Peter Koutroumpis – email@example.com
RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes fans rose to their feet a number of times throughout the team’s Summerfest finale that took place at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters received a standing ovation from the approximate 3,000-plus in attendance following his energetic and reassuring responses to fan inquiries during a Q & A session with Hurricanes television play-by-play announcer John Forslund.
Just before the end of the session, one fan was so impressed with Peters that she stated unequivocally, “we’ll stick with you through thick and thin.”
It was a strong and ringing endorsement for a man who hadn’t even stood behind the bench to lead the Hurricanes yet.
“That’s unreal,” Peters said of the moment.
“I didn’t expect that, no. That’s good. A quality person right there; a quality ‘Canes fan…They’re a passionate group, obviously. I’m looking forward to the upcoming season.”
Following Peters, it was the team’s prospects who then earned their own rousing applause from the energetic crowd as they stepped onto the ice to compete in their final scrimmage, capping off a week-long development camp experience.
As both Red and White squads emerged from the dressing room while the Scorpions’ ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’ reverberated throughout the building, peering down at the team rosters, it looked as though it would be a foregone conclusion that White would prevail.
With the exception of a few drafted players – defenseman Brett Pesce (2013, 66th overall) and forwards Warren Foegele (2014, 67th overall) and Lucas Wallmark (2014, 97th overall) – Red’s entire team was comprised of signed free agents like Dennis Robertson and Patrick Brown and a majority of the camp’s invitees.
The two sides had even traded a little pregame chatter back and forth amongst themselves according to defenseman Hadyn Fleury, the team’s top pick (7th overall) in this year’s recent NHL Entry Draft.
“I think the White team was pretty cocky before the game started, and we kinda’ got humbled pretty quick there,” Fleury said.
“We realized this was gonna’ be a game and just couldn’t get back in it.”
Dryden Hunt and his teammates had other plans in mind as he tallied two goals as Red topped White 7-5 during two 15–minute periods of play and a five-a-side shootout round.
Even while some of the scrimmage’s early goals were less-than-pretty looking deflections, Hunt’s strong power move off the right wing that put him past Fleury before sliding the puck between the pads of Daniel Altshuller, Carolina’s third pick (69th overall) in 2012, was impressive.
Not to be outdone, White’s Phil DiGiuseppe scored two goals, including a snipe into the top blocker-side corner over Logan Halladay’s shoulder that narrowed the score, but subsequently was not enough to forge a comeback.
“Definitely getting the call to come here was great,” Hunt said afterwards.
“I just tried to take it all in, make the most of my opportunity and I feel like I did some of that today.”
Having finished last season with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL), posting 40 points (21g, 19a) in 62 games, the undrafted center came to camp intent on making an impression.
He did just that on Sunday and the crowd’s energy helped to enhance the experience for him on the final day.
“That was huge,” Hunt said.
“There was tons of people here for just a scrimmage. I’ve heard Carolina’s a great (hockey) city and it’s got great fans, so it was nice of those people to come out and obviously we fed off of it…It was fun. I played with some good guys, good-caliber hockey. I haven’t played in a scrimmage in probably four months, so it was good to get out there.”
The five-foot-11-inch, 195-pound center learned a few days earlier that he made the team’s squad that will participate in the upcoming Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament that will take place Sept. 12-16.
“There’s a kid who came here as a free agent,” Peters said of Hunt.
“He probably should feel pretty good about himself right now.”
With that in mind, Hunt can return to Regina to begin camp with his junior club knowing that he will join up with Fleury, DiGiuseppe, Altshuller, among others who will likely be named to the team’s prospect tournament roster.
The Hurricanes’ roster entry into the preseason tournament will be officially announced in the near future, and when it is, it will be a competition that the Hurricanes coach will have high expectations to do well in.
“I think it is important,” Peters said.
“I think it bodes well for the future and shows that your young guys are competitive. There was a play today in the corner where I thought Brock McGinn was very competitive on. So, you want that throughout your lineup. You wanna’ go in there and learn about some guys and see what they’re all about. It’ll be good now, playing against people who they don’t know for the most part. It will be more physical obviously and the intensity will ramp up.”