Sports

AHL hockey: Peters is the Rats' rock in the net

ALBANY - Along with their play on the ice, goaltenders often express their personalities with the art design emblazoned on their masks.

Justin Peters has his own distinctive pair of headgear - including his primary goalie mask - decorated with the design of a dog complete with a collar in honor of Peters’ nickname, "Pete Dog," in Carolina Hurricanes’ colors of black, red and white.

"It’s kind of like a CuJo mask," referring to veteran NHL goaltender Curtis Joseph’s mask, which featured the likening of the fierce, snarling dog of movie fame. "It’s just cool and it’s something you get to put some creativeness into."

Perhaps exhibited in this design of his goal mask, Peters approaches this season with the Albany River Rats with some extra swagger.

"The masks I have right now are replacement masks from the bus crash last year," Peters said. "I had two ruined in the (team bus) accident, so I got one replaced right away and the other one I got when I was in Carolina for the playoffs. It’s nice for a fresh start this season."

Entering his fourth pro season, Peters is mild mannered off the ice, but displays plenty of passion for his craft in game action.

Peters, who turned 23 in August, has become a reliable constant for the River Rats.

"I’m very confident in Petey," Albany coach Jeff Daniels said. "There’s no doubt he can handle the work load and be a No. 1 goalie and I think this is a big year for his career. He’s a very driven man, a very focused guy that just wants to succeed."

"Just giving the team a chance to win every night while being counted on and putting that accountability on yourself is what it’s all about," Peters said.

With his full season as Albany’s top starting goaltender under his belt, Peters approaches this season with even more confidence.

"I count myself as one of those guys coming back with another year of experience," Peters said. "Obviously that helps and I want to take that next step in my career to keep working towards playing in the NHL."

That includes taking on even more of a leadership role for the Rats.

"Obviously I’ve been around here for a couple years," Peters said. "I’m not going to change anything I do or change the way I go about my business, I’m just going to be a true professional and show up for work every day."

While Peters strives to not deviate from his own approach, he’s confident the team won’t change this as a whole, either.

"We’re going to have the same mentality," Peters said. "We’re going to be a hard working team and we’re going to play within our systems."

"He’s got a great work ethic so it’s great to have him around," Daniels said.

Peters will serve again as the Rats top goaltender, with rookie Mike Murphy serving in a backup role.

"It’s great having Jeff and Geordie believe in me and Tom Barrasso in Carolina helping me again this year, I’m excited," Peters said.

In his first full season with Albany, Peters set AHL career highs in 2008-09, including games played (56), minutes played (3,178), wins (19) and shutouts (four) in registering a 19-28-6 record with a 2.89 goals against average.

"Just the confidence of being the No. 1 guy," Daniels said of Peters’ effort last season. "You look in years past when he was the backup to (goalie Michael) Leighton, he proved to himself and to the coaching staff in Carolina that he’s a great goalie. Just like all the other players down here, he’s here to work on his game and hopefully in time will go up to Carolina."

Part of Peters’ time in Carolina Hurricanes’ training camp was spent working with Barrasso, Carolina’s goaltender coach and director of goalie development. Barrasso provided Peters with some pointers on game management.

"It’s good to talk to him just to pick his brain because he played in the NHL for a lot of years and was an elite player," Peters said. "So just working with him everyday, learning the ins and outs of the game like little things - like when to take a whistle, or where to set the puck up for a defenseman to come and play it.

"There are little things that you really don’t think of that he can help with because he was obviously one of the best goalies of all time."

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