GDB 14.0 Wrap Up: A Tale of Two Cities
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” – Charles Dickens
That’s a quote from Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities. The book (or rather, books) tells the story of the struggle between French aristocracy and the lower class revolutionaries. It’s also the perfect analogy for tonight’s game between the Hurricanes and Rockets. One side (The Rockets) dominated the first half of the story, and the other (Lethbridge), fought to overturn their oppressors in the middle act. In the end, however, it was Kelowna that got the final laugh, scoring the winning goal late in the third.
It was a strong bounce-back effort by the Hurricanes, but Kelowna once again preyed on juicy Lethbridge turnovers for the win. Twice now the Hurricanes have shown they aren’t yet at the same level as the Rockets. In two games the Hurricanes have played Kelowna close, but the Rocket’s have deservingly won both contests.
At least for now, we know how the tale of these two cities ends.
It was a much better start for the Hurricanes tonight. Kelowna didn’t get their first real shot until seven minutes into the first despite having an early powerplay. Tyson Ballie of the Rockets should have scored on a beautiful feed during the man advantage but shot the puck over the net. The Hurricanes also looked dangerous on the powerplay early in the game but couldn’t generate a goal. Despite playing a decent period, the Hurricanes found themselves down 2 – 0 after twenty.
It only took two defensive mistakes for the Rockets to take the lead. First Merkley made Pankewicz look silly at centre ice before scoring on a self-generated breakaway. A few minutes later, Merezhko and Nielsen, both in decent position, were simply unable to get a stick on a cross-ice pass from Thurkauf to Linaker who scored on a shot over Sittler. On the other end of the ice, Lethbridge struggled to get shots through to the net. The Rockets forwards did a fantastic job of blocking point shots and their defensemen were able to keep the Hurricanes to the outside for most of the period. Overall, the Hurricanes didn’t get off to a terrible start but were still trailing by two after twenty.
The next two periods were an absolute joy to watch. Tonight’s game was entertaining and fast. While Kelowna was the better team for the first 30 minutes (and were up 3 – 0), things took a turn at the mid-point of the second when Cory Millette scored on a beautiful breakaway deke. From that point on, the Hurricanes slowly took the game back from the Rockets. Both teams traded chances at 5 on 5, but it was the powerplay that allowed Lethbridge to tie the game in the third.
It really looked like the Hurricanes were going to, at the least, pull out a point, but a costly error by Brady Reagan resulted in a gorgeous Rocket goal by Dube (at least that is how the goal is credited currently. There was some dispute because an earlier potential goal was about to go under review at the next whistle. When the Rockets scored again, there was some confusion about what to do about the first “goal”). That mistake proved to be the difference in the game as the Rockets would add an empty netter to salt things away.
- The Hurricanes got off to a much better start tonight. They killed off an early Rocket powerplay and just generally looked more in control of themselves. Their team game was much more solid than last night against the Blazers.
- Corey Millette showed off some silky hands on a really nice breakaway goal in the 2nd period. Millette hasn’t hit the score sheet with consistency, but he plays solid hockey and clearly has a scoring touch when in position to score.
- The Hurricanes powerplay is a thing of beauty. I cannot say enough good things about Andrew Nielsen’s ability to distribute the puck on the man advantage. The Canes have the top PP in the league and Nielsen is a HUGE part of that.
- Lethbridge got better as the game went on. Considering how long the Canes have been on the road, and the quality of opposition, fighting back from a 3 – 0 deficit is admirable.
- The Hurricanes won the shot battle for the first time in a few games. If the Rockets weren’t so good at shot blocking, Lethbridge easily could have had 10+ more.
- Defensive lapses continue to plague the Hurricanes. They often do a really good job of playing good team defense, but make one or two egregious errors that end up in their net.
- The Hurricanes were determined to keep centering the puck from behind the Rocket net looking for the high man. It’s worked for them on numerous occasions this season, but the Rockets weren’t biting. They would collapse and eliminate the Hurricane centreing passes. More often than not the result was a Lethbridge turnover.
- The turnover Reagan committed on the Rocket’s 4th (and deciding) goal was bad no matter how you cut it. He was under no pressure exiting the zone and just made a poor pass. I don’t like calling one guy out on a play, but it was at a crucial time in the game after the Canes had just found a way to tie things up. It was a buzz-kill at a point where Lethbridge looked poised to press for their first lead of the night. Instead of looking to win the game, the Canes ended up walking away empty handed.
THIS AND THAT
- I was really impressed with the Rocket’s defense at 5 on 5. I would guess the Hurricanes had no more than three odd man rushes all night. Kelowna did a brilliant job of keeping Lethbridge to the outside. The Canes did get a 2 on 1 with a chance to tie in the final minutes but Estephan couldn’t make the necessary pass to Burke.
- For those that were watching the Oilers – Flames game tonight, I need to sound off on the reversed Pouliot goal in the second. If THAT is considered goaltender interference, the NHL, and hockey in North America in general, needs to reassess. I understand goaltenders need protection, but it was such marginal contact between the Oiler forward and Ramo that I worry what the reversal means for hockey. The NHL is always talking about trying to increase scoring, yet they continue to make scoring harder by limiting the ability of forwards to crash the net. I will be very interested to see if more coaches challenge plays like that moving forward. I sure hope not, but the precedence has been set. My understanding of GI is that it entails interfering or inhibiting the goaltenders movement. On the replay, it’s pretty clear Ramo wasn’t looking in the direction the puck headed when the alleged “interference” occurred.
So the Hurricanes drop their second in two nights and now make the long trek to Prince George where they will face the Cougars on Monday night. It’s a kick-in-the teeth way to end an already grueling road trip, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. The Hurricanes will be hard pressed to pull out a win in Prince George, but if we learned anything tonight, it’s that fatigue hasn’t proven to be an issue for this squad. The Hurricanes once again got better as the night progressed. The Cougars have a solid team but I expect the Hurricanes to once again be in the game and hopefully eke out a point.
It’s been a great road trip, but a few errors tonight cost the Canes a point at least.
Tune in Tuesday as we preview the game.