GDB 46.0 WRAP UP: 8 MILE
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
this opportunity comes once in a lifetime
Before he was an ultra famous rapper, Eminem came from the lowest of the low. He was a working class nothing in a downtrodden working class state – Michigan. Eminem had nothing given to him. He was the lowest of the low. He defied logic and the popular conception that a white rapper could succeed in the music industry. When all was said and done, Em let his skill speak for itself and a star was born.
Standing at the top of a second 8 game winning streak feels pretty good, but it feels even better knowing the path we’ve traveled to get here.
8 Mile… 8 wins, it’s a bottom to the top story no matter how you spin it.
It didn’t take long for things to happen in this one. Lethbridge earned an early PP, and despite some nice looks, couldn’t score. It was the Chiefs that generated two of the nicest chances, using their speed to earn two 2 on 1 rushes. Skinner was equal to the task, and Brayden Burke would score the opening goal before the halfway mark of the 1st. Verhelst made one of the best saves I’ve seen all season, only to get scored on seconds later thanks to a perfect feed from Wong to Burke. 1 – 0 Canes. After the goal, the Hurricanes wrestled the period away from Spokane. By moving their feet, Lethbridge was able to draw a pair of powerplays, and despite not finding the net, the momentum was clearly in favor of the home team.
The first half of the second started much like the opening frame. Lethbridge drew another early PP, but were unable to capitalize. For the next ten minutes, play was fairly fragmented. There were lots of missed passes and offsides to disrupt the flow of what had proven to be a pretty fast affair. It didn’t get much better as the period progressed. Spokane continued to play a nice road game. With plenty of stick and bodies in the shooting/passing lanes, the Chiefs were able to continue stifling the potent Hurricanes offense.
The Hurricanes were finally able to get a little breathing room early in the 3rd, when Giorgio Estephan flew down the wing, drove the net, and fired a shot through Verhelst. From that point on, the game opened up and the top line pounced. Before this one ended, the top line would combine for 10 points. Not a single defenseman or forward other than Wong, Estephan or Burke recorded a point.
Mic drop. 4 – 0 Hurricanes.
- How about that PK tonight. They were stellar. Some top notch effort from Millette and Bellerive on the Hurricanes in that regard.
- Giorgio Estephan is on FUEGO!!! He’s automatic right now. His goal in the 3rd period changed the dynamic of the game and forced the Chiefs to open things up. Giorgio finished the night with a goal and three assists.
- Brayden Burke spent the first half of the season racking up assists. Now the goals are also starting to come. Loved seeing Estephan rush over the grab Burke’s first WHL hattrick puck. Burke’s first two goals were tap-ins on great passing plays by Wong and Estephan, but his third was a top shelf snipe, pure and simple.
- Any night you get a shutout you need to be mentioned as a top performer. Skinner didn’t have to made many desperation saves (credit the second effort of the Canes D), but he was light’s out tonight. You could see it early in the 1st when the Canes surrendered some grade A chances to the Chiefs. Skinner looked locked in and stopped everything coming his way with minimal rebounds.
- Good on the team for sticking to the game plan. Spokane was stifling through the first 40, and it would have been easy for the Hurricanes to start cheating for another goal, but they out waited Spokane and eventually ground them down.
- Damn those shot blocking Chiefs! Wow. It wasn’t always fun to watch, but I have to to give it to Spokane to throwing their bodies at everything. They ended up winning the shots battle 32 – 31, but if it were recorded, I’m confident that the Hurricanes would have won in shot attempts. I hope they have ice packs on the bus, because Spokane wore some hard shots tonight.
- Lethbridge got caught opening things up just a little too much in the first half of the first frame and relied heavily on Skinner before they tightened up their defensive game.
- I’m nitpicking a little, but Stuart Skinner made the Hurricanes team defense look a little better than they really were. It wasn’t an issue all night, but there were stretches where Lethbridge was guilty of watching the Chiefs skate around in their zone.
- I’m a little bummed the attendance only came in at 2,918 tonight. You can come up with all the reasons in the world – the weather – the school night – Making a Murderer Netflix marathons – it’s all just hollow excuse making. It goes to show that despite so many good things happening on the ice, much work remains with this club in this city. It’s going to take more than one successful season to grow the core fanbase beyond the (roughly) 3,000 bedrock supporters the team has now. The good news? Selling a winning product is much easier, and I’m confident we will see winning hockey beyond ‘15-’16.
THIS AND THAT
- The save that Tyson Verhelst made on Estephan just prior to Burke’s opening goal, was SENSATIONAL. Would have been a sure-fire WHL top 10 play of the week had the Canes not scored seconds later. It wasn’t his only five bell stop tonight. He’s a big netminder and I would struggle to blame him on any of the Canes 4 goals.
- Spokane has some size. I’m interested to see Portland and Tri-Cities come through town because the US Division seems like a powerhouse. Spokane and Seattle both stood out as big physical teams, and whoever comes out of that division is going to be a force in the Western Conference playoffs.
Was it the prettiest game? No, not really. But it also wasn’t without flow. There were plenty of nice plays, and some pretty passing plays made by both teams. What bogged things down was Spokane’s determination to play a trap style game. The Chiefs attempted to rope-a-dope the Hurricanes, and it almost worked. Until the third period outburst, it seemed like the game was still ripe for the taking. The Chiefs just seemed to hang around and hang around and I couldn’t help but think they would get a tying goal.
That goal never came and it ended up looking like a pretty solid night for the home team. Lethbridge was again good with efficient puck movement. they moved the puck up ice quickly, and the Chiefs spent a good portion of the night in their own zone. If you want to boil things right down, the Hurricanes took advantage of a nuclear performance by Wong, Estephan, and Burke – a 60 minute effort from Skinner – and (mostly) airtight effort from the blueline. Were it not for the willingness of the Chiefs to block so many shots, and the impressive play of Tyson Verhelst, this game would have been out of reach for Spokane long before the 3rd period.
That said, I wasn’t unimpressed with the visitors. They play structured game, are good at collapsing low, and have some speed up front. The Chiefs played physical, and took advantage of their size advantage tonight. They simply played against a deeper team with equivalently good goaltending in the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
It’s getting repetitive buuuuut … Another big win for our Canes!! If you would have told me back in August that the Canes would have two 8 game winning streaks before February I would have laughed in your face. It’s not that I anticipated the Hurricanes to be bad (I figured they would squeak into the playoffs via a wild card), but this is somewhat unprecedented. This team has defied the odds and the pundits and gone from the bottom to the top in months.
They are currently on pace to hit the WHL record books for most improved team (consecutive seasons). The most improved team in WHL history was the 91-92 (28 points) Wheat Kings. The next season they recorded 90 points – a 62 point improvement. The Hurricanes were bad last season, but not as bad as the 91-92 Wheaties. Lethbridge recorded 48 points last season, and they are on pace for 100+ this year. IF (and that’s big if) they are able to hit 100 points, it would be an improvement of 52 points. It would put them in a tie with Tri City (97-98 to 98-99) for the 6th most improved team (consecutive seasons) in WHL history.
If that isn’t the definition of a success story, I don’t know what is.