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Zamboni driver Ayres backstops ‘Canes to win over Maple Leafs

Toronto forward John Tavares scored a goal in the Maple Leafs 6-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes (AFP Photo/Claus Andersen)

(AFP)

Emergency goaltender David Ayres became the oldest netminder to win a NHL game in his debut on Saturday night after the Zamboni driver stopped eight shots in the Carolina Hurricanes’ 6-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The 42-year-old Canadian Ayres, whose full-time job is operating the ice cleaning machine for the Toronto Marlies’ farm club, entered the contest after the visiting Hurricanes lost two goalies to injury.

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Carolina’s starting goalie James Reimer left the game in the first period and his replacement Petr Mrazek exited halfway through the second. That meant Ayres, who was watching the game from the stands, had to report for duty. League rules state it is the responsibility of the home team to make sure an emergency goalie is available to play for either team.

So Ayers changed into his pads and pulled on a Hurricanes’ jersey to face the Maple Leafs, who were one of the pre-season favourites to win the Stanley Cup.

With the score 4-1 in favour of the Hurricanes, Mrazek was injured halfway through the game when Toronto’s Kyle Clifford crashed into him as the goaltender came out of his net to play the puck. Clifford was slapped with a two minute penalty. Another collision in the first period knocked Reimer out of the contest.

Frederik Andersen stopped 42 shots for Toronto.

Clifford was serving a charging penalty after he ran into Mrazek. Ayres took over after a delay and Toronto scored twice. 

John Tavares scored his 24th of the season at 13:36 and Pierre Engvall scored his eighth at 15:10. 

Clifford and Hurricane’s Joel Edmundson received fighting majors later in the game. 

Ayres’ surprise appearance brings back memories of another emergency goaltender, Scott Foster, a full-time accountant who stepped in to play for the Chicago Blackhawks on March 2018. Foster, then 36 years old, stopped all seven shots he faced against the Winnipeg Jets.

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