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Runners Up

The Red Wings come up short in the Prospect Tournament championship game for the second straight year, this time falling 6-4 to the Carolina Hurricanes

by Josh Berenter @JBerenter / Detroit Red Wings

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Again, they were this close.

For the second straight year, the aspiring Red Wings were defeated in the NHL Prospect Tournament championship game, losing to the undefeated Carolina Hurricanes, 6-4, on Tuesday night at Centre Ice Arena.

The Hurricanes came out of the gate firing on all cylinders, peppering Red Wings goalie Jake Paterson with shots in the early going.

Paterson faced a litany of early shots for the fourth straight game, but unlike Monday's win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Wings' 2012 third-round pick couldn't keep the puck out of the net in the championship game.

Just 2:43 into the game, Carolina forward Steven Lorentz beat Paterson on his stick side to give the Hurricanes a pivotal early lead.

Things went from bad to worse 1:34 later when Hurricanes forward Andrew Poturalski scored to put the Wings in an early bind, down 2-0 less than five minutes into the game.

Carolina had two goals and eight shots before Detroit registered a shot on net. The Wings didn't get a shot on goal for the first 7:57 of the game.

"They had two quick goals and we couldn't handle that," said Red Wings' 2015 first-round draft pick Evgeny Svechnikov. "I think they took momentum of the game. We outshot them in the second period, and in the third, we won completely. But we just had a bad start."

The Red Wings killed their first penalty of the game midway through the first period and picked up the physicality. Detroit earned its first power play at 12:26 and finally found some offensive rhythm, putting pressure on Carolina goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, but couldn't find the back of the net.

The Wings earned another power play with 1:57 left and were patient on the man advantage, moving the puck well and picking their spots. With 23 seconds remaining in the first, forward and 2013 second-round draft pick Zach Nastasiuk slipped a wrist shot past Nedeljkovic to make the score 2-1.

Detroit was outshot 14-7 in the period but gained confidence and momentum with the goal just before heading into the locker room.

The Red Wings started the second period guns blazing, picking up the tempo and the hitting. They had a golden opportunity 3:34 into the period when forwards Dylan Sadowy (acquired in a trade with San Jose) and Givani Smith (2016 second-round pick) set up free-agent invite Mike Borkowski right on the doorstep, but Nedeljkovic made a sprawling glove save to rob Borkowski and keep the Wings down by one.

It looked like the Wings tied the game with just under 11 minutes left in the second when forward and Grand Rapids Griffins signee Kyle Criscuolo fired a shot from just inside the blue line. The puck appeared to sneak under crossbar, but the referees convened and determined it was no goal.

Just after the no-goal, Smith was sent to the box and the Hurricanes capitalized when defenseman Jake Bean ripped a shot past a screened Paterson, which put Carolina up, 3-1.

Carolina forward Julien Gauthier turned a Detroit turnover at center ice into an odd-man rush which led to a devastating shorthanded goal to put the Hurricanes up by three, just like that, with 3:41 left in the second period.

"It was big," Wings' prospects coach Todd Nelson said about the momentum shift. "Their goalie played extremely well. He made a great save on Borkowski and we also rang one off the crossbar. If one of those goes in, it's a 2-2 game. We had some bad bounces, but those things happen."

Double minors were assessed at 17:53 in the second, and during the 4-on-4 timeframe, Gauthier lifted the puck over Paterson's shoulder with less than minute left in the period, extending the Hurricanes' lead to 5-1 going into the third.

Nelson pulled Paterson to start the third and free-agent invite Connor Hicks saw his first action of the tournament between the pipes.

Despite being down four goals, the Wings didn't quit. Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit's second-round pick in 2013, scored a pretty goal on a one-timer from Svechnikov at 4:28 to make it a 5-2 game.

But several minutes later, the Hurricanes answered back, scoring a breakaway power-play goal with 4:33 to go, building their lead back to four.

Once again, though, Detroit showed resilience, scoring two goals within a minute and 15 seconds to make it a 6-4 game with less than two minutes left, first on a Bertuzzi wrist shot that went top shelf, followed by a goal from Dominic Turgeon, the Wings' third-round pick in 2014.

Hicks went to the bench with under 1:30 remaining and Detroit threatened again, but the Wings were unable to score and time ran out, forcing the Red Wings to settle for second place for the second consecutive year.

"We weren't going down without a fight and pushed to the very end," Bertuzzi said. "Maybe if the game was 10 minutes longer, we could've battled back. But we fought right until the end and we were happy with our effort."

Nelson agreed that effort was never in question throughout the game and said he was happy with his team's resilience.

"It was up and down but the guys never quit," Nelson said. "They battled right to the end and that's why I'm proud of them."

Bertuzzi finished the tournament with four goals and an assist, continuing his evolution from a fighter and an agitator to a complete skill player and a leader.

"He was very good in this tournament," Nelson said about Bertuzzi. "He played in all situations, he took on a leadership role, he's saying the right things on the bench and guys are following, so I think over the course of the last three years, he's really grown as a player."

Despite coming up short, Nelson said he's proud of the way his team came together and said his team gained invaluable experience playing four games in five days in front of over 175 NHL scouts.

"It's a great experience for everybody involved," Nelson said. "For the players, it gets them ready for main camp. For us as a coaching staff, it kind of kicks the rust off for us. It's a very competitive tournament and it's well run. A lot of teams are doing this nowadays, and I think it's a fantastic idea."

Now the focus in Traverse City shifts to Red Wings training camp which begins at Centre Ice Arena on Friday. Players like Svechnikov and Bertuzzi said they're the excited for the opportunity to compete with the established Red Wings players for a chance to earn on a spot on the NHL roster.

"I'll be ready, that's for sure," Svechnikov said. "I'll bring a fast game (into man camp). I'll just try to bring my best. Every day, step on the ice and compete with those guys."

 

NOTES:

Wings Appreciate Volunteers:

Players and coaches went out of their way after the game to rave about the hospitality from the volunteers in Traverse City throughout the five-day tournament.

"It's outstanding. The people in Traverse City always really shine during this time," Nelson said. "They do a fantastic job. It's been like this ever since I've been part of this organization. They bend over backwards for you and it's all volunteer work, so it's just an outstanding job."

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