Will Opsahl will follow family tradition of playing men's college basketball

Why Avalanche players visited Duke basketball before OT road win over Hurricanes

Nov. 17—RALEIGH, NC — The reigning Stanley Cup champions visited traditional college basketball powerhouse Duke to begin a three-game road trip.

Just don’t expect the Avalanche to brag about their hooping abilities.

“I couldn’t believe the coach was even watching,” defenseman Devon Toews said. “He was probably just cringing watching us shoot hoops. (Defenseman Erik Johnson) was kicking balls like soccer balls.”

It’s clear that Avs players chose the right sport. In advance of Colorado’s dramatic 3-2 overtime victory Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes, though, getting acquainted with the five-time NCAA basketball champs proved to be fruitful.

“It was pretty cool to see a top-end basketball school like that,” forward Alex Newhook said. “Obviously it’s a little bit different from the college hockey setup, but it was still pretty cool to see a top-end school like that and see how they work.”

The Avs-Duke connection is between forward JT Compher and Blue Devils head coach Jon Scheyer. They both grew up in Northbrook, Ill., as high school sports stands who made their hometown proud.

Scheyer won the 2010 NCAA championship as a player, later joined Duke’s staff, and was handpicked to lead the program after legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski retired. Compher starred collegiately at Michigan before winning the Stanley Cup with Colorado. He posted photos of the team’s visit to Duke on Instagram.

“I never met him until yesterday, but we’ve chatted a bunch,” Compher said. “When I was young and he was at Duke and started coaching at Duke, we’d always kind of chat. This was the first time we’ve been able to meet up. It was a fun day. … We chatted a lot this summer after he got the job and we won the Cup, and he said to reach out whenever we were coming to town, and we did. He treated us really well, showed us everything, and we had a good time.”

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GAMER BOX

Avalanche 3, Hurricanes 2 (OT)

What happened: Artturi Lehkonen scored the game-winner in overtime to deliver a resilient road overtime victory for the Avalanche. Colorado has now won five of its last six games.

What went right: Pavel Francouz was truly outstanding with 46 stops and a .958 save percentage. Evan Rodrigues scored his sixth goal of the season. The Avalanche killed all four of Carolina’s power-play chances. Alex Newhook broke out of his slump with improved skating and a goal. Lehkonen scored for the fifth time this year.

What went wrong: The Hurricanes held a significant shots-on-goal advantage; 48 to 15. Carolina tied it up in the third period when defenseman Andreas Englund collided with Francouz behind the net while playing the puck, due to lack of communication. Mikko Rantanen’s six-game points streak ended.

Between the pipes: Francouz made 46-of-48 save attempts for his second win of the season. Carolina started Antti Raanta at goaltender and he stopped 12-of-15 shots on net.

What’s next: The Avalanche (9-5-1) face the Washington Capitals (7-9-2 entering Thursday) on Saturday for the second matchup of a three-game road swing. Follow The Denver Gazette for complete coverage.

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