GDB 41.0 WRAP UP: BRICK IN THE WALL
Somehow, some way, the Hurricanes managed to once again defeat the Red Deer Rebels. Jayden Sittler was an essential part of the win and continued his dominance over Sutter’s crew. It took a shoot out, but smiles all around, two more points and lone possession of 1st in the East.
Sittler must love him some Pink Floyd. Just another brick in the wall.
Let’s just get it out of the way right now. This was a sensational hockey game between two very good clubs. Putting aside our differences, the real winners tonight were those who took this game in either in person, or online. It was engrossing, exciting, and dramatic down to the finish. Both teams carried the play for stretches tonight, and both arguably deserved the victory. Neither team had lost in extra time this season so something was bound to give, and tonight it ended up being the Rebels.
Looking at the game from 10,000 feet, the Rebels were the better team for much of the first and late in the 3rd. I want to be careful not to overreact to the moves they’ve made, but Red Deer seemed more more threatening on the offensive side of the ice. Helewka was exceptional tonight, and I couldn’t help but cringe whenever he had the puck. Despite leading after the first period by a score of 3-2, the Hurricanes didn’t play their best period. Red Deer was better, carried the play, and if it weren’t for their undisciplined play, would have held a one or two goal lead after the 1st.
The Hurricanes powerplay has been a story in and of itself this year. They are particularly effective against Red Deer, and the trend continued tonight. All three of their goals were scored on the powerplay in the first period. Lethbridge did threaten for goals throughout the second period and for a good chunk of the third, but there’s no denying their powerplay was the “x factor”. Were it not for the powerplay and the exceptional play of Jayden Sittler, the Hurricanes would not have won – plain and simple. But we don’t deal in hypotheticals. The Canes do have Sittler, a deadly powerplay, and managed to eke out a hard fought win.
The Rebels are better now than three weeks ago. This was their best performance against Lethbridge of the season, hands down. They overwhelmed the Hurricanes, at times hemming them in their zone for minutes at a time. Red Deer was particularly good after they scored the tying goal in the third period. It felt like one of those games where the Rebels would score late after trailing all night and somehow pull out a win. Allas, Egor Babenko had other ideas, scoring the winning goal in the shootout and propelling the Canes to another victory.
It didn’t take the Rebels long for the two powerhouse teams to start the scoring. Brandon Hagel snapped a quick shot low, and after a few crazy bounces and saves from Atwal, scored to put the Rebels up by one. Just a few minutes later, Estephan rifled one off the crossbar and Wong cleaned up the rebound on the powerplay to draw the Canes even. The Rebels would answer back with a powerplay goal of their own just a few minutes later. The goal came on an unfortunate delay of game penalty to Andrew Nielsen where the talented young defender just scooped the puck too much on a clearing attempt.
A few minutes later, Ryley Lindgren took a vicious knee from Evan Polei in the neutral zone. Lindgren didn’t return, and Polei was given a five minute major and a game misconduct. For obvious reasons, the five minute major was an important point in the game, and the Hurricanes managed to score at the tail end of it. Babenko just squeaked a one timer through Haydn Fleury and Toth to tie the game. The goal came moments after Jayden Sittler made a clutch breakaway save on Helewka. The Canes would take advantage of another bad Rebel penalty at take the lead in the final minute. Gutierrez took a hard shot from the circle and beat a screened (Millette) Toth. There was a close call right at the buzzer, but Wong was there to block a hard shot and the period ended 3-2 Lethbridge.
The second period was dramatically different than the first. Both sides locked things down on the defensive side of the puck and scoring chances were much more difficult to come by. That said, there were plenty of exciting moments in the second. The Hurricanes had some glorious chances on the powerplay, and once again, the Rebels generated a breakaway on the penalty kill. Thankfully, Jayden Sittler was again equal to the task. Either way, neither team was able to convert in the second period and after forty minutes, the score remained 3-2 for Lethbridge.
The Rebels were able to convert on an early chance in the 3rd period when Adam Helewka fired a seeing eye shot that found a hole through Sittler shortside. The third period was exciting. There were chances at both ends of the ice, but the goals just didn’t come. Both Toth and Sittler made some epic stops to keep things tied at 3 and the game would require extra time. Overtime was thrilling, as 3 on 3 tends to be, and again, the two teams traded chances. It came down to the wire when Gutierrez was tagged for a penalty with just over a minute left in OT, but a few big plays by the PK and stops by Sittler forced the Rebels and Hurricanes into a shootout.
It was a thrilling shootout that began with Egor Babenko undressing Rylan Toth. It was a slick move and a no-doubter that would ultimately seal the Rebel’s fate. Jayden Sittler needed to do his part as well, and a couple close calls eventually gave way to a Hurricanes SO victory. Final score, 4 – 3 Lethbridge.
- The Hurricanes’ powerplay was, again, sensational. What more can I say – the powerplay is the reason Lethbridge won. Were it not for their play with the man advantage, the Hurricanes may never have recovered from a strong Red Deer first period.
- Estephan had a phenomenal game. He was all over the ice, and with Lindgren injured, made good use of some extra ice time. Giorgio did have some troubles in the faceoff dot, getting ejected on numerous occasions, but overall, was one of the team’s best players. Estephan has a deceptively hard shot and a very quick release. Were it not for a goal post or two, Giorgio would have had himself a few goals.
- Jordy Bellerive played a good game tonight. This guy plays way beyond his years and handled himself just fine against Jake DeBrusk in a 2nd period fight. Bellerive was particularly good in the 2nd period and came oh so close to scoring a couple of goals.
- Jayden Sittler was again the man of the night against his hometown Rebels. Sittler mad countless key saves including two shorthanded breakaway stops. The goals the Rebels did score were all well earned hockey goals that Sittler had little to no chance on. When the the game was on the line, Jayden came up huge time and time again.
- Coaching adjustments in the 1st intermission were key to the development of the game for both teams. The 1st period was sloppy from a Hurricane perspective. The Rebels had moments of weakness too, but generally outplayed Lethbridge in the 1st period. Whatever Kisio said or changed from a game-plan perspective in the intermission made a huge difference in the 2nd period.
- The Hurricanes lost Ryley Lindgren to an aggressive knee delivered by Evan Polei. Polei was given five and a game for the dangerous hit, but that’s little consolation to the Hurricanes. It’s one of the plays that has no place in the game, but it happens fast, and unfortunately this time Lindgren was hurt. He didn’t return. The Hurricanes official twitter account cited “precautionary reasons” which could be a good sign… or a bad sign. Losing Lindgren for any amount of time will hurt. Knee injuries are nothing to shrug off, and Lindgren is an essential part of this years’ Hurricanes. I’m guessing he will sit out tomorrow and they will reevaluate from there. Here’s hoping it’s nothing as serious as an ACL, MCL, or mencius tear… but anything is possible.
- There is a nasty (flu?) bug going around the Hurricanes right now. The Hurricanes required an emergency backup for tonight’s game because Stuart Skinner fell victim to the same sickness that has been plaguing Darian Skeoch. When the initial tweet went out that Skinner was sitting and an emergency call up was required, I couldn’t help but ask if it was for trade reasons. I was relieved to hear shortly after that it was just a health issue and Skinner isn’t going anywhere. It’s a touchy time of year to have emergency call up’s with the deadline looming Sunday. I didn’t want to overreact, but had to ask the question.
- The Hurricanes struggled to produce at 5 on 5. Credit the Rebels team defense, as they totally eliminated the Hurricanes’ ability to take the puck to the middle of the ice. Time and time again Lethbridge forwards would attempt to take the puck from behind Toth to the net, and the Rebels’ would turn them aside or push them to the ice. It was frustrating to watch, but impressive at the same time. When they’re focused, Red Deer has an impressive D core.
THIS AND THAT
- I noticed Helewka a lot more than DeBrusk tonight. Adam was creating everywhere and burned Nielsen a couple of times. The Nielsen pairing was up against the Rebel’s top line for most of the night and it was a real test for both sides. There were good moments and bad, but I left feeling like Red Deer got a really good player in Adam Helewka.
- Was really impressed with the play of a few Rebels other than Helewka. Particularly Hagel, who seemed to be involved in a handful of Rebels’ scoring chances and was generally a pest. I should also mention the play of Rylan Toth, as I felt he made some big saves at key moments in the game at 5 on 5.
- Good broadcast on WHL live from Red Deer. They have a solid camera crew and it made things great to watch. Of course… the feed is only as good as the bitrate, and it’s sub HD with neulion… but I guess we’ll take what we can get.
- Jeremy and I combined forces tonight and watched the game together at Canes Domain HQ for the first time. It was a good time. Many dark beers, including Winter Ale, were drank and good times had by all. Can’t wait for the playoffs. Spinach dip in a bread bowl will be in order and I will live of the leftovers for a week.
All in all, it was a great game. We sold it as a clash of titans, and we weren’t disappointed. Both teams delivered. There were goals, fights, penalties, injuries, and you got the feeling that this game meant more than the average match up in early January. It was great to see and I’m happy I had the chance to tune in for the whole thing. Clearly the Hurricanes have the Rebel’s number, but it won’t mean much come playoffs, and I for one, would love to see these two squads duke it out in the East come March – April.
We will have to wait and see, but at least for now, Lethbridge has the upper hand.