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Play again or not, there's much to like about the Canes' season

Chip Alexander, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in Hockey

RALEIGH, N.C. -- While the NHL season remains on pause and we all wait to see if there will be more hockey, it's a good time to reflect.

Even if the Carolina Hurricanes' season should be called after 68 games, if the coronavirus pandemic makes it unsafe to finish, there will be much to like about 2019-20.

Sebastian Aho has scored a career-high 38 goals. Forward Martin Necas, so swift on the ice, was having a strong rookie season and defenseman Haydn Fleury established himself on the blue line. Before the March 12 suspension of play by the NHL, Justin WIlliams had goals in five straight games before the season was abruptly suspended.

The Canes (38-25-5) had won three straight games and held the top wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in Rod Brind'Amour's second year as head coach.

Here are five of the most memorable hockey moments from 2019-20:

It was alarming when starting goalie James Reimer was injured in a collision in the net, leaving the Feb. 22 game in Toronto. For the Canes, it became much worse when goalie Petr Mrazek was left facedown on the ice after an even bigger collision away from the net, suffering a concussion.

 

What now? An emergency backup goalie? And whom might that be at Scotiabank Arena, many wondered.

Meet David Ayres. He's 42, played some junior hockey, has helped the Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies at times as a practice goalie. Once drove a Zamboni. Survived a kidney transplant.

Ayres put on his goalie gear after Reimer was hurt and then was on the ice after Mrazek left in the second period. Brind'Amour's dejected expression was telling but Ayres, seemingly asked to do the impossible, made a victory possible. After allowing two goals in the second period, he stopped all seven shots in the third as the Canes hunkered down and won 6-3.

It wasn't just a feel-good NHL or hockey story. This was an Everyman kind of story, one that inspired, one that might have some resonance today with the world facing a pandemic crisis.

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