Throughout the tournament, Strand will be blogging to offer insight on the team’s play, countless experiences from the historic city, the tales and triumphs of individual players and more. Over the eight years of play in the tournament, the Carolina Hurricanes squad has become very competitive and will once again be viewed as a contender.
Thanks for reading and come back often!
Helpful links: Tournament Schedule | Bracket
First order of the day was to call my son Braden back in Raleigh before he headed off for school to wish him a happy 11th birthday. He has made the trip the past two seasons to Quebec and loves it up here in snow and cold. Happy Birthday Braden! This year he opted for the Black Eyed Peas at the RBC Center this Friday over the Great White North.
Today was game number two of the tournament. This game is always the scariest because it is the first game we can be eliminated from tournament play and no one wants to leave after two games. We would be playing an arch rival of the teams out of Carolina, the Atlanta Fire. The Fire have been a strong program for many years now in the Southeast District and have handed many a loss to the teams from Raleigh, Charlotte and Charleston. I am sure most folks from back home would like to see nothing less then a huge victory.
Hurricanes vs. Atlanta Fire
The Hurricanes would need to have some strategy to control the Fire. They have a very solid team and a high-flying first line that, if allowed to get off to a fast start, would gain confidence quickly and dominate the game. Matching lines is not something we like to do normally, but today we would see how it worked.
It worked beautifully. Against the Junior Hurricanes defensive pairing of Nicholas Skaluba and Phil Heisse, the Atlanta big line of Crawford, Mackracken and Pearson could not generate any offense early and frustration set in quickly. In their first game against Slovenia the Atlanta trio scored early and often en route to a 6-3 victory.
Another key was to get on the score board quickly and not let Atlanta get any life. This happened very quickly as the Hurricanes got a power play five minutes into the game. A blast from Mackenzie Lancaster from the point was a rocket, shoulder high, that Josh Wilkins tipped out of the air, beginning the celebrations. As the line came flying past the bench for high fives, the referees talked in the corner…..NO goal. High Stick.
However, the kids went right back out and did not let it get them down. Ward Betts got the puck to Skaluba at the point who took a nice wrist shot to the far post where Wilkins was once again waiting with his stick, this time just a foot off he ground, for a nice tip past the tender. 1-0 Canes
A few minutes later the line of Betts, Coley and Wilkins kept the pressure on and were working the puck around beautifully. Betts to Wilkins, Wilkins to Betts, to Coley, back to Betts and then back to Coley in front and Coley fired one past the Atlanta goalie from the high slot.2-0 Canes
We couldn’t keep the skill of Crawford off the board all game. In the second period, Atlanta was handed a power play and Crawford picked the puck up in the neutral zone and came down the left side. At the top of the circle he hammered a shot through the legs of the defender that the goalie Cody Murch could not pick up and it ended up in the net.2-1 Canes
The line of Eric Hirschhaut, Hayden Winch and Tyler Romel was one of those tapped to control Atlanta’s big line. Sometimes when you are focused on shutting down another teams top line you are so focused on that job that the offense just starts to come. In the second period, this was just the case. The trio had Atlanta hemmed in their own zone and Romel got the puck to Hirschhaut in the slot with Winch in front of the goalie. Hirschhaut then fired a bullet of a shot to the top corner in what could have been one of the hardest shots this tournament has seen.3-1 Canes
After a short break, the kids could smell the victory heading into the final frame. All we needed to do was keep the pressure on and not lose sight of the game plan. After two goals by the Coley, Betts and Wilkins line it was time for Hirschhaut, Romel and Winch to match the feat.
The line kept the puck once again hemmed in the Atlanta zone. Romel got the puck to Winch who dished it to Hirschhaut again at the face-off dot on the right side this time and Hirschhaut let another laser fly. Top shelf right next to the peanut butter. Another beautiful shot by Hirschhaut for his second of the game. 4-1 Canes
We were not done yet as Betts decided that he was not going to be left out of the goal column. Betts added a fifth goal slamming in a rebound of Wilkins' late in the third period. 5-1 Canes
This was truly a team effort. The young line of Aiden Worrall, Bradly Ingersoll, Linda Essery and Kyle Moore did their jobs well and kept the puck in the Atlanta zone. They were buzzing and cycling and made it difficult for the second and third lines of the Fire to pick up the slack for their top line. The defense was outstanding. Ford Hatchett, Mitchell Glabicki, Lancaster and Tanner Siemens all did the little things right and along with Heisse and Skaluba kept Atlanta to 17 shots total. Final Score - 5-2 Canes
Next up we will not have the home crowd behind us as we play a local Quebec team today at 3:30 p.m. - the Quebec Quest Ambassadors.