Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rats Set In Net; Peters Earning Respect

Carolina Hurricanes' Prospect Justin Peters
(Photo by Adam Prince)

Anyone who watched the second half of the River Rats' 2008-2009 season saw a goalie finding his stride. Justin Peters not only won the #1 spot in Albany, he impressed the boys in Carolina so much he was called up to witness the Canes' playoff run. Peters was arguably the most improved Rats' player this past season.

The Blyth, Ontario native earned little respect in his early professional days. Starting his career in Albany in 2006, he eventually ended up in the ECHL, playing 31 games for the Florida Everblades during the 2007-2008 season.

But Peters fought his way back to Albany, competing with goalie Daniel Manzato for the top spot in 2008-2009. By the end of the year, he had earned the job and then some.

Peters has always been equipped with the fundamentals, but perhaps the best quality a goaltender can have these days is the ability to stay calm and focused under extreme pressure. With four years of professional hockey under his belt, Peters now has this particular skill mastered...and to the surprise of many, he has blossomed into a top-notch goalie.

Peters is rarely rattled by multiple waves of offense. He can be relied upon to make just about every first save; confidently move in position for the rebound; reset for the next wave; and when everything is safe, refocus without showing an ounce of fatigue. Soft goals are no longer in his vocabulary. Peters' side-to-side is reminiscent of Cam Ward. His positional game is solid. His glove is sharp. The best part of it all, he is stuck in Albany for at least one more year.

Peters has NHL written all over him, but Carolina is loaded with depth in net. Cam Ward is a franchise starter and former River Rat Michael Leighton is signed to be his back up for one more season. On top of that, two-time OHL goalie-of-the-year Mike Murphy is set to make his pro debut in Albany next season. So even though Peters has NHL potential, he will still have to compete with another Hurricanes' prospect. In the end, Peters and Murphy may prove to be a dynamic combo. Carolina has interest in them both.

All of this equates to good news for the Rats, who are almost guaranteed a strong goalie for the duration of the 2009-2010 season.

Justin Peters deserves bonus points for showing tremendous spirit in the final game of the 2008-2009 season. He went toe-to-toe at center ice with Binghamton netminder Jeff Glass. Peters was escorted off the ice to a standing ovation. Multiple angles of the brawl are available on YouTube...for those interested in that sort of thing. (Photo by Jennifer Bock)