Patrick Roy’s decision to start Ilya Sorokin backfires in Game 3 loss to Hurricanes

Ilya Sorokin Islanders
New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin protects the net during the first period of Game 3 of the team’s NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

ELMONT, N.Y. — New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin’s 2024 playoff debut lasted a little over 27 minutes before getting an early hook. 

Sorokin made just 11 saves on 14 shots in Game 3 on Thursday night at UBS Arena, allowing the only three goals the Hurricanes scored in what finished as a 3-2 Carolina victory to put the Islanders in an 0-3 first-round series deficit.

The decision came from head coach Patrick Roy, who opted to go to Sorokin despite backup Semyon Varlamov having the hotter hand. He won seven of his last eight appearances of the regular season to help the Islanders clinch a playoff spot and weathered the ceaseless barrage that is Carolina’s attack admirably enough to keep his team in both losses in Games 1 and 2. 

“We win as a team and lose as a team,” Roy said when asked about Sorokin. “I’m not going to go there but what I’m going to say is we sometimes make changes as a coach because we feel that we just want to change the momentum of the game. I’ll leave it at that.”

Varlamov stopped all eight shots he faced, although the Islanders dominated the majority of play after Carolina took a 3-1 lead with 12:46 to go in the second period. He has now stopped 65 of 71 shots faced this series (.915 save percentage).

“You have a quick second to get ready and jump in the game and do your job,” Varlamov said. “It’s part of hockey. Things happen. What are you going to do? As a goalie, you have to be ready no matter what. Something could happen in the first minute and you have to go in. It could happen in the last minute and you have to go in.”

As Varlamov took over, Sorokin was seen standing in the tunnel with his hands on his knees staring at the ground for a few moments before eventually joining his teammates on the bench. It’s been a trying season for the 28-year-old, who went from a Vezina Trophy finalist last season to contending with a dip in play this year. Sorokin’s save percentage dropped from .924 to .908 while his goals-against average swelled from 2.34 to 3.01.

Right now I’m focusing more on the team than focusing on the our goalie. I mean, we have a goalie coach that does a very good job and I’d rather focus on getting ready for our next game. We play our next game at 2 o’clock on Saturday. That’s where my focus has to be and wants to be. 

Despite inconsistent play, Roy said that he was going with his “Ferrari,” in Sorokin for Game 3 compared to his “Cadillac,” in Varlamov. With their season now on the brink facing elimination in Game 4 scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET at UBS Arena, 

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