GDB 29.0 WRAP UP: DOG FIGHT
They bit, they snarled, the hair bristled on both sides – but when all was said and done – it was the Hurricanes that once again came out on top against the Rebels.
Moments into the game Igor Merezhko gave Rebel forward Lane Pederson a hard push behind the Lethbridge goal. It wasn’t malicious but Pederson went in head-first and Merezhko was given a justified boarding penalty. The Rebels came close on the ensuing powerplay, but Jayden Sittler came up with a few huge stops including a five-star save from his back-side. Seconds after the Rebel powerplay expired, Brayden Burke wound up in his own zone and used his speed to draw a hooking penalty in the neutral zone. On the ensuing powerplay, Egor Babenko and Cory Millette would combine to score the “goalden” (puns) goal. Babenko took one swipe and Millette put it away slow along the ice. I almost lost my head, my beer, and my laptop when a massive bear came barreling down from up on high…. but happy to say all three are mainly in-tact.
After play got back underway thing settled-in. Both teams traded chances and both Sittler and Toth were up for the challenge. The big Rebel’s defensive core flexed its muscles – on more than one occasion pushing some of the Hurricanes smaller forwards to the ice – establishing that scoring goals wasn’t going to be easy. Conner Bleackley would tie the game up on a sneaky short side shot that found a small hole in Jayden Sittler. Bleackley must have said something to Sitter because the Hurricanes mauled him afterwards and he was awarded a ten minute misconduct on the play. It was a strange play, but the end result was a 1 – 1 game. That’s how the first period would end. Both teams played a solid twenty minutes and things were deadlocked. The score was tied and each team had registered 9 shots a piece.
The second period began with the same intensity as the first. Both teams looked locked-in and there wasn’t much room or time given by either side. Justin Gutierrez snuck in behind the Rebel defenders and, on a wonderful pass from Andrew Nielsen, scored with a perfect shot, once again putting the Canes up by one. The Rebels would answer back shorthanded when a risky pinch by Andrew Nielsen resulted in a Rebel’s two on one the other way. Estephan and Wong both hustled hard to get back, Sittler made the initial save, but rather than stopping in the crease, Estephan circled the net and the end result was a tap-in for Presten Kopeck. The Canes were awarded a powerplay with a minute left in the period when Babenko was hauled down the Rebel’s corner. Arvin Atwal was turned aside by Toth on a beautiful rush with seconds remaining and the period ultimately ended with the score tied at two. The Canes led the shot battle by one, 21 – 20. If it wasn’t clear after the first, there was no denying it was going to be a neck and neck game after the second.
Things were exceptionally tight to start the third. Neither team was about to surrender a shot, much less a scoring chance, but the Canes persistence would blow thing wide open. First Gutierrez would get his second on the night, jamming a greasy goal home short side for his 14th of the season. A few minutes later, Darian Skeoch would fly one in from the point and it would find the top corner for the first of his WHL career! It was an amazing moment and incredible to see the team rally around him and quickly snap up the puck. A few shifts later, Cory Millette scored a beauty, fighting off defenders and sniping top shelf on Toth. That would mark the end of Toths night.
Then things got crazy. After Brayden Burke stepped up for a huge (missed) hit, Colton Bobyk chased him to the bench looking for blood. Wong used the open ice created by Bobyk’s absence to charge down into the Rebel’s zone. Bobyk flew back, still seeing red from his exchange with Burke, and ran Wong. Before you knew it, Bobyk had dropped the gloves and started feeding Wong shots. Wong got a few in of his own, but it was a size mismatch and it was good that Wong was able to hold his own.
Things got really heated in the aftermath when the benches started getting into it too. Kisio and Sutter started yelling at one another and the crowd was going wild. On the ensuing faceoff, Brady Reagan dropped the gloves with Wyatt Johnson. It was a spirited scrap and both players got some licks in. After Johnson was out of the box, rookie Jordy Bellerive got in on the fighting action and took him on at centre ice. Bellerive won the punching battle but Johnson was able to wrestle him to the ice. Things never really settled down, but time eventually ran out. Not, however, before Sheen was able to convert a perfect shot/pass from Brett Davis on a late Hurricane powerplay. Final score, 6 – 2 Lethbridge.
- The Hurricanes were able to get the teddy bear goal nice and early. After being shut out last night, it was imperative that they got on the board as early as possible. Credit the powerplay for getting the job done.
- Grit. It was almost entirely absent against the Raiders but it was there in spades tonight. The Rebels play the game HARD, and the Hurricanes answered the bell.
- The Canes powerplay struggled last night (0/6) but there was a great response early tonight on the teddy bear goal and again late with Sheen found the net.
- Justin Gutierrez is on a tear. He now has 14 goals on the season. His previous best was 11. It’s an amazing stat considering he is a 20 year-old and 44 games remain. Well done Gutz!
- Brady Reagan had a fantastic night tonight. I cannot stress that enough. I would argue it was one of his best as a Hurricane. I was critical of a bad turnover Reagan made against Calgary and I think his play was more than worthy of recognition tonight. He was an offensive catalyst with his vision, made some great passes, and had a few hard shots on net as well. Reagan locked things down in his own zone and was able to break up the Rebel cycle. The highlight of his night was his fight late in the third with Reese Johnson. The two threw some big shots – and when it was all over – Reagan was hyping the crowd. I know traditionalists might not love it, but understanding how long it’s been for the fans of this organization to see a Hurricanes team do what they did tonight, I LOVED it. It’s hard to put into words the frustrations and downtrodden years fans have endured here. Brady Reagan dropping the mitts and asking the fans for some love was the perfect moment and the fans responded.
- DARIAN SKEOCH!! Guy scored his first ever WHL goal tonight! What more is there to say. It hasn’t been an easy path to the CHL for Darian. It’s incredible to watch his development from a raw, energized camp invitee, to a big, powerful contributor on the Hurricanes back-end. Darian was always that big, powerful player, but I think as he’s grown more comfortable, we are seeing him grow in confidence. He’s beginning to impose himself on the opposition and it bodes well for both him and the team.
- The Canes were good in almost every facet tonight. I feel guilty not mentioning a dozen other players for great performances but I don’t have the time or space. Millette, Burke, Atwal, Pankewicz, Vandervlis, Sheen, Davis… every single guy on the team seemed to have moments of brilliance tonight. It was a complete team victory.
- Bellerive continues to impress with his defensive game. I love watching him focus soley on his man in the defensive zone. Bellerive alone was responsible for some KEY stick-checks, and I believe, saved at least one goal against. All that and he dropped the mitts late in the third. This young guy is a gamer and I can’t wait to see more as he grows older and more confident.
- Jayden Sittler was just what the Canes needed. He made some really big stops in the first period and locked it down the rest of the way. As a native of Red Deer, it must feel fantastic to stick it to the Rebels twice already this season.
- Brent Kisio was the man tonight. He was loud when he needed to be, and when he was challenged by Sutter, Kisio didn’t back down for a second. He’s a real player’s coach, and when his guys were threatened, he wasn’t afraid to show his claws (claws… bears…teddy bears….??… I need quit).
- It’s never good when you surrender a shorthanded goal. The Canes were guilty of making some overly-aggressive plays on a powerplay in the second period, and when the Rebels first shorthanded rush was thwarted by Sittler, they made no mistake on the second. Mistakes were made the Canes top tier players on the goal, including an overly aggressive pinch and the decision to glide behind Sittler rather than stop-up and take the second Rebel. Those mistakes happen, but there is no denying those mistakes can be costly.
THIS AND THAT
- Well done on the teddy bear clean-up. It only took about 12 minutes to get the ice clear and get play back underway.
- The Rebels are a big team. You can really see the size factor with their defense. Lethbridge isn’t a small team per-say, but the Rebels defensemen really pushed the Canes around at times. It will serve the Rebels well as they drive for the Memorial Cup.
- Everything’s just… better when the building is full. There was far more energy tonight. You could feel it. It was palpable – and even though it wasn’t the loudest crowd in memory – they were engaged. It was great and I wish it was a regular occurrence.
- Jayden Sittler must go through a disproportionately high number of goal-sticks with how hard he smacks that bad boy on the ice at the end of a PP. I love it.
What a game! I’m almost at a loss for words… almost.
Tonight had everything. It was, arguably, the best game of the season. I’ve heard the term “statement game” over-used over the past three months. I understand it, but I think it’s a crutch. Tonight however, I would struggle to not call it a statement win. First place was on the line, teddy bears were on the line, the house was packed, the best team in the East and Memorial Cup hosts were in town, and they delivered. The Hurricanes looked the snarling dog in the mouth and came away winners.
From a marketing perspective, you couldn’t ask for a better game. The building was full and BOTH teams brought it. There were fights, goals, more fights, hits, and coaches yelling at one another. Best of all, when it came down to it, the Enmax was LOUD! I almost didn’t know what I was experiencing. I can only hope that this game is a turning point for the season. Not from a hockey perspective, but from a city-wide exposure angle, this must have meant something? It’s almost a shame the next home game isn’t until after Christmas. I would love to see the team and the fans roll forward with this momentum into a home game next saturday, but alas, the schedule makers havn’t complied.
The Canes have a chance to take a breather this week before a brutal road trip to conclude the first half of the season. The next game is this coming Friday, in Brandon, against the big, bad Wheat Kings. There are six games remaining before the Christmas break, all on the road and all in short succession. It’s going to be a real test of arbitrition and determination, but as they’ve proven all year, this team has the horses.
Or should I say dogs….