GDB 35.0: There Will Be Blood
This is it. The last game before the Christmas break. The Hurricanes versus the Rebels. First place in the Eastern Conference will be on the line. Rewind if you will to the last time these two clubs met on December 5th at the ENMAX Centre. It was an instant classic, at least it was for the Canes and their fans. The game had it all in a 6-2 Hurricanes W. The on-ice product was fantastic, but the most noted storyline was all the bad blood that emerged as the game wore on. Like Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday in P.T. Anderson’s simply outstanding There Will be Blood, these 2 clubs went toe-to-toe in a heated battle for territorial supremacy.
To borrow an Ed Whalen-ism, tonight’s game should be a ring a ding dong dandy. I expect the game will have a playoff like atmosphere when you consider what’s on the line tonight. With the extended break just around the corner, there’s no reason for either team to not leave it all on the ice. If December 5th was any indication, this one should be a feisty and physical affair. That contest featured tons of trash-talk, 3 separate fights, and perhaps most interestingly, a very heated exchange between coaches Kisio and Sutter. While both squads have played numerous other games since then, I get the feeling that this one has been circled on the calendar ever since for both the Canes and the Rebels. It will be a raucous crowd at the ENMAX Centrium as the Memorial Cup hosts have been drawing large numbers all season long. That should only increase the fervour in this one. Add in a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy and you have what is likely the most anticipated game of the first half of the season for these teams and their fans.
The Red Deer Rebels enter this one coming off of back-to-back wins over the cellar-dwelling Kootenay Ice. However, the Rebels were not pleased with last night’s game despite getting the 2 points. Red Deer took a commanding 5-2 lead on home ice with just over 13 minutes left in the third. Considering the distance in the standings between the Ice and the Rebels, it would have appeared that this one was well in hand, but the Ice would score 2 to make a game out of it and push the Rebels right till the end. It just goes to show you nothing can be taken for granted at this level of hockey. Having the Ice comeback in their own barn will mean that the Rebels will be even hungrier entering tonight’s matchup versus the Hurricanes. They will be looking to atone for the loss on December 5th that was a much closer affair, for the majority of the game, than the 6-2 final score would seemingly indicate.
There will be some lineup changes in this one for Red Deer compared to the last game versus the Canes. Standout defenceman Haydn Fleury and import payer Michael Spacek are both away for the WJHC. While the loss of those two high profile players will undoubtedly hurt, the Rebels also welcomed back some reinforcements as overage defenceman Kayle Doetzel made his return from the injured list last night. Ivan Nikolishin leads the offensive attack for the Rebels. The talented forward has already set a career high for goals with 19 through the first 34 games. Nikolishin has been tearing it up this year and currently sits tied for 8th in WHL scoring with a host of other players (including Egor Babenko) at 43 points. To be honest, I’m somewhat surprised he’s in the lineup as I presumed he’d be with team Russia for the WJHC, especially after representing them during the Subway Super Series. I guess Russia’s loss is Red Deer’s gain (is Lethbridge’s loss?).
Behind Nikolishin, the Rebels bring a very balanced attack, getting contributions from across their lineup. The team boasts 6 different players with double digit goal totals through the first 34 games (it should be noted that one of those players is the aforementioned Michael Spacek). The Rebels are more than capable of coming at the opposition in waves and will look to wear the Canes down, as Lethbridge is coming into Red Deer on the tail end of a long 6 game road trip.
In comparison to the first 4 games of this lengthy road trip, last night’s game versus the Oil Kings was quite the anomaly. The Hurricanes didn’t score 5 or more goals for the first time in forever, but a superlative goaltending display from Stuart Skinner, a pair of greasy first period goals from Barrett Sheen and Ryley Lindgren, along with a flat-out (literally) empty netter from Andrew Nielsen, were all that was needed to secure a 3-1 win in the provincial capital. Seriously, how much does Skinner love playing in his hometown? The game was far from the Canes’ best of the year, but they did what they needed to do to drive their record on this road trip to a very impressive 4-1-0-0. The offence wasn’t earth shattering last night, as it has been of late, but everyone has to be pleased with holding the opposition to a single goal.
Normally, in this spot I would be postulating about tired legs and a lack of energy for the Hurricanes, but I’m not so sure that is going to be the case. While the boys have every reason to be exhausted heading into Red Deer, considering the kilometers they’ve logged and playing on back-to-back nights, I get the feeling they will be jacked to play the Rebels again. With the way the last game between these two clubs ended, how could the Canes not be? The 7 day Christmas break is right around the corner; therefore, this game provides the opportunity to use every sport’s cliché in the books. Lay it all on the line, leave nothing on the ice, empty the tank etc. etc. They all hold true tonight and the coaching staff will probably be preaching a similar message.
A great thing about the Canes this season has been their depth. Scoring has been coming from everywhere, and last night the fourth-liners got in on the action too. That depth will be paramount tonight if the Canes want to secure another W against the Memorial Cup hosts. Considering the physical tone of the last game against the Rebels, the 3rd line of Folk, Lindgren, and Millette will be counted upon heavily in this one. So far on this road trip the 3rd line has been fantastic, which bodes well for the Canes. Jayden Sittler should get the nod against his hometown club tonight. Sitts has been outstanding in his 2 previous starts against the Rebels and will look to continue that trend this evening.
THIS AND THAT
Now I’m not one to advocate for physical retribution in hockey games as I’ve long held the belief that the scoreboard is the best place to secure vengeance. However, one has to wonder how the Hurricanes will feel about Rebels forward Colton Bobyk entering tonight’s game. As the December 5th game was winding down a visibly frustrated Bobyk took a run at Brayden Burke. When that didn’t amount to anything he sought out Tyler Wong in the corner and dropped his mitts before waiting on a formal acceptance for his invitation to dance from the Canes’ captain. The 5’9” – 165 lbs Wong held his own against the 6’2” – 198 lbs Bobyk in the tilt, and even came out of the box post-5 minute major with a smile on his face. However, it was the kind of play that sometimes gets ingrained in teammates’ brains when someone goes after your captain like that. I don’t know what’s going happen, if anything considering that was 2 weeks ago, but you’ve got to wonder if Bobyk might become more familiar with some of the Canes heavyweights tonight.
GDP: This game will live up to the hype, but a tired Canes squad will fall just short to the Rebels by a score of 4-3.
OGDP: Egor Babenko continues his march towards the rookie scoring title with a goal tonight.
NSOGDP: Daniel Day Lewis will enter the ENMAX Centrium in character as Daniel Plainview in an effort to secure the land underneath the building in search of oil and profit. In an unprecedented display of sportsmanship team captains Tyler Wong and Wyatt Johnson will work together to escort him off the ice.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
Don’t forget to check out the sponsor of all this season’s game day articles, Graham Reimer of Dominion Lending here in Lethbridge. I personally know and vouch for the amazing work he does. If you need any advice or help with a mortgage or want to look into getting one, I cannot say enough good things about Graham and the Mortgage Crusher team.
Remember to tell him Canes Domain sent you!
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.