TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - The Carolina Hurricanes are champions of the NHL Prospects Tournament for the first time since 2009.
The Hurricanes capped their perfect tournament record with a 6-4 victory over the Detroit Red Wings in the championship game at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City, Mich.
Julien Gauthier scored twice and Alex Nedeljkovic made 28 saves en route to the Canes lifting the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup.
"It's a really good group of guys," head coach Ulf Samuelsson said. "A lot of talent. It was a high-scoring team. A lot of fun to be a part of."
"We've just been able to impose our will on other teams," Nedeljkovic said. "We can skate by guys, out-strength guys, we can shoot the puck well, we've got guys who can stick-handle well, we've got everything. It was pretty cool to watch and pretty fun to be a part of."
Video: Highlights from the NHL Prospects Tournament championship game
The Canes' signature of this tournament has been their ability to use their speed and skill to jump on teams early and take the lead. That's exactly what they did tonight, establishing a two-goal lead before Detroit even registered a shot on goal. Steven Lorentz opened the scoring for the Hurricanes. Tyler Ganly held the puck in at the point, chipping it down low to Hudson Elynuik, who centered to Lorentz for the goal. Shortly after, Noah Carroll attempted a centering feed for Lucas Wallmark, who had the puck skip over his stick and right to Andrew Poturalski, and he finished from the far dot.
"We talked a lot about momentum," Samuelsson said. "Scoring goals is a big boost for your team. It gives our players a lot of confidence. They aren't afraid to join the rush, and good things evolve from there."
Detroit halved the Canes' lead before the first intermission and emerged in the second period with some momentum. Nedeljkovic responded, and he made perhaps his best save of the tournament on Mike Borkowski as the goaltender lunged over to glove down a puck that look destined for the twine.
"He's a really good goalie with a great future," Samuelsson said. "I've got to give credit to our defensive system as well. Particularly in the second when they racked up all those shots, it was a lot of wide-angle shots and shots from the blue line that he saw all the way, which is nothing for him."
On a power play that followed not too long afterward, 2016 first-round draft choice Jake Bean fired home his first goal of the tournament.
From there, the Canes built on their lead. It was then the organization's other 2016 first-round draft choice who came alive, scoring twice to pad the Canes' lead to four goals. First, Nicolas Roy connected with Gauthier on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush. Then, Gauthier used his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame to move around a defender and muscle to the net, before stuffing the puck home.
"I had good legs today, and everything went well," Gauthier said. "It's always good for confidence when you find the back of the net. We have a good bunch of guys here, good teammates, and I owe a lot to them."
Detroit would pull within two goals in the third period to make it 6-4, but the Hurricanes held strong until the final buzzer.
Video: Alex Nedeljkovic on winning Traverse City Tournament
"That was a lot of fun. It was a good game," Nedeljkovic said. "We were pretty comfortable going into the third, and they made it a good one at the end. A couple of ups and downs throughout the whole game, and at the end of the day we got the win. It was a fun weekend here."
This tournament victory is a testament to how talented this stable of prospects is for the Hurricanes' organization. The future is indeed bright, and the next step begins this week with training camp.
"I think we did a really good job of bonding. … That's the biggest thing. You've got to come together quick. Every game matters. You've got to play every game like it's the biggest game," Nedeljkovic said. "We're looking forward to main camp now, having fun and trying to prove ourselves to everyone upstairs."
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 ||6-4 W |