GDB 51.0: GRAVITY
(Photo Credit: Marissa Baecker)
It’s a simple concept really – what goes up – must come down. There’s no doubt the Hurricanes were flying high prior to Friday’s loss in Victoria. They entered that game on a ten game winning streak, and despite compounding injuries, nothing seemed to slow them down. They lost an uneven affair that night to the Royals and followed up with an equally underwhelming loss Saturday to the Giants. What goes up….
Tonight things don’t get any easier. The Hurricanes are in Kelowna to visit the perennial powerhouse Rockets. Kelowna has been hot on the Canes’ heels for weeks now, and having already beaten Lethbridge twice, will be looking to take over top spot in the WHL tonight with a victory.
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Tonight’s game is a true clash of titans, yet there seems to be a slightly unsettled undertone. Both team’s enter tonight’s game on a losing streak, and for Hurricanes fans, there has to be some slight trepidation as to how the team lost their last two. Trepidation (NOT panic), all things considered, is justified. Tonight’s game is a perfect chance for the Hurricanes to bounce back from two sub-par outings, and assert to the league (and themselves) that their record isn’t a mirage (it’s not, but the sentiment exists).
I’m sure a loss wouldn’t be devastating to the Canes, but I know a win would go a long way for team morale. Here’s hoping that’s exactly what we see tonight.
The two losses have not been pretty. Lethbridge deserved to lose both of those games and… well… they did. Combined, the Hurricanes only generated 33 shots in their last two games TOTAL. For a team that has been firing on all cylinders virtually all season, clearly, something is amiss. The first place to look is the lineup.
The team just isn’t as healthy as it has been for most of the season.
While Carter Folk and Ryley Lindgren have returned to the lineup, Justin Gutierrez, Colton Kroeker, and most recently, Andrew Nielsen, have all been missing time. While Folk and Lindgren are back, both missed a handful of games and it might take another week or so for them to really get back in the groove. The sudden flow of players to-and-from the injured list has forced Kisio to blend the lines more than I’m sure he would prefer. While they were able to make things work against Moose Jaw and Edmonton the week before last, the offense has dried up since.
The Canes have only scored three goals in their last two games – one for Lindgren – and two for Millette. Estephan, Wong, and Babenko have been deathly quiet thus far on this Western swing, and if the Hurricanes want to beat the Rockets, they will need their top players to “bring it”.
While injuries may be a factor, the simple truth is that the team just hasn’t been very good for the last 6-8 periods. The shot totals speak volumes.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to get your game back on track after a long winning streak. It already happened once this season when the Canes were on an 8 game streak and then subsequently lost to Kelowna, Kamloops, and Prince George before returning home. This two game slide is nothing to panic about, but it will tell us something about this team.
How will they respond to the first bit of adversity they’ve faced in weeks?
I for one, can’t wait to find out.
- The Canes have registered 8 or less shots in their last 9 periods of hockey…
The Rockets are good… really good. Having already beaten the Hurricanes twice this season, fans should need little introduction. Kelowna is a team that refuses to go away. They’ve been hunting the Hurricanes for weeks, trying to reclaim top spot in the league, and doing a good job of it. Being a top team is all about consistency, and they’ve been one of the more consistent teams this season. A big part of their success has been the play of forward Tyson Ballie and the sensational Jackson Whistle in net. Ballie sits fourth in league scoring with 70 points through 48 games (5 less than Burke with two less games played) and Whistle boasts the leagues 3rd best GAA at 2.54. With Whistle still injured, Michael Herringer has been carrying the load.
Another big reason the Rockets are successful is their youth. Kelowna is getting significant contributions from three rookies in particular. Kole Lind (33 pts), Calvin Thurkauf (29 pts), and Cal Foote (25 pts) are all in the WHL’s top 20 rookie scoring race and playing meaningful roles on an already deep team. Egor Babenko still leads rookies league-wide with 58 points, but outside of him, the Hurricanes aren’t getting the same point production out of their rookies that Kelowna is. That’s not a knock on the Canes’ rookies as much as it is a huge compliment to what the Rockets rookies have done.
My overall impression of the Rockets can be summed up in two words – speed and skill. They are absolutely lethal when it comes to converting on rush opportunities and Lethbridge will need to avoid turnovers in the neutral zone if they want to win. Of all the team’s I have seen come through Lethbridge this season, none have left me feeling more overwhelmed than Kelowna. They are one of the few team’s that can go toe to toe with Lethbridge in an offensive “North-South” style game and come out on top. The Hurricanes like to opening things up, and the Rockets will likely be happy to oblige.
Who that benefits more, I don’t know… but nearing the end of a road trip, it may be best for the Canes to play a more cerebral “road game” and avoid a guns-a-blazing shootout.
Quick Notes (UPDATED):
- The Rockets are 6-3-1-0 in their last 10, but like Lethbridge, are riding a two game losing skid. Also like Lethbridge, Kelowna is dynamite at home, boasting a 19-3-2-0 record.
- Kelowna has no players ranked in the top 20 defensive point leaders, highlighting that their offense revolves around their forward core.
- Jackson Whistle has been hurt for a while now but I was hoping to give an update based on the WHL Weekly Report. It hasn’t dropped yet, so considering the Rockets just added AJHL netminder Brodan Salmond, we can assume Whistle is still a ways away from a return. It sounds like rehabbing the injury might not be coming along as quickly as they initially had hoped (story).
— Scott Sepich (@SSepich) February 2, 2016
THIS AND THAT
- I want to take a second and say thank you to The Lethbridge Herald for taking a chance/risk on me covering a game for them the week before last. When I first started this site in April, I had no idea of what was in store. In many ways, I still don’t, but I’ve had some great experiences along the way. One of the standout moments was taking-in the most recent home game against the Warriors from the press box, getting a chance to interview Kisio, Burke, and Wong afterwards, then frantically trying to hammer out a news story. When I was asked if I could fill in for a game, I had to say yes despite my initial self-doubts. I’ve never done an interview, much less a news story, and it’s not something I ever planned on needing to do. After all, I have a degree in politics… not journalism. But I did it, and while it probably wasn’t my greatest story ever, it was my story and it was in hard copy, and that’s a new memory I will hold to for a while. So thank you Herald, and thank you Dylan. You put your necks out and gave a “blogger” a shot and host of great new experiences. For that I’m grateful.
GDP: Lethbridge plays a better game and cracks the 30 shot plateau but lose 5 – 3 to a very good Rockets team.
OGDP: At some point during tonight’s WHL Live broadcast, I will stop to wish I had an epic radio voice like Rockets play by play man Reagan Bartel
NSOGDP: Darian Skeoch will drop his mitts and win so dominantly that it simultaneously turns the momentum in favor of Lethbridge and also scares the Hell’s Angels biker gang out of Kelowna. The subsequent vacuum of questionably earned money will devastate the local economy and the Rockets will be forced to move back to Tacoma. (I jest, I jest)
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!