GDB 32.0 WRAP UP: ARMS RACE
Tonight’s game was a big matchup between two Eastern Conference superpowers. Not unlike the Cold War between the USSR and the United States, tonight’s game was all about the offense. Whoever could score more goals was going to walk away with the victory. This was not a game I feel either coach will feel fantastic about. There were far too many glorious scoring chances on both sides, and firewagon hockey is much harder for a coach to control. Simply put, tonight’s style of play isn’t the most sustainable brand of hockey for either the Hurricanes or Raiders.
The good news?
It’s highly entertaining to watch.
Tonight’s game started fast and furious with both teams generating some early chances. An early Cal Babych penalty gave Lethbridge a powerplay less than five minutes in, but the Raiders did a good job on the PK to keep things scoreless. A few minutes later Stuart Skinner made consecutive stunning saves after mishandling a bouncing puck. It looked like it would be a sure goal but Skinner somehow kept it out. Moments later, Darian Skeoch answered the bell after Estephan took a hard hit from Warner. It was a short fight. Skeoch wore a couple hits before finishing Warner with one punch and simultaneously generating some energy for his team.
A few minutes later, Justin Gutierrez would put Lethbridge up 1 – 0 on a powerplay. The Canes moved the puck fantastically and Gutz would convert on a great passing play by Babenko and Atwal. From that point on, the canes really pushed hard and generated the majority of the scoring opportunities. The line of Estephan, Wong and Duperreault was particularly threatening, and Wong would eventually put Lethbridge up 2 – 0 on a perfect shot in-stride. It looked like that’s how the period would end, but a late penalty by Gutierrez resulted in a powerplay goal by the Raiders with 40 seconds left on the clock.
Lethbridge picked up right where it left off in the second. The Hurricanes were all over the place and giving Prince Albert all sorts of issues exiting their zone. The end result was an early goal by Giorgio Estephan at the side of the net. Rylan Parenteau came up huge for the Raiders on more than one occasion during this stretch of play, ensuring that the Raiders remained within striking distance – and strike they would. Jordan Tkatch would score a beautiful goal on a partial breakaway at 10:55 on the second to pull Prince Albert within one.
After scoring, it was the Raiders that started to look the better team, hemming the Canes in their zone for the next series of shifts but unable to convert. Stuart Skinner made some big stops along the way, but was struggling to control his rebounds, leading to some tense moments in front of the Lethbridge net. Just when Prince Albert looked poised to tie it up on a powerplay, a brilliant rush by Brady Reagan allowed him to sneak behind the Raider defense shorthanded and score five hole on Parenteau. It was the Canes 7th shorthanded goal of the year and the timing couldn’t have been better. From that point on, the two teams would skate to a draw and the period would conclude with Lethbridge up, 4 – 2.
It didn’t take the Canes long to build on their lead in the third period. Some excellent work by Justin Gutierrez to generate a shot off the rush resulted in an Egor Babenko goal on the rebound. The goal would chase Raider starter Rylan Parenteau from the net. Five minutes later, Raider’s rookie Parker Kelly would streak in down the wing and fire a hard shot off the crossbar and in. The goal was a much-needed breath of air for the Raiders as they pushed on and scored again 44 seconds later. It was a broken play low beside Stuart Skinner and Jordan Tkatch was there to score his second of the night. From that point on, the intensity of the game continued to rise and the final moments were complete and total chaos. The Hurricanes were holding on for dear life, but some big saves late, and a favorable non-call allowed the Canes to escape with the two points.
- Pretty solid opening period for the Canes tonight. It wasn’t perfect, but Lethbridge really had some spark.
- Skeoch smash! Darian came to the defense of Giorgio Estephan and fought Warner midway through the first period. It was a short, but effective fight for the big defender who would ultimately end the scrap with a hard knock to Warners jaw.
- The Canes were really good on the cycle. There were lengthy stretches where Lethbridge totally smothered the Raiders in their own zone. It was accomplished by winning battles down low and smart, timely pinches by the defensemen. I thought Kord Pankewicz, in particular, did a good job of this.
- The forecheck was phenomenal tonight, but the backcheck might have been even better. There were stretches where Lethbridge was stripping pucks off the Raiders seemingly at will.
- Justin Gutierrez is playing some incredible hockey right now. I would argue his was the best Hurricane on the ice tonight. From start to finish, Gutz was winning battles, making plays, and again chipped in offensively. To say he is having a career year is a massive understatement.
- Kord Pankewicz was, from what I saw, one of the Hurricanes best defenders tonight. He made some great passes, some key defensive plays, and most importantly, played a smart game.
- Darian Skeoch had some fantastic moments in tonight’s game. When he puts his head down and goes for it, Darian can get moving pretty well for a big man. He was able to recover when out of position, and there was one instance in the second period where he came up huge as the lone defender on a Raiders two on one attack. All of that AND he stood up for Estephan by dropping the gloves and winning the fight.
- Canes struggled to clear the front of their net tonight. The Raiders had some grade A second and third opportunity chances to score. Yes, Skinner wasn’t his usual best at controlling rebounds, but it seemed like the Canes were always a step behind in clearing those pucks away from danger. There was no lack of opportunity for Prince Albert to score more goals. It wasn’t an issue for the entire game, but make no mistake, the Raiders shot themselves in the foot with poor execution. Speaking of feet, the problem was largely that the Canes weren’t moving theirs in those moments. Again, not the worst case we’ve seen this season, but tonight was more about scoring goals than about being scored on for Lethbridge.
- The Canes came out throwing their weight around with great success, but as the game progressed, Lethbridge stopped finishing checks and it made things much easier for the Raiders as the game progressed.
THIS AND THAT
- I feel for Jordy Bellerive. He just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to scoring. On at least three occasions Bellerive had a glorious chance to score and either missed the net, or was robbed by the Raiders netminder(s). Bellerive no doubt has great instinct to generate scoring chances, I just hope for his sake that some of those eventually find their way in the net.
- I want to be careful not to read too far into it, but Arvin Atwal went into the boards awkwardly early in the third, and while he would play the rest of the game, I’m not sure he was at 100%. He looked visibly in discomfort leaving the ice but the fact that he returned to play the rest of the game bodes well. Even if he did bump his shoulder, it appears for now that it’s nothing serious.
- This was a bit of a strange night for Stuart Skinner. It certainly won’t go down as a legendary night for the young netminder, but he was able to bear down and help his team get the win. Stuart just seemed to be fighting the puck in the first half of the game – those nights happen to most net minders. But when it really mattered, Stuart made the essential saves and his team put up five on the other end to help him secure the victory.
- It was an arms race, but this time, the Raiders brought a sword to a gunfight.
It was a huge victory for the Hurricanes. The win puts the Canes in good position as they move into the final three games of their current road trip. They have already secured 4 out of a possible 12 points on their Eastern swing, and one more win tomorrow would ensure they finish the trip .500 (at worst).
Tonight’s was a complete 180 on the game we saw between these two clubs in Lethbridge. It was less about well-rounded, structured play, and quickly deteriorated into an arms race. The good news is that this Hurricanes team is more than capable of playing end to end hockey. Lethbridge is a league leader in goal scoring, and when the opposition allows for a North-South hockey game to ensue, the Hurricanes are all but happy to let it play out.
The Canes are right back at it tomorrow evening against the Saskatoon Blades. It stands as a swing game on this particular road trip, and expect nothing short of another strong game from this Hurricanes squad. Remember to tune in tomorrow morning to catch our game preview. Come back in the evening and interact with us on Twitter as the game is playing out, and maybe even drop your thoughts in tomorrow’s post-game wrap-up.
Thanks for visiting and we’ll see you tomorrow (or in the comments section, or on Twitter…or all three?).