GDB 21.0 WRAPUP: RUSSIAN DRESSING
All in all this was a solid effort for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. They were a few lapses along the way, but the Canes easily played their most complete game since their last matchup versus a US Division team some 12 days ago against the T-Birds. Egor Babenko and Cory Millette were the offensive catalysts in this Canes victory as each potted pair in an important bounce-back W for the club following a 0-3 eastern swing. Babenko in particular had a fantastic night scoring a pair of beauties to pace the Canes attack, ultimately earning him the game’s first star (and the inspiration for this article’s title).
The Hurricanes got off to a good start in this hockey game. They controlled the pace of play in the early stages by winning draws, getting the cycle going, and putting pucks on net from all angles (perhaps they were inspired by the pre-game write up?). It appeared that they were looking to test Everett netminder Mario Petit who was making his first start of the season. Coming into the game he had played a total of 28 minutes in 17 games for the Tips as Carter Hart’s backup. There were a few close calls for the Canes, but ultimately they were denied by Petit in the first. At the midway point of the period, the Canes wold cough up the puck at their own blue line leading to a Silvertips 2 on 1. Everett RW Devon Skoleski would make no mistake and bury the puck for a 1-0 lead. Shortly thereafter the Canes would have a great penalty kill following everyone’s favourite delay of game penalty when Igor Merezhko inadvertently lifted a clearing attempt over the glass. Lethbridge looked to build on the momentum generated by the PK, but they were unable. As the period was coming to a close Everett began to take over the game. They had the Canes penned in their own end for long stretches and were controlling the play. It appeared as though the Canes were content to take a 1-0 deficit into the dressing room as there was a lot of puck watching going on. The aggressive posture from earlier in the period had all but disappeared. If not for a series of saves from Jayden Sittler in the waning minutes of the first the score could have been very different. The shots were tied 13 a piece after 20 minutes.
The 2nd was a better period for the Canes despite the shot totals (Everett outshot Lethbridge 10-8 in the period). The Canes simplified their game in the second stanza. They were finding the open ice and making the simple plays to stay out of trouble. Millette got the Canes on the board with a greasy goal at the 2:13 mark. From where I was sitting it appeared that the puck bounced off of several bodies on its way to the net before Millette slid it home. From there on offensively for the Canes it was the Babenko show. The import forward displayed some great tenacity in battling the Silvertips for the puck below the Everett goal line. He would walk out to the front of the net and roof a backhander to secure the Canes first lead of the game. Everett would manage to tie the game at the 13:23 mark of the second when Yan Khomenko re-directed a centring pass from former Cane Remi Laurencelle to the back of the net. The Hurricanes ran into some penalty trouble late in the period when they took back-to-back minors leading to 4 consecutive minutes of short-handed play. However, the Canes PK stood tall, including an unbelievable post-to-post toe save by Sittler robbing the Everett forward of a seemingly sure goal. At the 18:47 mark Egor Babenko would again display how good his hands are for the home crowd. Babenko led the Canes in a 2 on 1, waited for the Everett d-man to slide down in attempt to take away the pass, toe-dragged around the sprawled out Silvertip and wristed home an absolute beauty to regain the lead for the Canes. 3-2 Lethbridge is how the period would finish.
The Canes would start the 3rd period on the PK thanks to a slashing call on Ryley Lindgren as the horn sounded to end the second. As the penalty was winding down Canes forward Justin Guiterrez would force a turnover at the blue line and break out on an odd man rush with Cory Millette. Guiterrez would wait out the Everett defenders and slip the puck to a trailing Kord Pankewicz. Pankewicz would send it back to a wide open Millette who made no mistake in burying a short-handed marker into the yawning cage. The Canes played a solid defensive game from there on in. They did a good job in taking away space from the Silvertips players, tying up sticks, and clogging passing lanes. Frustration was beginning to mount for Everett as evidenced by the scrums after the whistle and the general chippy play that commenced. However, a point shot by Noah Juulsen at the 15:59 mark would makes its way through a maze of bodies and beat a well screened Sittler. That breathed life back into the Silvertips. There were some anxious moments in the game’s final minutes, including Millette missing out on his hatty due to an offside call. The Canes would bend but not break and skate away with another 2 points on home ice versus a very tough US division team. The final shots were 34-29 in favour of the Silvertips.
- B+M=W. Babenko and Millette had great games for the Canes and ultimately paced the club to victory. Each deservedly earned a star in this one.
- Jayden Sittler built on his solid performance in Brandon Saturday night with another fantastic game. He wasn’t at fault on any of the Everett goals and made a few sparkling saves along the way including a poke check on an Everett breakaway in the first that could have made it 2 zip Tips.
- The PK was very effective tonight. They killed off all 4 Everett PP opportunities and scored a shorty in this one. The early season success of the Lethbridge PP was the main point of special teams’ conversation for this team; however, the PK has been very good recently and might be flipping that script.
- Face-offs were better on this night. There is still a lot of room for improvement, but the Canes certainly won more draws on this night than they did at any point in recent memory.
- Odd man rushes continue to plague Lethbridge and resulted in Everett’s opening goal. The Canes need to shore up their defensive zone exits to avoid this trend continuing.
- The Canes needed to be a bit more aggressive in the game’s final minutes when the Tips had the net empty. They had some opportunities to pressure the puck carrier at the blue line and possibly force a turnover, or at least clear the zone and force an Everett reset, that were missed out due to collapsing back to their own net.
- I’d really like Brendan Burke to shoot more. He’s an unselfish player, which is generally a good thing, but there were a couple of occasions where he passed up (literally) a quality scoring chance looking to feed a teammate. I guess the game was pretty solid when I’m complaining about this kind of stuff.
THIS AND THAT
- I’ve got to give Everett credit for their PK as well. It was aggressive as I’ve seen this season. They pursue the puck relentlessly when their short-handed.
- This wasn’t the most physical game for the Canes, but a shout out to Carter Folk is necessary as he was certainly making his presence felt including a monster hit in the 3rd behind the Everett net.
It was great to see the Canes overcome their 3rd period woes that plagued them on their recent eastern swing. The Canes played an effective game and ran their home win streak to a very impressive 7 games. Everett is a very good team so the boys should feel very good about these 2 points. They need to build on this effort heading into back-to-back games this weekend versus Prince George and Saskatoon. Hopefully they can build good habits that will accompany them on their next road trip and see some increased success away from the friendly confines of the ENMAX Centre.
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.