GDB 15.0 WRAP UP: COMING UP SHORT
Whether it was simply fatigue, or just simply not being good enough for the third game in a row, Lethbridge again found themselves chasing the game. Tonight, the result was the same as it was again Kelowna and Kamloops. The Hurricanes once again displayed moments of brilliance and dominance, only to throw it away with poor decisions and lackluster team defense.
Now that we know what this team is capable of, it’s almost more frustrating to see them lose. The focus and effort from the first ten games of the year hasn’t been there in the last three games and certainly wasn’t on display for the full 60 tonight. The Canes played well enough to be in the game, but couldn’t pull through late in the third. It was the kind of loss that leaves a foul taste in the mouth but needs to be quickly forgotten.
Full disclosure. I missed the first period in it’s entirety tonight due to a previous commitment. I tuned in right as the second period got underway and the Cougars were up 1 -0. My first impression was that the Hurricanes looked okay, and the Cougars impressed me. Prince George had the better chances in the second period and could have had a few more goals were it not for some solid net minding by Jayden Sittler.
The Cougars pressured the Hurricanes into numerous turnovers resulting in odd man rushes. On more than one occasion, the heavy legged Hurricane forwards struggled to get back and eliminate the Cougar high man, directly resulting in the third Prince George goal. It would be naive to suggest fatigue didn’t factor into tonight’s contest. This was Lethbridge’s 7th game in 11 nights. Between those games, the team has traveled thousands of kilometers via bus. Mistakes were made, and fatigue was part of it.
Just as they did in Kelowna, the Hurricanes played their best in the third period. After the teams exchanged goals in the first half, the second half of the period was all Lethbridge. The Cougars looked content to hold onto the lead and were perhaps a little guilty of watching Lethbridge move the puck around. That said, when it really mattered, Prince George locked it down in the final two minutes and caused all sorts of issues for the Canes who suddenly couldn’t get out of their own zone. That’s how the game would end. Final score, 4 – 3 Cougars.
- Brady Reagan got his first goal of the year on a PP bomb from the point. It was a huge goal and I was happy to see Reagan get it. I mentioned he was responsible for the Rocket’s winning goal on Saturday and it’s only fair I mention his good work on the goal tonight.
- Three times, the Cougars got out to a two goal lead, and three times the Hurricanes answered back with a goal of their own. I was impressed with the mental strength and determination of the Hurricanes to stay engaged and battle at the end of a long trip. Their level of play seems to always rise as the game goes on. That is both a good and bad quality as it also means their game is lacking early in contests.
- Jayden Sittler really held things down for Lethbridge early in the third. Just prior to the Cougars fourth goal, Sittler made a huge breakaway save. He was hung out to dry moments later on the goal, but made the save he needed to save on the breakaway. He was not at fault on the goal, and were it not for him, the Cougars would have already been up by four or five. They (LET) had already surrendered 37 shots early in the third period, many of which were high quality scoring chances. Only a few minutes after PG scored, Millette would get one back on the PP.
- Tough call for Arvin Atwal to take in the second that led to the Cougars 2nd goal. Atwal was charged with an unsportsmanlike penalty. Arvin plays with an edge. It’s a strength of his game and something the Hurricanes really needed. When you have a guy like that in your lineup, he will inevitably take irresponsible penalties from time to time. Atwal has brought far more good to the team than bad, but it was still not a very smart penalty to take.
- The Hurricanes are tired and it showed on a few defensive plays. The reality is they have played an immense amount of hockey in a condensed period. To cap it off, they had to drive all the way up to Prince George to end the trip. Lethbridge just didn’t have the consistent backcheck going tonight… and really, who’s to blame them. It’s a lot to ask a road weary team to remain vigilant on every play.
- The Hurricanes have not held a lead since beating the Giants last week. Three games in a row Lethbridge came out of the gates flat and spent sixty minutes chasing their opposition. The result was sloppy play. Instead of playing their game, the Hurricanes wasted time and effort forcing plays tonight, just as they did in Kamloops and Kelowna. The Hurricanes were need to bare down and focus on getting off to better starts in the next few games.
In the blink of an eye, Lethbridge went from the euphoria of an eight game winning streak, to the frustration of a three game skid. Make no mistake, Lethbridge did this to themselves. They havn’t held the lead since winning in Vancouver. That is over 180 minutes of playing from behind or at a draw. It’s tough to assert your game on the opposition when you are always playing catch-up. Outside of the game against the Blazers, the Hurricanes looked close to getting points in two of the three losses but couldn’t pull it off. Against Kelowna it was an errant pass late in the third, and tonight it was poor team defense that cost Lethbridge.
In all three losses, the issue has been on the defensive side of the puck. The Hurricanes continue to score goals without an issue, but keeping them out is another issue altogether. Lethbridge has allowed 16 (yes, 16) goals-against in the last 9 periods. That is almost an average of two goals against per period and is virtually impossible to overcome with consistency. It highlights to me an interesting character trait of this year’s Hurricanes. When in doubt, this team seems to default to offense at the cost of conceding odd man rushes and breakaways to their opposition. These Hurricanes love to find themselves in North-South pond hockey games, but that’s not necessarily where they have had success. When this team won eight in a row, it was mainly due to a more structured game and from generating offense off the cycle.
I don’t want to over analyze this game considering the fatigue factor. I would argue the issue of fatigue was probably more mental than physical. But it’s hard to really know what the Canes had to give tonight. What I do know, is that for three games now, the Hurricanes have let their opposition dictate the game. Until they get back to the system that made them successful, they will continue to lose games. Was tonight’s loss due purely to fatigue, or has their level of play dropped off? I think the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
The Canes will look to get back to their winning ways at home this coming weekend. Join us here on Friday and Saturday night as the Canes face both Seattle and Kootenay.