GDB 18.0: ROAD TRIP
There’s something pretty great about a weekend roadie. Get the friends together, make sure you have some strong driving playlists loaded in the iTunes (or these days you just stream something from Spotify… for the older folks, it’s like a mixtape on steroids), load up on sugary snacks and cheesy Doritos, set a destination, and go. The way there almost always ends up being more fun than whatever it is you end up doing once you reach your destination. Call it cliche, but more often than not it ends up being more about the journey than the destination. When you’re on a jr. hockey team, road trips are a harsh reality. WHL teams put on some heavy miles each season, it’s surely not always the most enjoyable experience. The good news though, is that having twenty of your friends along for the ride makes everything better.
Coming off six days without a game, I expect an energized group of young men to step off the bus in Moose Jaw, ready to throw down with a solid Warriors club.
Here’s what to look for tonight…
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Tonight the Hurricanes kick off a road trip in Moose Jaw. Lethbridge last played six days ago, a harrowing 3 – 2 victory over the Kootenay Ice. While rest isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Lethbridge will need to knock the rust off quickly tonight against a solid Warriors club. The good news is the Warriors have also not played since last Saturday and will be facing a similar situation.
Moose Jaw has started the season strong. The Warriors sit 5th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 10-5-2-1 (.639) and enter tonight’s contest on a two-game winning streak. The Warriors are one of the better teams when it comes to goal scoring. They sit at the top of the conference (along with Red Deer and Lethbridge) in that category (They currently possess a +16 goal differential).
The question with the Warriors, much like the Hurricanes, is whether or not their success is sustainable. While the team has played well for the most part, there is little doubt that the Warriors wouldn’t be where they are today without elite scoring forward Brayden Point or the stellar play of netminder Zach Sawchenko. Point has already collected 39 points this season alone, and is on pace for 2.44 pts per game! Brayden Point is truly one of the league’s best players and will be a shoe-in on the Canadian World Jr. team next month. It goes without saying that the Hurricanes will stand a much better chance of winning if they can limit Point’s time and space.
Just look at these guys. They are clearly excited as can be…
a) About getting their picture taken
b) About their fresh booster juices
I am concerned about how unimpressed Merezhko is. I think the only logical explanation for him not smiling… is he isn’t enjoying his time in North America. It’s pretty clear based on this photo that there is a serious divide in the dressing room. I don’t want to overreact, but it’s time to push the panic button. The sky is falling!
Someone please give Igor a hug, and for the love of all things good, get this young man a Strawberry Sunshine.
Both teams play again tomorrow night so we could see any combination of netminders for tonight’s game. The Warriors have been getting great goaltending from Zach Sawchenko. Zach has played 13 games and has earned 8 wins. He currently boasts a .920 save percentage and a 2.86 GAA. His number reflect one of the red flag issues with the Warriors. They have been getting outshot with consistency this season. If you take a look at their PDO and differential numbers in our recent article (AT THE QUARTER), you will see that the Warriors underlying numbers give reason for some concern. To be fair, the Hurricanes are in a similar situation, but Moose Jaw has a better team save percentage and similarly high shooting percentage. They have allowed more shots than the Hurricanes and getting by on their offensive capabilities. Whether or not it is sustainable will depend largely on the health and production of Brayden Point. How will the Warriors perform when Point misses a month for the World Jr’s? It should be interesting to watch.
Other players to watch on the Warriors include winger Dryden Hunt (33 pts), centre Noah Gregor (22 pts), and recently acquired defenseman Marc McNulty. Since coming over in a trade from Kamloops, McNulty has 9 points in 11 games. Decent numbers for a defenseman on a new team. For those interested, Noah Gregor is the nephew of TSN 1260 Edmonton’s longtime on-air personality Jason Gregor. He, along with the entire Warrior forward group, is having a strong start to the season. Moose Jaw currently has five players scoring at over a point-per-game pace (the Hurricanes have four, Burke, Wong, Estephan, Nielsen).
As for the Hurricanes, tonight is the first of three games in three nights. It’s a rude wake-up call for a team that’s had six days between games. After a rough ending to their last road trip, the Canes came home and rattled off two big wins. The first, a near perfect game against a good Seattle team, and the second, a less impressive, but none the less effective, win against the struggling Kootenay Ice. The three-game trip that begins tonight is not an easy one. They play tonight in Moose Jaw, bus overnight to Brandon for tomorrow night’s game, then bus back to Regina for a Sunday afternoon game on short rest against the Pats. It’s a tough task. Are the Hurricanes up to it?
After another lengthy break between games, I won’t attempt to predict the line ups. Things get even more complicated with the U17s now over. I imagine Bellerive will rejoin Wong and Estephan but anything is possible. What happens with Kennedy? Does he remain a forward? Who starts in goal? Chances are tonights starter will also get the afternoon game in Regina. We will learn more tonight! Keep it tuned here after the game for our full wrap up.
GDP: Coming off a long break and an ugly win against the Ice, the Canes play a great game and beat the Warriors 5-3 in regulation.
OGDP: The game starts out a little slow as the two teams are both a little rusty. The energy level is high, but execution takes ten minutes to find. This is the first time the two teams have met this season…
NSOGDP: With blood sugar levels sky high thanks to a fondent and icing fueled birthday cake, Andrew Nielsen, skating faster than anyone else, plays his best game of the season. He finishes with a +3 and two goals, good for 1st star.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
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