Yesterday marked the 32nd anniversary of the Miracle on Ice where the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team defeated Russia in Lake Placid, N.Y. in 1980. The United States team was led by coach Herb Brooks, and was mostly made of amateur and college-level players, . The inspirational group defeated the Soviet team, who were considered to be the best ice hockey team in the world. Team USA went on to win the gold medal by winning its last match over Finland. Sports Illustrated named the “Miracle on Ice” the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century in 1999.
Not to diminish this historical event in our sports history, but the Carolina Hurricanes have pulled some miracles of their own this year. The first half of the season showcased a lackluster coach, an inconsistent defense, a nonexistent Eric Staal, an average Cam Ward, and a concussed Rookie of the Year. Yikes.
There were plenty of opportunities for miracles given the early state of demise, so I am proud to share some of my favorite 2011-12 astonishments to date:
- Again! *insert whistle* – Jim Rutherford says goodbye to Paul Maurice and welcomes charismatic coach, Kirk Muller, who transformed even dull practices into motivational drills.
- Staal No More – Captain Staal went from sputtering on the ice and being surrounded by trade rumors to confidently leading his team with 49 points. Also, 11 of those points have come in the past 6 games.
- Faceoff Phenomenon – Brandon Sutter is 50.4% while Staal is 51% in faceoff victories this season. I’ll take it.
- Sensational Sweep – For the first time in Canes’ franchise history, Carolina sweeps the season series against none other than the Stanley Cup Champions, Boston Bruins.
- Fantastic February – The Hurricanes have gone 5-1-2 in the month of February. It pains me to remind you, the team was 4-10-1 in November.
- Faulk’in Flabbergasting – Young defenseman, Justin Faulk, is making an impressive case for a consecutive Canes’ Calder Memorial Trophy nomination. With 44 NHL games under his breezers this season, Faulk has 6 goals, including 4 power play goals, and 9 assists. He boasts a plus/minus-8 and 29 penalty minutes.
- Surprising Season Signings – Jim Rutherford shocks Caniacs and signs not one, but two players during the season. Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu accepted JR’s proposal and the pair will remain in Raleigh. Goal!
- Czech on Fire– Jiri Tlusty, who performed in 57 games last season for 6 goals and 6 assists, has earned 14 tallies and 13 helpers in 60 contests. He is the team’s 5th leading point scorer. Atta boy! He looks to extend his 8 game point streak Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
- Sophomore Slump Squashed – Many forecasted a typical sophomore slump for Jeff Skinner, but he continues to thrive. Despite missing 16 games due to a concussion, Skinny is tied with Jussi Jokinen (31 pts) for second spot on the point leader board. I must mention his spin-a-rama goal on November 21st as a season highlight.
- Super Sutter Shot – Perhaps one of the most memorable goals of this season is Brandon Sutter on the breakaway fresh out of the penalty box to score on October 28, 2011 against Blackhawks. Canes shutout Chicago 2-0. The alternate captain has done very well and continues to grow into his important role.
There are many more happy, little surprises Caniacs have enjoyed this year. What is your favorite amazing moment to date? Share in the comment section!
Just remember…the season isn’t over and miracles happen when you least expect it.
Let’s Go Canes!