If you thought Carolina Hurricanes equipment manager Jorge Alves getting 8 seconds in net in 2016 was a moment, buckle up for this one.
After Carolina goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek both went down with injuries during Saturday’s game in Toronto, the Hurricanes were forced to call on the on-site emergency goalie — 42-year-old Toronto Marlies Zamboni driver David Ayres — to play the final 28:41 of their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ayres, a kidney transplant recipient in 2004 who reached the Junior B level as a goalie, was up to the task, stopping 8 of the 10 shots he faced while the Hurricanes rallied in front of him to outshoot Toronto 47-26 in Carolina’s historic 6-3 win on “Hockey Night in Canada.”
“It’s pretty special. … That just gave me an incredible memory,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the game.
Ayres allowed goals to Toronto’s John Tavares and Pierre Engvall in under four minutes after taking over for the injured Mrazek — who was steamrolled by Leafs forward Kyle Clifford while racing out from his net to play the puck — but settled in to blank the home team in the third.
“Obviously that second period was a little shaky,” Ayres told Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas after the game. “But I told the boys in the dressing room, once we come out for the third I’ll be settled down and ready to win this one.”
Carolina never relinquished the lead, but because the eventual game-winning goal was scored while Ayres — who wore No. 90 — was in net, the longtime emergency goaltender earned the win, becoming the oldest goalie to get a victory in his regular season debut in NHL history.
“What a moment for him to have for the rest of his life,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s incredible. That’s why you do this.”
For a night, the Hurricanes — who moved back into a playoff spot with the improbable win — celebrated as if they won the Stanley Cup, dousing Ayres in water as he entered the locker room.
Next, reality will set in: The team has already announced that both Reimer and defenseman Brett Pesce, who was injured on the sequence that led to Tavares’ goal, will miss time, while Mrazek’s status has not yet been updated.
The Hurricanes do have options. The team has top goaltending prospect Alex Nedeljkovic and former NHLer Anton Forsberg playing for the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, plus they still have time before Monday’s trade deadline to inquire about available goalies.
On defense, any of Jake Bean, Chase Priskie, recently acquired Joey Keane or Gustav Forsling could get the call to come to Raleigh.
But those are thoughts for tomorrow. In a season that has been up and down — from inconsistency and key injuries on the ice to missing the team chemistry that drove Carolina to the Eastern Conference Final a season ago — the Hurricanes might have found the moment that brings them together.
No one expected it to be one made by David Ayres.