GDB 44.0 WRAP UP: THE BRIDE
It seems like a lifetime ago that the Hurricanes and Blazers last clashed in WHL action on October 30th in Kamloops. On that night the Blazers were the better team handing the Hurricanes a 7-3 loss in what was likely Lethbridge’s worst game of the season. Well, tonight in the friendly confines of the ENMAX Centre, the Hurricanes went full Beatrix Kiddo. They roared, they rampaged, and they got bloody satisfaction. Apparently Hattori Hanzo now crafts composite sticks instead of cold, Japanese steel and is shipping them to the Bridge. Any way you slice it (I’m sorry, I had to do it) vengeance was swift on this cold January night in southern Alberta.
We wrap below.
The first period started out quite tentative and slow. There was an obvious feeling out period as neither team was sure what to expect from the opposition on this night. The opening minutes were spent primarily in the neutral zone and saw multiple icing calls against both squads. The Hurricanes would eventually get the action started when Ben Dupperault notched his first goal of the season to cap off an excellent grinding shift by the Canes’ 4th liners. The reaction from the building was slow as few people seemed to be certain that the puck had even gone in. From there the Hurricanes began to assert their will for the next few minutes. They controlled the play and generated numerous scoring chances but were unable to convert. Kamloops would eventually tie the game while shorthanded. Andrew Nielsen looked to receive a pass at the blue line, but it hit him in the skates. The Canes blueliner was unable to bat the puck past Blazers resident speedster Deven Sideroff, who took off on the break and beat Skinner far side with a hard wrist shot. However, the Canes would answer back a mere 22 seconds later when Cory Millette would get to the blue paint and bang home a centering pass from Kord Pankewicz. It was all Canes from there on out in the first, but the score would stay 2-1 to end the frame. The shot clock favoured the Canes 18-9 after 20 minutes.
The Blazers came out hard to start the 2nd. An aggressive Blazers forecheck led to a few odd man rushes and partial breaks early in the 2nd, but Stuart Skinner stood his ground and kept his team ahead. Some amazing stick work by Captain Wong resulted in the Canes getting a 4 on 3 power play at 3:59 of the period. A faceoff win in the offensive zone would result in Andrew Nielsen getting the puck at the blue line. He unleashed an absolute howitzer beating Dylan Ferguson clean, high glove. The Blazers would draw within one on what was the 3rd or 4thodd man rush of the period. Blazers forward Matt Revel would keep on the 2 on 1 and beat Skinner glove side. But, much like in the first the Canes would quickly answer back on the power play. Egor Babenko would once again display his slick stickhandling skills below the goal line to restore the 2 goal lead. The Russian sniper began to go around the net and when Ferguson bit on the move, Babsyuk dangled and tucked past he Blazers tender short side. It what was an absolute beauty of a goal. Andrew Nielsen would find the score sheet again at 15:19 of the second. He would outmuscle the Blazers checkers and work his way to the hash marks before firing a laser top shelf. Canes forward Cory Millette would further extend the Canes lead on power play in the period’s final minute. Kord Pankewicz sent a rolling puck towards the net on what looked like a harmless play. However, Millette would get just enough lumber on it to change the puck’s direction and sneak it past Ferguson. The 2nd would end with the Canes up 6-2 on the scoreboard and out shooting the Blazers 33-18.
There’s not a lot to say about the 3rd period. The Hurricanes were content to go into defensive mode and sit on their lead. That’s the kind of latitude that a 4 goal lead affords a team. Lethbridge would stack the blue line and collapse to the middle throughout the period to limit any opportunities by the Blazers. In the offensive zone, the Hurricanes were happy to keep the puck to the outside and make the simple play. A highlight of the period was a very effective kill on a 53 second 5 on 3 for the Blazers. This was made all the more impressive as the 2 Canes in the box were Nielsen and Pankewicz. In essence, the 3rd was the time for the Canes to stick to their fundamentals and practice good habits. The lads would skate away with a 6-2 victory. Final shots in this one were 40-31 Lethbridge.
- Tonight’s win was the Canes 32nd of the season. That equals their total for the last two seasons combined just 44 games in.
- The powerplay was absolute dynamite tonight. The Canes went 4 for 5 against the league’s best penalty kill entering tonight.
- The return of Darian Skeoch to the lineup was awesome. It took him awhile to find his feet, s is to be expected with a long layoff, but he made his presence felt. He absolutely destroyed Blazers forward Jermaine Loewen (the linesman was also a casualty) in the first as he was coming across the Canes blue line. The two would scare off as the second was coming to a close in a spirited tilt.
- Call and response. The Canes were able to halt any momentum generated when the Blazers scored by quickly responding with a marker of their own.
- Giorgio Estephan did a lot of things right tonight. Besides a pair of assists he was excellent on draws. What I really noticed was how he kept plays alive in the offensive zone. There were multiple occasions when he managed to get a puck deep despite being knocked down or losing an edge. Keeping plays alive is a key to success at this level and Giorgio had that going on.
- Shoutout to the Magrath Elementary School Children’s Choir for doing a great job on tonight’s anthem. Arguably the best one of the season!
- It appears that Canes recent injury woes may have continued. To be honest I have no idea what happened but Babenko was not on the bench for the 3rd period.
- The string of odd man rushes in the second period was troubling. Thankfully it didn’t cost the Canes too much on this night.
- Frankly there’s not a lot else to say in this spot. The Canes played a solid game tonight.
While it’s been two and half months since these clubs last played. I’ve got to believe that somewhere in the back of the Hurricanes’ minds they were looking forward to getting a chance to earn redemption for a bad beat in Kamloops oh so long ago. They got that and then some tonight. A five finger death punch was delivered to the collective chest of the Blazers and the Hurricanes maintained their hold on first place in the WHL (man oh man that feels GREAT to say). Lethbridge now sits 3 points clear of Kelowna for top spot in the Dub. They will be looking for vengeance again tomorrow when the Prince Albert Raiders come to town. The last time the Raiders were here they shut out the Hurricanes. So, you know Saturday’s game is going to be great. Let’s pack the barn and cheer on our 1st place Hurricanes!