Guilford County isn’t known as a television market hotbed for National Hockey League games, but it has – along with the rest of the state of North Carolina – quickly become one due to the recent utterly stunning run by the Carolina Hurricanes team that won game six 5-2 on Monday night – forcing a game seven in the best-of-seven series against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals.
Now, all eyes will be on the Hurricanes and the deciding game seven that will be played on Wednesday night, April 24.
Not long ago, it didn’t look like the Hurricanes would even make it into the playoffs. However, a surprisingly strong regular season finish got the team in after a nine-year absence. For that hard work, though, the Hurricanes were pitted against the defending champions. Before the playoffs began earlier this month, most hockey fans were expecting a 4-0 sweep by the Capitals. Now the Canes are within one game of knocking off the 2018 champions.
On Wednesday night, area sports bars that are used to seeing big crowds for Duke-North Carolina basketball games – but not usually for hockey – are expected to do a roaring business thanks to the surprising game seven that will decide which team advances and that will be watched with great interest by hockey fans across the nation.
Over the first six games of the back and forth series between the Canes and the Capitals, the Canes have picked up more and more area viewers – even catching the interest of many area residents who never watch hockey.
The series has had a wealth of subplots as well. To name one, in game three, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin beat 19-year-old Hurricane’s player Andrei Svechnikov unconscious in a scene that was brutal even by hockey standards.
Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce said Monday night after the game six victory that he’d never seen anything like this series and the way the fans have reacted.
“It’s unbelievable,” Pesce said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this in my hockey career. It’s amazing to see the fans so engaged and we’ve been waiting a long time for this. All year, we’ve been the underdog and all year we’ve battled back. It [game seven] is going to be another game and we’re going to be ready for it.”