GDB 33.0 Wrap Up: The Willow

  • Jeremy Sakamoto

the-Willow

 

 There’s an old fable about an oak tree and a willow tree standing in a wind-swept field. The tale goes that the willow expressed a desire to be like the strong and sturdy oak because it would never sway in the wind. However, one day a gale force storm came through and the oak snapped in two while the willow was able to survive. The willow expressed surprise at this until a farmer explained to the tree that the willow was able to bend in the wind, ensuring that it would not break unlike the oak. Well, the Hurricanes were that willow tonight, as they bent in this one versus the Blades, but they did not break. They once again rode their vaunted offence to victory and secured another 2 points to bring their record on this road trip to 3-1-0-0.

 

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It was not a good start to this contest for the Hurricanes. Despite generating some solid pressure on the game’s opening shift, the Canes quickly found themselves in 1-0 hole. Perhaps it was a case of bus legs, but Cameron Hebig was allowed to go for an unpressured skate in the Canes zone. The Blades leading scorer saw an opening and made a move behind the Canes net before burying the wrap around to get the Blades on the board with their first shot. Thankfully, the Hurricanes responded quickly to tie the game. Guiterrez and Babenko continued their stellar play of late by executing a text book give and go resulting in Babenko’s 18th of the season. The Canes would largely dominate play for the next 6-7 minutes. They had great puck movement and were filtering everything to the middle of the ice, resulting in several high quality scoring chances that the Canes were unable to convert. The Blades would retake the lead on the power play on a seeing eye shot that deflected in accidentally off of Darian Skeoch. However, the Canes 2nd line would again respond in short order. This time saw some beautiful low to high puck movement by the Canes. Skeoch fed Guiterrez in the slot. Gutz would spin and fire one along the ice to tie the game. Not much later the 3rd line of Folk, Lindgren, and Millette would pot one to put the Hurricanes up for the first time in the game. They did exactly what you want your bangers to do in the offensive zone. They got the puck deep, got the cycle going, which resulted in a scramble in front of the net. Millette would find and bury the loose puck for his 15th of the season. That’s how the period would finish with the Canes up 3-2 and leading on the shot clock 14-9.

The Canes would be on their heels a bit to start out the 2nd period; however, they did a good job of keeping the Blades to the outside to keep their one goal lead intact. They would quickly tilt the ice back in their favour following some stellar play by the top line, but they couldn’t solve the 6’6” Evan Smith who was making his Blades debut after coming in relief. Perseverance would pay off for the Canes after they had been unable to convert numerous scoring chances early in the 2nd. Carter Folk would slam home a one timer on the rush to put the Canes up 4-2. Shortly thereafter, Lethbridge would once again hit the magic 5 goal mark following an awesome rush by Egor Babenko. The import winger would gain the zone with speed and go hard to the net. The Blades D would collapse to him opening up Burke on the far side. Babenko would thread a pass through the blue paint to Burke who made no mistake putting Lethbridge up 5-2. The closing minutes of the period were marked by a parade to the penalty box for the Canes; however, the PK would stand tall, including killing off a short 5 on 3, to preserve the 3 goal lead heading into the final frame. Shots after 40 were 25-18 Canes.

The Canes looked a little road weary in the 3rd period as they allowed the Blades to creep back into this hockey game. Saskatoon would cut the lead to 2 on the powerplay following a tip-in goal by Josh Paterson. The Canes would get some push back courtesy of the fourth line where Bellerive and Sheen both came close to getting on the board. The Canes would restore their 3 goal lead on their first power play of the evening following some great puck movement around the outside. Lindgren would tip home a Nielsen point shot just before the Blades penalty expired for his 14th of the season. Perhaps the Canes rested on their laurels a little, or Saskatoon was just the more energized team, but the Blades would be the better team to close out this contest. Toon Town would once again draw within 2 when Connor Gay finished off a great passing play from Hebig and Zajac to capitalize on a 3 on 2 rush. Saskatoon would continue to press but Jayden Sittler and the Hurricanes defence held them at bay. Andrew Nielsen would make it 7-4 Canes on an empty net goal to ensure that the Hurricanes would be returning to Alberta with another 2 points in their pocket. Final shots in this one were 34-25 Lethbridge.

 

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THE GOOD

  • The third line of Folk, Lindgren, and Millette were unreal in this one. They gave the Blades fits all night long resulting in each guy skating away with 1 goal and 1 assist. With the way they played it could have easily been more.
  • You get a goal, you get a goal, and you get a goal. The Canes have now scored 5 or more in all 5 games since being shutout by the Raiders at home.
  • How about young Barrett Sheen unleashing his inner Darian Skeoch in the fight against Graham in the 3rd. That was nasty pair of right hands.
  • I was really impressed with how the Canes responded in the immediate aftermath of a Blades goal tonight. Generally, the very next shift featured a strong push. The Canes answered back inside of 3 minutes on 2 occasions tonight.
  • The puck movement in the offensive zone was great tonight when the Canes established possession. They did a fantastic job of switching levels and opening up the middle of the ice resulting in numerous chances from the slot throughout. That’s a great recipe for success.
  • Shout out to the Shaw TV broadcast for the feature on the Hurricanes’ players Christmas plans. It was very interesting to get a glimpse into the personal lives of these junior hockey players. It also featured a classic Canes voice as Pat Siedlecki provided the narration. Well done!

 

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THE BAD

  • The Canes had a ton of missed opportunities in this one. They could have really put their foot on the throat of the Blades numerous times tonight, especially in the second. When you’ve got those grade A chances you need to bury them more often than not as you don’t know when they will come again. Thankfully, it didn’t cost Lethbridge in this one.
  • Lethbridge took too many penalties in this one leading to 2 power play goals by the Blades. The Canes will need to be more disciplined moving forward.
  • While the offensive explosion has been fantastic, I’ve got to imagine the Canes coaching staff is pretty concerned with the goals against total over the last 3 games. 14 goals against in that short of a span is cause for concern.

 

THIS AND THAT

  • The win gives the Canes 42 points on the year. This means that they are once again tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings with the Hitmen and the Rebels. That’s a nice way to cap off a day where the Canes rose to #9 in the BMO CHL Top Ten.
  • Perhaps the most interesting part of the night, aside from the Canes victory, was the in-game report by Darren Dupont. He discussed asking Canes GM Peter Anholt what he wanted for Christmas. Apparently the answer was a LW to play with Wong and Estephan. Dupont speculated that the Hurricanes might be interested in Jake DeBrusk from the Broncos. Swift Current GM Mark Lamb was at the game in Saskatoon and got together with Anholt. I’m guessing that type of meeting between GMs is standard operating procedure, but…

 

CONCLUSION

2 points is 2 points. That old adage certainly rings true in this contest for the Lethbridge Hurricanes as they came away with another W in a high scoring affair reminiscent of the live puck era of the 1980s. While the Canes coaching staff is probably not entirely thrilled with the pond hockey like games they’ve witnessed recently, they’ve got to love the victories. Tonight’s win saw the team harness their inner willow and  guarantee at least a .500 record for themselves on this road trip heading into the Christmas break. When you consider their road woes on previous forays away from the friendly confines of the ENMAX Centre, this roadie has been an undeniable success so far. There are always areas to work on at this level of hockey, but the Canes have proven to have short memories and will likely have no problem leaving Saskatchewan behind as they move onto face-off against the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday.

 

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