GDB 15.0: I’ve Been Everywhere Man
“So I climbed into the cab, and settled down inside. He asked me if I’d seen a road, with so much dust and sand. And I said, “Listen Bud. I’ve traveled every road in this here land.”
So sings the legendary Johnny Cash on his seminal cover tune for hitting the highway “I’ve Been Everywhere”. As the Hurricanes roll deep into the B.C. interior, for the final contest of a gruelling 6 game road trip against the Prince George Cougars, I’ve got to imagine they’re feeling something pretty similar to those words posed by the Man in Black. The team has logged a ton of miles as they’ve made their way through the B.C. Division. The load has got to be feeling a little heavier as the team enters tonight’s action on the heels of their first back-to-back losses of the 2015/16 season.
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The Canes are coming off of a 5-3 loss to the Kelowna Rockets on Saturday. However, they are some positives that can be taken away from that game despite the result. Less than a minute into the 2nd period the Hurricanes found themselves in a 3-0 hole to one of the best teams in the W. The last couple of seasons that likely would have meant game over for Lethbridge, but that was not the case for this year’s squad. Much like an earlier game against the Hat, the Hurricanes battled hard and got themselves back into the game. The Canes managed to tie it in the 3rd before a defensive lapse led to Kelowna’s game winning goal. The Canes attack was led by overage forward Cory Millette, who potted a pair on the night, including a beauty on a breakaway in the 2nd period. While the result was not what Lethbridge was looking for, they pushed back hard against an experienced Kelowna team and should be commended for that. If they can replicate their 3rd period effort from Saturday the Canes have an excellent chance to finish this roadie at 4-2-0-0.
Prince George’s last game was a 2-1 victory over those same Kelowna Rockets to drive their record to 7-6-0-0 through 13 games. The Cougars seem to be the definition of a .500 team as they’ve yet to win more than 2 games in a row or lose more than 2 games in a row this season. Their goals for and against totals are almost equal at 35 for and 34 against. It’s difficult to read much into numbers like that, but it does seem to mean that they don’t get too high or too low. In some ways it’s been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde season for Prince George with good wins being followed by poor losses. Expectations were heightened for this years’ squad that features four players that were selected in the 2015 NHL entry draft. The Cougars’ offence is led by forward Jesse Gabrielle. The early season favourite for the WHL’s Cy Young Award has 10 goals and 2 assists through 13 games. Gabrielle has shown flashes of being a dynamic scorer for the Cougars, the likes of which they haven’t seen since Brett Connolly suited up for the team. The Cougars boast one of the biggest D corps in the league. Outside of overage defenceman Joseph Carvalho at 5’8”, the Cougars rearguards are all at least 6’1”. They will look to use that size to punish the Hurricanes forwards when pucks get in deep. You can bet that the Cougars will try to make this a physical game in an attempt to wear out a team that has been on the road for the better part of 2 weeks. Look for the Cougars to come heavy and hard in the game’s opening minutes against a potentially tired Lethbridge squad.
The key for the Hurricanes in this game, aside from avoiding the pitfalls of “bus legs” and a slow start, will likely be special teams play. These are two of the most penalized teams in the league with the Cougars sitting first in average penalty minutes per game (18.2) and the Hurricanes sitting third (17.2). However, the Canes currently have the league’s top ranked PP at 28.8%, whereas the Cougars are middling PK team sitting at 78.1% good for 14th overall. If the Hurricanes can play disciplined hockey in this one, and force Prince George into a few penalties, the Canes should be able to use their vaunted power play to find an edge on the scoreboard and walk away from this road trip smiling with a 4-2-0-0 record.
Projected Line Up:
*due to technical difficulties the usual jersey graphics weren’t working*
The Canes returned to the 11 F – 7 D lineup versus the Rockets on Saturday. I imagine that will continue in this game. I’ve got Franklin slotting in place of Sheen who saw some ice time versus Kelowna. I think the Canes will go with this format in an effort to role four lines as much as possible in this contest. This setup allows the Canes to have a more experienced player, such as Guiterrez, to pair up with youngsters Franklin and Vandervlis. This gives Lethbridge a little bit more flexibility in using forward lines, especially without the advantage of having last change.
These were the starting pairings for the game versus the Rockets on Saturday. As you can see the Canes elected to do some mixing and matching in an effort to secure more stability on the backend. Fortonight’s game I predict that it will be the same guys on the bench for the Hurricanes defence; however, I won’t be surprised to see further shifting. Perhaps the Canes’ coaches will break up Pankewicz and Atwal in this one to further experiment with different D units.
There shouldn’t be any surprises in net in this contest. Its Skinner’s turn to patrol the crease as Sittler got the nod in the previous game. It was nice to see Sittler out there as there had been some speculation (me being one of those people speculating) that he was injured. I will be looking for young Skinner to have a strong bounce back game versus the Cougars after his previous start versus Kamloops.
Game Day Prediction: The Hurricanes come out slow, but excellent play from Skinner allows them the team to weather and early storm from the Cougars. As the game goes on the Canes will find their legs and skate away with 4-2 victory.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Ryley Lindgren is going to see a lot of Jesse Gabrielle in this one.
Not So Obvious Game Day Prediction: Mumm-Ra will descend on the CN Centre to continue his quest to conquer the planet. I may be a little out to lunch here, but I can’t be the only one that thinks the new Cougars logo is pretty much a dead ringer for the Thundercats symbol, right?
Here’s a brief update on the Hurricanes that are away at the U-17 tournament. Jordy Bellerive had an assist for Canada Red in their tournament opening win over Finland. Nick Watson also suited up for Canada Red in this contest but was held off the scoresheet. Brett Davis also had an assist in Canada White’s tournament opening win versus Canada Black. That’s a pretty nice start to a big tournament for these young Canes. Here’s to more success for each of them as the U-17s continue.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
Don’t forget to check out the sponsor of all this season’s game day articles, Graham Reimer of Dominion Lending here in Lethbridge. I personally know and vouch for the amazing work he does. If you need any advice or help with a mortgage or want to look into getting one, I cannot say enough good things about Graham and the Mortgage Crusher team.
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Professional student, prospective teacher. Red Wings/Blue Jays/49ers super-fan. Proud general manager of Team Mono and the Slumlords in a pair of fantasy hockey keeper leagues. Is there anything better than soup and sandwich? Twitter: @jsvsakamoto.