Monday, April 19, 2010

Peters flourishing in first playoff series

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. --- Justin Peters has been waiting for this opportunity for quite some time --- four seasons to be exact.
Now in his fourth campaign in the pro ranks --- the Albany River Rats goalie is continues to flourish in his first playoff series.
Peters has guided the River Rats to three one-goal wins and a 3-0 first-round series lead over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the Calder Cup playoffs.
Albany can close out the East Division semifinal series with a victory in Game 4 tonight at Wilkes-Barre at 7.
"It's something that I've definitely worked towards, and I'm just taking it in stride. " said Peters, who has allowed only six goals this series. Obviously I haven't competed at this level before, so I'm just looking forward to (tonight)."
Peters appeared in 34 games with Albany in his rookie season of 2006-07, but finished the season with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. The next year, he backed up Michael Leighton in the playoffs.
In Peters' first full season with Albany in 2008-09, the River Rats didn't qualify for the playoffs.
This season, he registered career-season bests in games won (26), goals against average (2.54) and save percentage to lead Albany to a second-place finish in the East Division and a playoff berth.
"Well, it is the playoffs," said Peters, who went 6-3-0 in nine appearances with the Carolina Hurricanes this season. "It's a fun time of year and you're playing for in order to keep playing hockey do you don't have to go home. We're a desperate hockey team in here, too. It's an exciting time of year."
Peters made 31 saves to lead the Rats to a 2-1 victory in Game 3 to take a commanding lead in the best-of-seven series.
"I thought (Sunday) was our best game defensively of the series," Peters said. "It seems like every game we've gotten a little better and hopefully we can keep doing that."
In what has become more of a low-scoring series, Peters has stood out and led the way.
Peters made 30 saves in a 4-3 victory in Game 1 in his playoff debut and stopped 27 shots in a 3-2 decision in Game 2 before the series shifted to Wilkes-Barre.
"Whether it's a playoff game or a regular season game, he's just so focused," Albany coach Jeff Daniels said. "Tonight in Game 3, he just tried to control what he could control and that's what he's done really well for us --- not just in the playoffs, but all year as well."
His three wins in the series lead all goalies in the playoffs, he stands second in saves (88), he's tied for fifth in goals against average (2.00) and is fifth in save percentage (.936).
While Albany is looking to win its first playoff series since 1998, the Penguins are in danger of not only losing in the first-round for the first time --- Wilkes-Barre has never been swept in a playoff series either.
"We knew they would be desperate," Peters said. "I thought every period they started real well, they came out pressuring us and we were able to weather the storm and stick with our plan. That's what we need to do is stick to our game plan and keep at it."
Game 5, if necessary, will be played at Albany on Wednesday night at 7.


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