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Islanders-Newsday 5-1-2002 (6)

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  • billbarrisles
    Hunter a star pupil during crash course By Alan Hahn STAFF CORRESPONDENT May 1, 2002 Toronto - Trent Hunter didn t have time to consider the street fight he
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2002
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      Hunter a star pupil during crash course

      By Alan Hahn
      STAFF CORRESPONDENT

      May 1, 2002


      Toronto - Trent Hunter didn't have time to consider the street fight
      he found himself pulled into when he was called up from Bridgeport to
      join the Islanders in the midst of their first- round series with the
      Toronto Maple Leafs. In a matter of hours, he got the call, drove to
      Long Island and found himself in uniform for Game 4 of the heated
      series. It was the 21-year-old's NHL debut.

      "The first little while, you're just walking around and you're not
      really believing what's happening," he said. "It's something that you
      dream about growing up, to get the chance to play in the Stanley Cup
      playoffs. It's just been unbelievable."

      Hunter, who was filling in for injured forward Brad Isbister, showed
      impressive poise and was aggressive offensively. As coach Peter
      Laviolette put it, "his hands and his head." In Game 5, he scored his
      first NHL goal in the 6-3 loss. He finished the series with a total
      of two points (getting an assist in Game 6) in four games.

      "The coaching staff was good to me from the start," he said. "They
      said to just go out and play your game and don't worry about making
      mistakes. Just do your best. So that made me more comfortable.

      "Going into Game 4, the crowd was so amazing and the atmosphere was
      something I had never seen before. So it was a little overwhelming
      from the start. But after a few shifts, I started to get more
      comfortable."

      His parents, Stan and Cathy, flew to Long Island from Red Deer,
      Alberta, to see him play in Game 6 at the Coliseum. Last night was
      Game 7 at Air Canada Centre and Hunter said before the game he felt
      more settled. Of course, his season is not over with the Islanders' 4-
      2 loss last night. He'll return to Bridgeport, the top seed in the
      AHL playoffs, which is leading its second-round series 3-0 over the
      St. John's Maple Leafs (coincidentally Toronto's farm club).

      He's keeping an eye on that situation, while his Sound Tigers
      teammates have kept an eye on him. "I've talked to a number of them
      since I've been up," Hunter said. "They've been good. I get some
      ribbing for stuff they see on TV. But they're a great bunch of guys.
      We're really close. Whenever anyone got called up, the guys were
      always happy for him."

      The Islanders picked up Hunter after the 1999-2000 season in a trade
      with Anaheim, which made him its fourth-round pick in 1998 but
      decided not to sign him. He would have re-entered the draft that
      summer, but the Islanders signed him to a three-year contract. After
      a quiet rookie season with Springfield of the AHL in 2000-01, Hunter
      has had a breakout year in Bridgeport. He had a team-high 30 goals
      and 65 points in 80 regular-season games and was leading the team
      with a goal and seven assists in four playoff games until he was
      called up.

      It was Hunter's first official call-up and quite possibly could be
      his last. His focus is on the playoffs for now, but there is an
      obvious anticipation for training camp in September. He didn't want
      to talk about his hopes for next season before last night's game had
      been played. But after the confidence-building experience in the
      playoffs, he is aware of the opportunity ahead of him.

      "For me, it'll be a big summer," he said. "I've gotta work hard and
      come into training camp ready to do the best I can."
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