Tough Weekend For Tigers Men And Women

December 2, 2014

PRINCETON — Hobey Baker Rink was plenty busy this weekend.  The men’s team had games scheduled against Michigan State on Friday and Saturday night, and the women were slated to play No. 2 ranked Minnesota on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

After a big 3-1 win for the men on in the opener, they fell to the Spartans, 4-2, on Saturday.

“You have the same gameplan going into both games, and you’re not going to change anything when you come off a win,” said Tigers head coach Ron Fogarty, whose team fell to 2-7-1 with the loss.

“We wanted to get one goal by the ten-minute mark (of the third period, which they came into trailing 3-0), so we were ahead of schedule at that point.  You want to throw pucks at the net, crash the net and it happened on both of the goals.  It’s not fun losing, I’m not happy with it, but I thoroughly enjoy coaching these 28 guys.  I see positive results here into December and throughout the rest of the season.”

Fogarty, in his first year coaching the team, is still toying with the playing roster in an attempt to find the best group that will help them win consistently going forward.

“It goes game-by-game,” he said.  “You have to assess every week and see who’s putting in a solid week of practice.  But the solidification of the top nine is starting to take shape.  We wanted to match (Aaron) Kesselman’s line with their top line, and they stung us the first period with the goal.  That’s when we needed an energy line, and Kesselman’s group can provide that.”

As for the women’s side of things, their head coach, Jeff Kampersal, is fortunate his head didn’t explode the first time he saw his team’s schedule this season.  After a 6-1-1 start, it was this very stretch — hosting No. 5 Clarkson, No. 4 Quinnipiac and No. 2 Minnesota in a hellish two-week stretch — that many observers of the program knew would be a huge test for them.  The Tigers now find themselves at 6-6-1, and after his team’s 5-2 loss on Sunday afternoon, Kampersal still had to make a tough admission when asked about the toughest time period in that schedule.

“It’s still not over,” he said.

“Harvard and Dartmouth are coming up, and they’re really good, so it’s been a really tough stretch, a character-building stretch.  We obviously started the season off well.  Today, I thought we got dominated pretty-much, (goalie) Kimberly (Newell) saved us big time.  But I’m proud of the fact that our players don’t quit, they go until the buzzer goes and they can’t go anymore.  They could have easily packed it in and it could have been worse.  They showed a lot of heart and soul, and we’ll build from it.”

The Golden Gophers, one of the most skilled teams in the country, peppered Newell with 52 shots, forcing her to tie a career-high with 47 saves.  Many of those shots came after turnovers in the defensive zone, which Kampersal understandably wasn’t particularly thrilled about.

“The turnovers were, I’m not sure of the appropriate word, but plenty and borderline absurd the amount of times we turned the puck over,” he said.  “Basically, I thought Minnesota did a better job of stopping and starting.  If we ended up getting possession of the puck, we had chances to skate it out, but they did a good job of a three-step backcheck, where yesterday we had a little more time.  We took a little too much time today and turned the puck (over).”

If there was a bright spot, it was Newell, which came as no surprise to Kampersal, who coached Team USA in the 2013 U-18’s against Newell’s Team Canada squad.

“I was going to take her out in that last period just to give her a break to get ready for next weekend, and I debated it a lot, but her being a competitor, she’d want to go in there and battle it out,” Kampersal said.

“We owed her a little bit more than we gave her, but she was insane.  Two years ago when she was a freshman, I coached against her for the USA and she was playing for Canada, and she basically stood on her head and won Canada a gold medal that game.  That level that she played at then, she played at this weekend for sure.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Pre-Thanksgiving Print Notebook

November 29, 2014

By MIKE ASHMORE
For The Trentonian

NEW YORK – Will the real New York Rangers please stand up?

The defending Eastern Conference champions are 20 games through their 2014-15 season, and remain as perplexing as ever.

Their longest winning streak is three. Earlier this month, head-scratching back-to-back losses against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers were followed by a dominant 5-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Over their last three games, a virtual no-show of a performance against the Tampa Bay Lightning was erased by consecutive shutouts against the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens.

“We talked about cleaning up our game,” veteran defenseman Dan Boyle told The Trentonian.

“We talked about being stronger defensively and making plays offensively. Being a little more puck-hungry, so to speak. We did that (against Philly) and our power play and penalty kill won us that game.”

The frustration in the Rangers locker room, particularly after the Edmonton game in which the room remained closed for a longer-than-usual time period, had become evident. But they managed to turn that frustration into two points. After a similar letdown against Tampa Bay, a similar pattern followed.

“It was pretty easy to play pissed off, because we played so poorly last game,” Boyle said. “It was important for us to come out strong, but now it’s important for us to back it up. Unfortunately for us this year, there’s been too many good games followed by not so good games.”

The Rangers have an opportunity to tie their longest winning streak of the year when they head to Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

***

Cam Talbot earned a much-needed shutout victory in the Rangers win over the Flyers on Wednesday night, making head coach Alain Vigneault’s choice to start him in the nationally televised contest play dividends.

Starter Henrik Lundqvist has played no fewer than 62 games in non-lockout shortened seasons since 2006-07, so his second-year backup, who had struggled earlier in the season, needed this game to re-establish himself as a viable option between the pipes so as not to burn out their number one.

“It’s huge,” center Derek Stepan told The Trentonian. “He’s a big part of our team, and he’s going to be moving forward.”

Added Rick Nash: “He’s a guy that had a great year last year, and it seems like he’s back on track. This was an impressive game.”

***

After a win in their home opener against Cornell on November 7, the Princeton University men’s hockey team has struggled, getting outscored by a combined 21-3 in five straight losses to put them in 11th place in the 12-team ECAC’s standings.

For the women’s team, however, it had been a different story entering last weekend’s game against St. Lawrence and No. 5 Clarkson. The team had rattled off seven straight games without a defeat after their season-opening loss at Penn State, but suffered a setback with a 7-3 loss to the Saints and 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Golden Knights.

“Both teams that we played had contrasting styles,” said head coach Jeff Kampersal. “St. Lawrence is kind of helter-skelter – they’re well-coached – but they’re a high-risk, high-reward team. It’s hard to prepare for them and for a team like Clarkson, who’s kind of meat and potatoes, hard working, strong and tough.

“(Friday), I thought we played well and the score didn’t indicate how the game went…(Saturday), I thought we played well, but took too many penalties. We did a good job of killing them off, but couldn’t figure out how to defend for the 30 seconds after the penalty.”

Things don’t get any easier for the Tigers, either. No. 4 ranked Quinnipiac was slated to play at historic Hobey Baker Rink on Tuesday night, and Princeton will host No. 2 Minnesota for two games on Saturday and Sunday.

Newell, Like Jewel: Princeton Goaltender Turns In A Gem In Scoreless Tie

November 8, 2014
Junior goaltender Kim Newell stopped all 40 shots she faced in a scoreless tie against RIT on Saturday (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Junior goaltender Kimberly Newell stopped all 40 shots she faced in a scoreless tie against RIT on Saturday (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

The pronunciation guide underneath the name of Princeton’s starting goaltender on Saturday told the tale of how the day unfolded.

“Kimberly Newell (like jewel)”

The Tigers outstanding junior turned in a gem in the second game of a back-to-back home series against the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) on Saturday afternoon, helping her team manage a scoreless 0-0 tie despite being outshot 40-28 through 65 minutes of play.

Newell, who was given the night off by head coach Jeff Kampersal on Friday night to help prepare her for a heavy workload during the conference schedule, was tested early and often. She was up to the task.

“It’s definitely good to get a few shots when the game first starts to get into it,” Newell said. “I feel like our team came out strong and met them. Obviously, I felt like they were gunning for us after we came back yesterday to beat them. I’m pretty happy with how we met the challenge.”

After getting down to a 3-0 deficit in the first period, the Tigers — wait for it — roared back with four unanswered goals to take Friday’s contest, 4-3. To some extent — at least on the scoreboard — Saturday’s game was significantly tighter.

“I think that when you play two games against the same team, there’s a sort of rivalry that starts to build up,” Newell said.  “As you could see in the third period, there was a bit of tension between the two teams.  But I think that really helped to bring up the level of the game and get the girls competing much harder.”

Kampersal, whose team now stands at 4-1-1 on the season, was pleased overall with his team’s effort this weekend.

“I’d assume we tightened things up, I’m not exactly sure,” he said.  “We didn’t give up many quality shots, but we gave up shots.  I thought Kimberly played great.  We battled hard, and it was just a hard series.  RIT played hard and played tough, and they were strong on their skates.  Sometimes we just needed to battle a little bit harder, and when we did that, there were periods of eight minutes here and there where we’d really get after it and play hard and then there were periods where we were sitting back and they were taking it to us.  It really was like a slugfest.”

In many ways, really.  RIT made Newell’s night a challenging one, directing plenty of traffic to her crease.

“I don’t find that bothers me,” she said through a wry smile. “If girls are going to start hacking me and stuff, I’ll fight them back and control my space.”

It was a hard-fought three-point weekend for the Tigers who will now host Union on Friday night, and rely heavily on Newell to keep them near the top of the standings.

“She’s great,” Kampersal said.  “When she’s on, she’s big and strong and has a presence in net.  There’s a lot of confidence with her in there.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Princeton Women’s Hockey Continues Hot Start With Dramatic 4-3 Overtime Win

November 7, 2014
Alysia DaSilva made 11 saves in her college debut after entering the game in relief of Ashley Holt, and helped the Tigers come back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat RIT, 4-3.  (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Alysia DaSilva made 11 saves in her college debut after entering the game in relief of Ashley Holt, and helped the Tigers come back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat RIT, 4-3. (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

PRINCETON — It’s been a little while since people have truly taken notice of the Princeton women’s hockey team. But early indications are that this season could be different.

In the opening tilt of a two-game series at historic Hobey Baker Rink against the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the Tigers got down to a 3-0 deficit after the first 20 minutes, but came all the way back to fight for a 4-3 win in overtime.

RIT outshot Princeton, 12-7, in the first period, and senior goaltender Ashley Holt allowed three goals before giving way to Alysia DaSilva to start the second.

“The mood (on the bench in the first) should have been a lot better than it was,” said head coach Jeff Kampersal.  “We were prepared, but we just weren’t focused.  So we just slugged our way through 20 minutes, and they got an earful between periods, and then they started to play the way they were capable of playing.”

And what, exactly, did that earful entail?

“That I can’t watch that first 20 minutes ever again, because I’ll have a heart attack,” he said.  “We didn’t have a forecheck in the first period, so once we had a little more toughness and faster skating, we established a forecheck and were able to get shots on goal.  We had barely maybe one quality chance in the first period, which isn’t enough, obviously.  They just competed harder and won battles, so that was basically the message.  We adjusted our power plays a little bit to figure out the areas they weren’t covering, and that helped on that last goal there.”

According to Kampersal, pulling Holt wasn’t so much a reflection on her play, but an effort to spark the team.  Between a newfound commitment to upping their battle level and needing to play hard for a cold goaltender between the pipes in her college debut, it worked.

“I don’t think we played well in front of A-Holt, and it’s a bummer because she deserved to get in there; Kimberly (Newell) needed a rest, and we just didn’t play well in front of her,” Kampersal said.  “It was just a change of pace for the second period.  DaSilva is a freshman, and she deserves some time as well, but primarily it was just as a change of pace.”

DaSilva, clad in a plain white mask, turned in an extraordinary effort.  She wasn’t tested often, but came up big when she was, including a huge save after a bad turnover in the defensive zone with under a minute to play and the game tied, 3-3.

“I didn’t really have the full (first) intermission to prepare for (my debut), so I just had to kind of get into it right from the start,” DaSilva said.  “We wanted that big comeback, and it happened.”

Princeton, who again faces RIT at 3 PM tomorrow, has improved to 4-1 on the season and is starting to factor into the national picture.

“We just want to be consistent,” Kampersal said.  “If we make mistakes and we’re playing hard, I have no issue.  But if we’re  kind of half-assing it and lazy and making mistakes, then I have a big issue.  We’re just trying to be a good, consistent team.  And this year, more than others, we’re capitalizing on chances, which had been an issue for us over the years.  But we’re finding a way to get it done.”

Although Newell will likely get the net on Saturday afternoon, it’s fair to say DaSilva wouldn’t change a thing about her first game at Baker.

“Not at all,” she said with a big smile.  “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com — Look for more in print on Wednesday

Liberty Hockey Invitational Gets Off To Interesting Start

November 1, 2014
Colton Phinney was officially credited with 45 saves in an outstanding performance in the first round of the Liberty Hockey Invitational (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Colton Phinney was officially credited with 45 saves in an outstanding performance in the first round of the Liberty Hockey Invitational (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

NEWARK — If you weren’t there — and based on the attendance, this applies to just about everyone — it would be somewhat easy to look at Princeton’s 2-2 tie against Yale (in which they lost in a shootout to determine who advanced to the finals on Sunday) and wonder if this team really did get better.  They allowed 47 shots on goal in 65 minutes, and were only able to generate two goals on a team that defeated them in all three meetings last year.

But, here’s the thing.  If you watched, you saw improvement.  Lots of it.  Special teams, as a whole, looked a lot better.  That letdown that always seemed to happen after they gave up one goal?  It didn’t happen.  For sophomore goaltender Colton Phinney, who was brilliant at times in making 45 saves, the change was very apparent.

“I think we’re definitely buying in more,” Phinney told The Trentonian.  “Everybody wants to be here, everybody wants to play.  And we’re making plays, we’re not kind of just dumping it in.  We’re playing more offensive and kind of just going, and it’s working better…I think (it’s a systems thing) for sure; systems and the coaching.  Everybody’s energetic, everybody wants to be here.  It adds to it.”

New head coach Ron Fogarty, who replaced the affable Bob Prier, was pleased with what he saw in his debut as the team’s bench boss.

“I loved it,” he said.  “I loved the ‘bend, don’t break’ in the second period.  Yale came at us extremely well, and we knew that.  There’s not a lot of familiarity with our systems for our guys, and I’m extremely proud of them.”

However, they’ll be relegated to the consolation game at 1 PM on Sunday against Merrimack after a shootout defeat.  It’s safe to say that teams in the ECAC don’t practice the skills competition too often.  Well, sort of…

“It’s not technically shootouts, but we do ‘Reverse Donkey,’ which is if you score, you’re out,” he explained.  “If you don’t score, you keep going.  It’s a little different, but I guess it’s still kind of like a shootout.”

***

In the first game, UConn got past Merrimack in the shootout, and will play Yale in the championship game.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Rangers Stun Wild With Five Goal Third Period

October 28, 2014

NEW YORK — Figuratively, it was shaping up to be a brutal game for the New York Rangers.  But in every way imaginable, that’s how it ended up for the Minnesota Wild, who coughed up a three-goal lead and suffered a stunning 5-4 defeat in Madison Square Garden on Monday night.

The Rangers had turned in a listless performance against the Wild through two periods, and were hampered by 14 minutes spent on the penalty kill; Chris Kreider was given five minutes and a game misconduct after a boarding call on defenseman Jonas Brodin, who returned, and John Moore earned a match penalty for targeting the head of Erik Haula on a vicious hit that will all but surely earn him a lengthy suspension.  Minnesota got on the board with three second period goals and had held the Rangers to just eight shots on goal through the first 40 minutes of play.  Surely, they seemed well on their way to a blowout win.

So, what changed?

“For us, we just didn’t play very good hockey those first two periods,” winger Ryan Malone told The Trentonian.

“We were shorthanded, but we found a way to get the job done.  That’s all that matters.  (We needed to) play with some emotion; go out there and get one and see what happens, you never know.  Obviously, Nasher, Zucc, Brass…everyone stepped up and led the charge offensively.  Everyone was on their toes on puck battles, and the result was a win.”

Early third period tallies by Kevin Klein and Rick Nash cut the deficit to 3-2, but Jason Zucker’s goal, scored just 47 seconds after Nash’s, to get Minnesota’s lead back up to 4-2 seemed to be a back breaker for the Rangers.

“When they scored that fourth one, that was a tough one,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.  “We came back with two goals, and we had energy and we had the building going, and they kind of killed the momentum.  It’s great to see the way guys stepped up and showed character.”

The Rangers would score three unanswered goals after that; Derick Brassard got them to within one at 7:54, Anthony Duclair’s first career NHL goal tied the game at 4-4 with 3:48 left in regulation and Mats Zuccarello’s first of the season just 37 seconds later capped off a wild frenzy of action after an otherwise uninteresting first two periods of play.

“These are big points right now, and we want to catch up on teams in front of us,” Lundqvist said.  “We found a way tonight, even though it looked pretty dark for a while.  We kept battling, and I’m happy with the way we responded.”

Miller Makes Triumphant Return To St. Louis

October 24, 2014
Ryan Miller made 31 saves in his first game back in St. Louis since leaving the club to sign with the Vancouver Canucks (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Ryan Miller made 31 saves in his first game back in St. Louis since leaving the club to sign with the Vancouver Canucks (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

ST. LOUIS — OK, so it wasn’t like Ryan Miller was playing his first game back in Buffalo.  But still, the Scottrade Center was the scene for an intriguing night, as the world-class goaltender was back in town for the first time since leaving the St. Louis Blues to sign a free agent deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

Prior to the game, Miller was the subject of an interesting column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch which, in part, read: “Miller is 34. He’s clearly not a goaltender that can carry a team.”

To be sure, Miller’s tenure in the shadow of the arch can only be described as a failure, but that’s not entirely on him.  And on Thursday night?  Well, he carried the Canucks to a 4-1 victory, making 31 saves along the way.

“You want to prepare like it’s any other game, but guys know when guys were on the other side, so obviously you want to get the win for him,” forward Derek Dorsett told The Trentonian.

“I think when we got that third (goal) there, we made a mention (on the bench), ‘Come on, boys.  Millsy made a big save to keep us up.’  We want to get that victory for him coming back to an arena he was in last year.”

Miller made it a point to visit with some of his old teammates during the morning skate, but everything from there was all business for the 34-year-old netminder.

“It was interesting, I’ve never done that before, never had a chance to play against a former team like that,” he said.  “There are a lot of good guys on the team, and it was one I was really looking forward to, especially in St. Louis.  It was fun.  I got yanked out of the last game, and we’re coming to a place where we bowed out of the playoffs early.  There were some good memories, but it was a tough ending.  It could have ended up being a little bit of an emotional game, so I wanted to get myself ready and I was looking forward to the challenge.  The guys responded well.”

Head coach Willie Desjardins said after the game that after Miller was pulled from his last outing, he went over to the goaltender on the bench and told him he’d be starting in St. Louis.  Miller’s message to his coach?

“That’s the game I want.”

For Dorsett, who’s played in front of some of the top goalies in the game over the last two seasons — Henrik Lundqvist and now Miller — he didn’t hesitate to put his current netminder among the best in the world.

“I think those guys are two of the elite, they’ve done it for years,” he said.  “I think there’s some good goaltenders in the league, but I think when you ask who the best goaltenders are, it’s hard to pick one.  I always say Miller, Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick; those guys are in the top three because they’ve done it year after year and they’re just consistent.  Obviously, this game is a lot easier when you have a good goaltender.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Scouting Jack Eichel, 10/18/2014

October 19, 2014

I’m not a professional scout.  Not even close.  I’m a writer with 12 years experience covering pro sports, and ten covering hockey in college, juniors, every level of the minors and the NHL.  So, take what I say as an educated opinion and not gospel or me attempting to speak to you in that light.  I’m just going to tell you what I saw out of a kid that everyone has a lot of interest in heading into his draft-eligible year, especially given that this was my first time seeing him live.

I wanted to walk out of Agganis Arena being blown away by Jack Eichel.  After the first period, I wasn’t sure that was going to be the case.  He tallied a secondary assist on a very pretty tic-tac-toe plassing play off an odd man rush that led to a goal by linemate Danny O’Regan, but it wasn’t until the second period that I saw him shift his game to another gear.  Overdrive, really.  Eichel was dynamic at times in the middle frame.  His first goal banked in off a defenseman — it wasn’t pretty — but he read the play and jumped in up the right side of a 2-on-1 to generate the scoring chance to begin with.  His second goal though?  That’s one of those moments you don’t forget, one that has you saying wow for a while up in the press box.  Eichel doesn’t always exhibit excellent speed — average to slightly above average — but he’s able to get his legs going and really accelerate up the perimeter to work his way around defenders when necessary.  He did just that on this power play chance, and when many players would have either pulled up and set up in the zone or tried to wrap around the net to create a chance, Eichel was aggressive and snapped a supremely impressive wrist shot from the right faceoff dot through the goaltender and in.

Eichel is by no means a physical player, but is willing to go to the dirty areas in the corners and behind the net, and is good on the wall, especially when attempting to anticipate where the play will go.  He’s an aggressive forechecker, however, I’d like to see him forecheck with more of a purpose in the neutral zone…I saw way too many matador like runs that accomplished little else than taking him out of the play, albeit in low-risk, high-reward scenarios.

It is fascinating to see how good he is at 17 years old.  I can’t definitively tell you he’s ready for the NHL right now, nor can I tell you that would be the case when it comes time to find that out around this time next season.  But it would surely be very interesting to see him try, as well as to see how the draft unfolds in the top two spots, which assuredly belong to he and Connor McDavid.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

BREAKING: Live From Agganis Arena, Jack Eichel Very Good At Hockey

October 19, 2014
Jack Eichel scored two goals and added one assist in a 6-4 Boston University win over the USA U-18 team at Agganis Arena on Saturday night (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Jack Eichel scored two goals and added one assist in a 6-4 Boston University win over the USA U-18 team at Agganis Arena on Saturday night (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

BOSTON — There is a foregone conclusion — has been for a while, actually — that Erie Otters standout Connor McDavid will be the first overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.

And then you see Jack Eichel.  And then you have to re-think everything you ever were told was written in stone about who’s going where when Gary Bettman stands at the podium in June.

Eichel is still just 17 years old.  He’s 6-foot-2, 194 pounds.  And damn, is he good.  After an up and down first period against the USNTDP U-18 squad at Agganis Arena on Saturday night, the North Chelmsford, Mass. native kicked his game into another gear for his Boston University Terriers in the second period.  Following an even strength goal that banked off a defenseman an in, Eichel used impressive acceleration to get past a defender on the rush on the right wing side and fire a wrister from the right faceoff dot that was in the back of the net in the blink of an eye.

“Jack garners a lot of attention and rightfully so…(he’s) got that world-class skill set and the physical ability to turn it on and off in the game whenever he wants and really be dominant,” Terriers head coach David Quinn said after the game.

Eichel was flanked on either wing by juniors Ahti Oksanen and Danny O’Regan, a line that could be for BU what Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes were for BC just a year ago.

“I love that first line…I like what I see, but I think their best hockey is ahead of them.  I think they’re really going to be a line that’s going to be difficult for other teams to match up against.  I think they’re just scratching the surface.”

But the focus — even when facing a team that Quinn said might be the most skilled one his club faces all year in the USA U-18 squad — was on Eichel, as it will be all season long.  However, the chemistry between he and his linemates will be critical to the success of everyone involved going forward, a point that was not lost on anyone involved.

“It’s a real unselfish line,” said O’Regan, himself a draft choice of the San Jose Sharks.

“Right off the bat, it kind of worked out.  We seem to find each other in the right spot at the right time.”

Added Eichel: “I think it’s been good, it’s a lot of fun playing with Danny and Ahti.  They’re two really good players, so it’s nice to be able to go to school with them every day.  You get to know them, and you build chemistry off the ice, and I think that translates onto the ice.  But they’re two unbelievable players, so it’s a lot of fun.”

And so is watching Eichel, who dazzled those lucky enough to be in attendance with his highlight reel goal at the 4:43 mark of the second period.

“We drew up a new power play breakout this week…I just tried to move my feet and stay with it.  Coach is on us to attack on the rush, and I saw a seam.  The goalie was cheating a little bit off his post, so I tried to just zip one to the net real quick.  We got a fortunate bounce and I was able to beat him.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Hurricanes Show Promise Despite Shootout Loss

October 17, 2014

NEW YORK — The Carolina Hurricanes were always expected to be towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings this season.  Add in injuries to Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and Andrej Sejera and, well…it’s not going to be pretty.  And to be sure, their 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night was more evidence of that, but it isn’t all negative.

Although they’re still looking for their first win on the young season, Carolina played its most complete game yet, and received an excellent performance between the pipes by Anton Khudobin, who has outplayed Cam Ward early on.

“Dobie kept us in the hockey game, for sure,” said defenseman Jay Harrison.  “He took away a lot of chances for them, and gave us an opportunity to win, which is what we need right now.  With how dilapidated our lineup is right now — we’re running short on bodies — we need our goalies to be pillars back there for us.  And they’ve been that way so far, giving us a chance to win in the last couple games for sure.”

There is, as Harrison pointed out, not a lot in front of Khudobin these days.  But even with Nathan Gerbe having left last night’s game to due a lower body injury — he was walking with a pronounced limp after the game — the Hurricanes aren’t looking to make excuses.

“It’s a tough situation,” Khudobin said.  “We have a lot of guys injured…it’s tough for us, and it’s tough losses for us, but we can’t blame that.  We have to figure out what we need to do without them and play.  You have to still play while you’re waiting for the other guys.”

Against a Rangers team that was hungry after two blowout losses, Carolina did just that.  Defenseman Ryan Murphy and forward Brad Malone had particularly strong showings, leaving the Hurricanes thinking that their first claim of two points on the year wasn’t far away.

“I think we played a pretty strong 60-minute game,” Harrison said.  “We showed some resiliency there, and held onto it.  We kept pucks deep, we cycled the puck, we generated some offense and we played really tight defensively away from the puck as well.  That’s two games in a row we put back-to-back efforts together, and we’re probably going to look back at some positive things about that and not the result.  We’ll take the things that we did really well and move forward.”

Added head coach Bill Peters: “The effort was good.  These guys work, these guys compete.  You can’t question that.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com


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