On Wednesday, Alex Nedeljkovic found himself out of the AHL and shipped down to the ECHL, but if the demotion hurt, it shouldn’t be bothering him quite as much on Saturday morning as he wakes up as part of the minor league’s history books.
During Friday’s contest between the Hurricanes affiliated Florida Everblades and the Atlanta Gladiators, Nedeljkovic had backstopped the Everblades to a 4-2 lead with time winding down in the third period. However, with the Gladiators net empty, Atlanta’s Shane Bakker scored with 33 seconds remaining to pull his club back within one. With a tie within reach, the Gladiators kept goaltender Jay Williams on the bench for the ensuing faceoff, but the move would come back to bite them.
After winning the post-goal draw, Atlanta dumped the puck into the Florida zone, but well within Nedeljkovic’s reach. As the puck trickled down to the goaltender, he took aim and cleared the puck up and out of the zone, right towards the yawning cage:
— ECHL (@ECHL) December 31, 2016
Nedeljkovic’s marker would stand as the insurance goal for the Everblades, who skated to a 5-3 victory, and it marked just the 12th time in ECHL history that a netminder had managed a goal and the first time since goaltender Brian Foster netted a goal in February 2013.
Nedeljkovic remains one of the more promising prospects in the Hurricanes’ system, and undoubtedly their brightest hope for a future in goal. Though he has struggled at the AHL level over the course of this season — he had an ugly 3.44 goals-against average and .876 save percentage through 16 games — he’s the best goaltending prospect Carolina currently boasts. With his victory, and goal, on Friday, Nedeljkovic has won back-to-back games in the ECHL with a 2.50 GAA and .932 SP.
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