TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - For the first time since 2009, their first year competing in the tournament, the Carolina Hurricanes will play in the NHL Prospects Tournament championship game.
The Hurricanes finished undefeated in round robin play with a 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars. Carolina, who won the tournament in 2009, will face off with the hometown favorite Detroit Red Wings for the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"It was another good effort, good team effort," head coach Ulf Samuelsson said. "A lot of good things we did with and without the puck. I thought the guys worked well as units out there."
In a short tournament such as this one, the team that has the most success comes together the quickest and establishes a consistent game. The Hurricanes have done that over the last five days.
Video: NHL Prospects Tournament Highlights vs. Dallas
"It takes a while for the guys to get to know each other and be comfortable in their surroundings," Samuelsson said. "The Hurricanes have done a real good job providing these guys with a good environment. They're comfortable now as a group, and now it's about finding some more energy for tomorrow's game."
"We've become better and closer every day," Roland McKeown said. "We're getting a little more used to the system, and that's what it's all about here. It's go, go, go, but at the same time you've got to perform your system, and that's what we've been doing."
"We've had the same guys here for the last couple of years, and I think we jell together really good," Clark Bishop said. "It's showing on the ice."
As has been the theme of the tournament, the Hurricanes were able to establish an early lead on their opponent. Valentin Zykov, on a tip of Noah Carroll's point shot, and Bishop, firing home a centering pass from Andrew Poturalski in the slot, helped the Canes to an early 2-0 advantage.
"We just want to be a fast, hard-working team right off the start and not let the other team get anything," Bishop said.
The Stars would cut that lead in half before the first intermission and then tie the game in the second period before the Hurricanes re-established their lead and never looked back.
"The game is going to be back and forth. You're going to have the momentum for a while, and then you're going to lose it," Samuelsson said. "When you lose it, you need a couple big saves, and Ned came up big with a couple saves when we needed them. We also played pretty good team defense around him, as well, so I'm really happy the way our guys played in our own end."
Video: Ulf Samuelsson on playing in championship game
On the power play in the second period, Sergey Tolchinsky slid the puck across the crease to McKeown, who pinched in from the point, for the tap in. Then, Tyler Ganly's knucklepuck found its way through a screen and possibly a Steven Lorentz deflection to make it a 4-2 game.
Free agent invitee Mike Ferrantino and Tolchinsky (empty-net) added goals in the third period to cap the Canes' scoring.
Before filing out of Centre Ice Arena on Monday night, the Hurricanes watched as Detroit cemented their spot in the championship game. Four games and five nights will have been played come this time tomorrow, and it all comes down to this last one.
"It will be really fun tomorrow playing in the championship game," Bishop said. "It's my third year here so far, and you can just see the team progress every year. It's good to see we're doing so well."
"It's going to be easy to get up for this one," McKeown said. "This is an exciting opportunity for our group in here. We're chomping at the bit here. We're looking forward to it."
2016 NHL Prospects Tournament
|DATE ||VISITOR ||HOME ||TIME (ET) / RESULT |
|Fri Sep 16, 2016 ||Hurricanes ||Rangers ||4-3 W (OT) |
|Sat Sep 17, 2016 ||Wild ||Hurricanes ||4-2 W |
|Mon Sep 19, 2016 ||Stars ||Hurricanes ||6-3 W |
|Tue Sep 20, 2016 ||Red Wings ||Hurricanes ||7:00 p.m. |