GDB 39.0 WRAP UP: GREAT WAVES
What does an Edo era Japanese woodblock print painting have to do with hockey? Good question…
But the Hurricanes won! *thumbs up*
It was a highly billed game between two of the East’s best. Best of all, it lived up to the hype. Tonight’s game was exceptional from an entertainment perspective. It didn’t have the flash or clash of some of this seasons’ truly great games – but it was good hockey – and good hockey makes for a good night.
The Hitmen and Hurricanes match up well against one another and the result was an intense, hard fought, and even match up. Both teams carried the play for stretches, got big saves, big goals, and there were some game breaking plays on both sides. Looking at the game objectively, it’s hard to really differentiate where the Canes were able to emerge over Calgary…. yet they did… so I will do my best.
Again I come back to the concept of depth.
I wrote about Lethbridge winning against the Tigers due to their depth in our GDB Wrap Up titled, Diversity. Tonight I want to be more specific. The Hurricanes were able to grind the Hitmen down in the neutral zone with sensational transitions and precision counterattacking. Throw in an aggressive back check and top-notch effort across the board, and you have a recipe for success. Lethbridge came at the Hitmen in waves, particularly in the neutral zone, where time and time again they were able to recover pucks and transition to the attack in quick succession. They didn’t always score, and they actually made their fair share of bad passes as well, but by-in-large, the Canes’ ability to attack and manage the neutral zone in waves was a key to the victory.
Of course, you don’t win without some stellar goaltending and tonight Stuart Skinner was sensational. The Hitmen played a good hockey game and need to be recognized for it. There were a handful of game breaking moments where I felt Calgary might blow the game open, yet Lethbridge was equal to the task. The Hitmen rang a few of the bar, just missed on a few close calls around Skinner, and generally did a good job of generating scoring chances. Credit them for playing a great game. I should also note that the Hitmen coaching staff made some smart adjustments throughout the game and, at times, it created problems for Hurricane defenders looking to make a lead pass. They are a formidable and flexible opponent that needs to be respected.
Calgary is a deep team, and with the potential of a Virtanen return, Lethbridge will have their hands full if they want to keep up with (or ahead of) the Hitmen.
ALL THAT SAID and putting my fan hat on…. we beat them tonight and we will beat them again! I love this Hurricanes team! How can you not?! They play hard every single game – and no – I’m not just saying that. They really do give it their all night to night. I’m running out of ways to describe them and it’s beginning to get difficult to think of ways to describe games. I need a thesaurus for positive adjectives. Good, great, fantastic, phenomenal, sensational, solid, and top notch can only be used so many times before they become less meaningful. It’s a shame, because I truly feel they are deserved.
Furthermore, it’s difficult to think of “bad” bullet points during games like this. Ya… they made some bad turnovers, and ya… they generally surrendered too many quality scoring chances… but you NEED to credit the opposition as well. It’s what differentiates a forced error from an error “error”. Tonight the Canes made less unforced errors than Calgary, rolled their depth, and scraped out a 4 – 3 win.
Entertaining start to this one. Nielsen finished a check 30 seconds in and was called for boarding. The Canes actually had the better chances on the Hitmen PP and carried the momentum afterwards. The increasingly impressive 4th line opened the scoring for Lethbridge just a few minutes after the great PK as Ryan Vandervlis carried the puck through centre and through two defenders before finally sliding it 5 hole. It was a beauty for the young Red Deer native and put the Canes up 1 – 0. Lethbridge had a few grade A scoring chances after the goal but just couldn’t find the net. Things started to shift in Calgary’s favour at the halfway mark of the 1st.
The Hitmen poured on the pressure and it eventually caused a crack in the Hurricanes’ defense. Just after the halfway mark, an ill-advised pass by Nick Watson was intercepted on the half wall – Igor Merezhko got all tangled up and fell too the ice – and Hitmen forward Andrew Fyten used the time/space to slide it past Skinner. Tie game. From that point on, the Hitmen carried the play and out chanced the Hurricanes. Lethbridge wasn’t playing terrible, but blatant turnovers were their undoing and Stuart Skinner was called on numerous times to hold his team even at one. Skinner was equal to the task and the period ended with the game tied at 1. Shots after the first were 6 – 17 for Calgary.
The second period got underway with a band as Justin Gutierrez intercepted a Hitmen outlet pass and fed Brayden Burke to put Lethbridge up 2-1. A few minutes later, Tyler Wong charged hard into the Hitmen zone, cut to the middle of the ice, fired a hard shot, generated a rebound, and Arvin Atwal’s point shot found a hole. The goal put Lethbridge up 3 – 1. The Hitmen would get one back on the rush when Karnaukhov deflected a centring pass beyond Stuart Skinner. It was a nice goal and very difficult to stop.
Much like the start of the 2nd, the Hurricanes scored early. Giorgio Estephan perfectly deflected an Andrew Nielsen point shot – restoring the two goal lead. After the goal, the two teams traded chances for the better part of ten minutes before the Hitmen would draw back to within one. A hard shot off the rush resulted in the puck sitting just beyond a sprawled Skinners’ pad. Kamaukhov was there to smash home his second of the night. Things got extremely tense in the dying moments but the Canes emerged victorious. Final score, 4 – 3.
- Kord Pankewicz had himself another strong game. Great on both sides of the puck. Same thing he’s been doing all season.
- More often than not, the Canes D did a good job of clearing the puck from danger in front of Stu.
- Gutierrez had another good game. Fantastic job on the Burke goal and continued to generate chances from there on in. Frustrated himself a few times with shots/passes he fanned on, but I loved seeing his intensity and self criticism. Gutz is a gamer.
- How about that Ryan Vandervlis! Ryan has been getting progressively better as the season’s progressed and tonight he found the score sheet in a beautiful way. His goal was absolutely gorgeous. A massive fist pump ensued from this blogger as I’d been secretly hoping Vandervlis would get rewarded for his play. Even better, I felt Ryan’s game actually got better as the game progressed and he threatened to score again. Speaking of which…
- …. The entire 4th line has been great of late, and was one of the Canes best tonight. They had some extended zone time, created some dangerous chances, and were generally a thorn in the Hitmen’ side. If Sheen, Vandervlis, and Davis can keep on this trajectory, things bode very well for a strong second half (and for next season).
- Stu Skinner was a rock tonight. He stopped breakaways, oddman rushes, deflections, and rarely gave up a rebound. Stuart has quietly been improving as the season’s progressed and that’s saying something for the exceptional young netminder. Skinner played his best hockey in the final months of last season and it looks like he poised to do it again.
- The Hurricanes are a nightmare for their opponents because they skate so hard on the backcheck. Lethbridge is constantly pushing the pace of the game because they skate back to aggressively. Tonight it forced the Hitmen into awkward passes, mistakes, and blown coverage. It’s cliche, but sometimes the best offense is generated on the defensive side of the game.
- Great game by Cory Millette. He was all over the ice working hard. I was ready to give him the hardest working “award” after the first period, and he followed it up with two more great periods. Fantastic stuff from the 20 year old.
- As has been the case more than once this year, tonight the Hurricanes fell into trouble with sloppy mistakes. I don’t want to makes too much of it, because overall they played very well, but it wasn’t a perfect 60. Inaccurate neutral zone passes and turnovers in the defensive zone resulted in some grade A chances for Calgary. Stuart Skinner was sharp tonight, bailing his team out more than once, but the mistakes were certainly there. The best teams make those mistakes from time to time but are able to contain them. It will be interesting to see how the Hurricanes manage (or don’t?) to iron out some of those mistakes in the stretch run.
- Bad for the Canes, good for the Hitmen… but Calgary did a great job of collapsing down low and eliminating second chances. Lethbridge was doing the right things, but time and time again the Hitmen would get a stick or a body on a Hurricane in front of the net.
THIS AND THAT
- I thought Zipp was really good for Calgary tonight. He likely saved a goal in the 1st with a key stick check and generally played the Hurricanes really hard. Calgary doesn’t have all it’s stallions in the stable… scary to think where the Hitmen can go from here once they are at full strength.
- Another really solid crowd tonight at the Enmax. It’s encouraging to see people returning to the Enmax and I’m confident it will only get better as the season draws to an end.
- I’m not sure what sort of spicy food coach Kisio had before the game but he was fired up all night. Now… the Enmax isn’t the loudest building in the league, but it had a little life tonight – Kisio was audibly the loudest person in the building. It was awesome. He was egging his team on with a loud booming voice. I loved it. It’s not that he is usually quiet or reserved… but tonight there was some extra intensity from the young coach.
The tight, hard fought games like tonight often come down to mere moments. While there were countless of the aforementioned “moments”, what really stood out to me was the final minute of the third period. Lethbridge came through in the clutch. They denied the Hitmen entry into their zone for a key thirty seconds and collapsed to help Stuart Skinner at the final buzzer. It was a (another) big win and an important response to losing up in Calgary earlier this week.
Looking forward, the Canes have a few days off before taking on the Bronco’s at home Wednesday. With all family, Christmas, and New Year’s festivities now behind us, the team here at Canes Domain is looking forward to returning to more consistent coverage. Sorry for the spotty work over the last two weeks! We’ll be better.
To the fine people that bought me this while I wrote the post game tonight, thank you.
You know who you are. 🙂
You’re amazing. Seriously, thanks. We wouldn’t keep this site running if it wasn’t for all the amazing people we have gotten to know and that have even spoiled us with little gifts from time to time. It’s not why we do it, but it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. We’re immensely grateful for the positive reinforcement.
Thank you thank you thank you.