GDB 19.0: THE STILT
Wilt Chamberlain? What does a basketball player have to do with hockey? The connection is simple. He’s far and away the NBA’s all-time leader in rebounds and rebounding is exactly what the Canes need to do at the Keystone Centre versus the Wheaties. This will be no small task for Lethbridge as Brandon provides some incredibly stiff competition. The Hurricanes are coming off a tough beat in Moose Jaw. They opened up a 2 goal lead only to see it evaporate with the Warriors scoring 4 unanswered to take that one by a 4-2 final. The Hurricanes will have to call upon the spirit of Wilt “The Stilt” and rebound away.
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The previous game against Moose Jaw wasn’t all bad. The boys played well for the first 30 minutes and looked to have the Warriors under their thumb. However, sloppy play, defensive lapses, and too many trips to the sin bin meant that the Hurricanes couldn’t sustain that high level of play for the later-half of the contest. Another bright spot was the play of Stuart Skinner. He made a couple of highlight reel saves including an absolute beauty on a 2-0 that the Hurricanes inexplicably gave up (the second time this season that Skinner has baled the Hurricanes out on a 2-0, the first coming vs. the Tigers in game 1). I’m guessing you’ll be seeing that one in the upcoming edition of the WHL plays of the week. As Brock noted in last night’s wrap up, Andrew Nielsen continued his stellar play on the blue line as well. Canes captain Tyler Wong also ended a 5 game goalless drought last night.
Special teams will be key to a Canes victory in this one. Last night’s affair proved that repeated trips to the box are recipe for defeat at this level of hockey. Therefore, Lethbridge will need to play disciplined hockey to gain an edge over the Wheat Kings. While the Wheat Kings PP is currently ranked in the bottom half of the league (14th overall at 18.8%) with the weapons they boast you do not want to play with fire. The Wheat Kings also have the second worst PK percentage in the league (72.6%), so the Hurricanes will need to draw a few penalties in this one and let their vaunted PP go to work and tilt the ice in their favour. Another key for the Canes will be finding their legs early in this one. This is the middle set of a 3 in 3 road trip. It’s a long bus ride to Brandon from the Jaw, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Canes come out a little flat. They will need to avoid this as Brandon’s talent can really make you pay.
The Wheaties are a tough team to diagnosis this year. Last year’s Eastern Conference champions were pretty much a consensus pick to repeat that feat this year. However, they’ve been pretty up and down. Currently they are on a 3 game losing skid which includes being shut out by Red Deer in their last game. Expect Brandon to be hungry in this one and come out fast and loose. The team has a ton of weapons, some of which are very familiar to Canes fans. On the backend, Brandon is led by former Cane Macoy Erkamps and Flyers 1st rounder Ivan Provorov. Let’s be honest, this is as good of a D pairing as there is in this league and they provide a ton of offence from the blue line. However, it doesn’t stop there as the Wheaties also have excellent depth in Colton Waltz and potential 2016 NHL 1strounder Kale Clague. Up front Brandon will be led by Nolan Patrick, Reid Duke (a name Canes fans know well), and Panthers 2nd rounder Jayce Hawryluk. It’s an impressive array of forwards that have the ability to fill the net in bunches. The Canes may not have to deal with John Quenneville who is currently listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. Jordan Papirny will likely get the start in net for Brandon. He’s been good in the previous 2 season, but his save percentage has taken a dip this year, but he has the ability to be fantastic on any given night. When you look at this list of talent it seems incomprehensible that Brandon currently sits 3rd in their division with a record of 11-6-0-2. The Canes know they have a tough task in front of them and will need to bring their “A” game if they want to leave Manitoba with 2 points.
These predictions are getting more difficult to make, and to be honest, I’ve missed the mark on more than one occasion. So instead of speculating about specific combinations I will simply summarize. As it’s a 3 in 3 road trip I feel very confident in stating that Jayden Sittler will get the start between the pipes tonight. I also expect the Canes coaches to throw the lines into a blender after last night’s loss, particularly with the poor play in the game’s late stages. Perhaps Bellerive will be reunited with Estephan and Wong, while Burke moves down to create more depth. It will be interesting to see what the Canes do, but there’s going to be some mixing and matching to find a spark in this contest.
Game Day Prediction: The Canes come into this one flat-footed and find themselves down early. They mount a charge as the game goes one but ultimately fall short and find themselves on the wrong side of a 4-3 decision.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Carter Folk will be in the face of former teammate Reid Duke when the two are on the ice at the same time. Expect some offsetting minors for roughing.
Not So Obvious Game Day Prediction: Overage D-man Arvin Atwal is the catalyst in this one for the Canes, leading the way with a goal and an assist.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
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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.