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
Woohoo! It is always good to get that first game under our belt at Le Colisee. Today was the first tournament game after three solid exhibition games and it is always a different feel about it. Just the sounds and sights of Le Colisee, the Poutine, Lafleur Hot dogs and the catchy pee-wee tournament song that you cannot get out of your head. Vive Le Pee-wee Du Carnival!
The kids came back to the Hotel at 9:00 a.m., rested and did homework in their parents' room. At 11:00 a.m. we headed back to Le Colisee two hours prior to our game. We then sat and watched Atlanta play Slovenia in their first round tournament game. We would play one of these two teams depending on the wins and losses of both their game and ours. Atlanta won the game 6-3. Atlanta heads to the winner bracket and Slovenia to the loser bracket.
Hurricanes vs. Anaheim Jr. Ducks
The team then headed to the locker room to get dressed, stretch and warm up. They have to be ready 20 minutes before the game in time for pictures. The team always gets pictures prior to the first game at Le Colisee. The tournament officials then gather the coaching staffs of each team together for the puck flip to determine the benches and team colors.
I had the choice of flip and choose the wrong side, of course. Anaheim fell into my lap though as they took the home bench and white jerseys. The away benches are closer to the dressing rooms and we prefer that advantage. We also have our black third jerseys this year instead of the red ones and we were eager to show them off to Le Colisee crowd. So we got our benches and our black jerseys, it was a good start.
The game started out very typical for our team. We had the puck in the Anaheim end for most of the first period. We kept the pressure on and were getting many chances, but were very nervous around the net. Shots were weak and rushed when we had good scoring chances. Also, unlike the first game, we were not using the points very much.
The second period was more of the same. The goaltending of Matthew Forslund was solid and all shots on net were smothered. We kept the pressure on, but no luck in getting the puck behind a very solid and rather large Anaheim goaltender.
During the ice cut between the second and third, coach Mitch Hodgkiss made the team aware that they could use the points more as Anaheim was collapsing their wingers down low and leaving our points wide open. Sure enough, the kids went out and fed the point for multiple shots to begin the third period. This moved the Anaheim wingers up the boards more and we started to control the puck down low for longer periods. It was only a matter of time.
Garret Coley, Ward Betts and Josh Wilkins worked the puck to the right of the goalie and Betts slid it out to Coley in the slot. Coley took a shot and Wilkins grabbed the rebound and slammed it past the tender for a 1-0 lead 2:58 seconds into the final frame. We have been in close games like this before, last year in a disappointing loss to this same Anaheim team, and we were very happy to get the first goal.
Sticking to the same formula, the kids saw the benefit of getting the puck to the points and the shots kept coming and the Anaheim team kept running around. A little under five minutes later, Josh Wilkins and Nicholas Skaluba battled for the puck along the boards and managed to get it to Phil Heisse. Waiting on the point, Heisse riffled a shot towards the Anaheim net. While it was still on its way, Eric Hirschhaut got his stick on it and tipped it past the Anaheim goalie for an insurance goal and some relief.
It wasn’t over yet as Anaheim now put the pressure on the Canes and started getting the puck deeper in our zone. With three minutes left Garrett Coley put Anaheim on the power play and with two minutes left Anaheim called a timeout and pulled their goalie. Six-on-four would put the pressure on us even more. However, an acrobatic Forslund was outstanding, stopping five or six point-blank shots like Grant Fuhr in the mid-1980’s for the Edmonton Oilers.
Moments later Nicholas Skaluba took another penalty and made it a six-on-three advantage for Anaheim. Tension was thick in the air and we were very thankful for a two-goal lead. Again, Forslund stood on his head and pulled one shot in after another, diving and leaping as Anaheim peppered him. It was a tense last few moments, but the penalty killing unit and goalie stood up to the challenge.
At the buzzer, the victory could be summed up in Forslund’s reaction as he jumped up and down skating full speed to the bench to congratulate the team. Usually it is the team rushing to the goalie, but Forslund beat them to the punch. This was only the second shutout in tournament play for a Carolina Jr. Hurricanes goaltender. The first was Zach Fraser in 2006. Congrats Matthew and Congrats Junior Canes!
Canes Win 2-0
Next up is the Atlanta Fire as they won against Slovenia. We will suit up against them on Wednesday, February 17.