 1913 and is considered the oldest operating continuous-use ice rink in North America.
Calumet — with a population of 727 — is located about 30 miles south of Copper Harbor, at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Both teams appeared to quickly adjust playing in the municipal rink, and the passion of the crowd showed through from the opening puck drop.
Here are other observations, with two more exhibition games left for the Wings, a home-and-home back-to-back against Toronto Friday and Saturday:
►Rasmussen, Cholowski impressing: The two young players made the Wings’ opening night roster last year but struggled, with Cholowski being sent to Grand Rapids halfway through the season.
Both were expected to begin the upcoming regular season in Grand Rapids, gaining pro experience and earning a level of confidence at the minor league level.
That may be changing, especially in the case of Cholowski.
Coach Jeff Blashill has praised Cholowski’s improving defensive game, an area Cholowski struggled last season, and the offensive part has been an impressive as it was at times last season.
With Jonathan Ericsson ailing, and Cholowski playing into a regular spot in the lineup, there is a path to make the roster.
Rasmussen has taken well to a switch to center, and is becoming a physical presence in front of the net.
But the Wings insist Rasmussen will only make the final roster if he’s playing center, not on wing. That’ll limit his chances of making the Wings.
Still, center Frans Nielsen is out with a minor injury although he is being expected to return this weekend. If Nielsen is out, though, obviously it opens up a roster spot, at least in the short term.
►Mantha dominating: If you look at the preseason fantasy hockey magazines and look at the individual projections and predictions, Mantha has been a hot topic for fantasy players.
Many people are predicting a big step forward, possibly 30 or more goals. And the way Mantha is skating and shooting, it’s possible.
Against the Blues, Mantha displayed all his best assets, shooting and skating with authority and looking like a premier power forward.
►Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno update: Neither has shown enough consistently to likely land a spot on the opening night roster.
Both struggled at times against the Blues, with their confidence appearing to wane as the exhibition season has progressed.
Both need the experience of playing in Grand Rapids.