GDB 52.0 WRAP UP: TRUE GRIT
Ya. Of course tonight’s theme is a western. How could it not be?
Cory Millette scored the game winning goal in the second period and followed it up with an insurance marker in the third. Neither were fancy goals, and in fact, they were both kinda… lets say… meat and potatoes goals.
Call them grindy, greasy, grimy, garbage, or gritty, I just call them goals, and they were huge.
The Warriors came out strong tonight. Having hemmed Lethbridge in their zone, and generated the better chances, the Warriors were simply the better of the two teams in the opening ten minutes. The two teams came out skating hard, yet only five shots had been registered by the midway mark of the first.
It wasn’t that the game had no flow, but there was a welcome burst of energy injected when Brady Reagan dropped the mitts with Tanner Jeannot. Both fighters landed blows, but the decision has to go to Reagan.
Both teams picked it up after the scrap and there were a few more quality chances. The best of the period went to Carter Folk who was sprung on a clear breakaway from the blue-line in. Folk elected to fire it, and despite beating Willms, rang it directly off the left post.
A few minutes later the Canes top line would open the scoring on a beautiful deflection by Ryan Vandervlis. The goal was a direct result of a smart low point shot by Brady Reagan. Vandervlis’ touch raised the puck up and over Willms glove to put the homeside up by one.
The Warriors would strike early in the 2nd on a near identical goal to Vandervlis. It came moments after a Hurricane penalty had expired. Josh Thrower fired a point shot that was deflected by Brayden Point up above Skinner’s glove.
Despite giving the Warriors another powerplay after their goal, the Hurricanes actually carried the play for the next ten minutes. The end result of the pressure was a goal by Cory Millette. Carter Folk carried the puck up the ice along the boards, dished to Millette who was denied on his first attempt by Willms. Millette fired again from a bad angle and got a lucky (but calculated) bounce off the back of Willms’ leg. 2 – 1 Lethbridge.
Things started to get wild from that point on. Both team’s ramped up the physicality and blood started to boiled. Brayden Point took a couple of really big hits from Hurricanes, and Josh Thrower responded with a massive hit on Jordan Bellerive. Even taking my homer hat off completely, it was still a dangerous and potentially suspendable hit. Thrower was given a five minute charger major and a game misconduct.
The Hurricanes would take a hooking penalty seconds into the man advantage and with the teams skating 4 on 4, Arvin Atwal leveled Brayden Point. It caused a stir and Egor Babenko skated down on a breakaway. He had his pocket-picked before making a move by the hard skating Warriors defenders and was unable to register a shot.
With the teams still staking at 4 on 4 to start the 3rd, Millette would score his second of the game. It was a bad goal for the Warriors young netminder Willms, who had, aside from Millette’s other goal, played a very good game. He lost the puck when he tried to cover it and Millette banged it home between his legs for a 3 – 1 lead.
Things really opened up after the Thrower major was over. The Warriors were forced to play a north-south game to try get some goals, and the Canes were pleased to oblige. The Hurricanes took a few penalties in the latter half of the period, and Moose Jaw was unable to capitalize.
Stuart Skinner made a couple of great saves, including “The Robbery of Noah Gregor”… (sounds like a cool movie title). Gregor didn’t get everything on his one timer, but Skinner made a great sprawling save. The Warriors would pull the goalie early, but it proved fruitless as Brayden Burke fired it into the open cage for a 4 – 1 lead. With Willms back in the net, Ryan Vandervlis capped off the night with his second of the night to make it 5 – 1.
- Skinner was dynamite again.
- Nielsen followed up a strong game Tuesday with another one tonight.
- Arvin Atwal made some small but essential plays tonight. I’ve noticed increasingly how cerebral he is when he’s on the ice. Atwal thinks the game at a high level and has the veteran savvy to make some cheeky defensive plays when called upon.
- What a night by Cory Millette. Millette scored the game winning goal in the second period, and gave the team some breathing room in the third. It wasn’t just the goals. Millette was doing all the little things right as well. With Gutierrez and Estephan out of the lineup, it was great to see Millette put the team on his back tonight and lead them to a win.
- Brady Reagan is always down to inject some life into his team and the crowd with a fight. He’s done it numerous times this season and his first period fight with Jeannot seemed to spur the game forward with more intensity. Reagan’s been playing some of his best hockey of the season over the past few weeks. He seems to have quieted his game down and it’s paying off.
- Ryan Vandervlis! He was really good Tuesday in Kelowna and followed up with an even better performance tonight against the Warriors. With Estephan down, Vandervlis moved up on a line with Wong and Bellerive. They were a little inconsistent, but overall, they played a good game. How great was it to see him get the opening and closing goals!? I loved it. Considering he’s taken an unorthodox path to the WHL (undrafted), it’s fantastic to see him make an impact with some goals and 1st line minutes.
- The 4th line was sensational tonight. They were arguably the best forward trio when they were on the ice and were a huge force in the opening frame. The Canes were getting out played early and it was the 4th line that dug deep and started to shift momentum with some great cycling in the Warrior end. It didn’t go unnoticed. Ben Duperreault was awarded 3rd star.
- I know he got their only goal, but it was on the PP, and I actually felt the Hurricanes did a great job of shutting down Point tonight.
- The crowd was really into this game in the second half. There was lots of chanting, booing, cheering, and even a wave. It was capped off with a lovely “We want tacos” chat.
- Gotta give it up to the Hurricanes for doing the Western thing. It’s not that the jerseys are particularly beautiful… they’re… well they are what they are. A fun novelty. But what I loved more than anything what the full commitment to the theme. It wasn’t just a jersey cash grab. Everything was western themed. The in-game music was country, the goal song was country, the staff wore hats, Jayden Sittler wore a hat, the in game PA was even westernish. It was the way a theme night should be. It put a fresh spin on the game night experience and that’s what a theme night should do.
- The five minute powerplay was a mess. It was still a one goal game at the time and the home side was a bit too casual. The Warriors arguably generated as many chances as the Canes, but I’m sort of nitpicking here, so I won’t go on…
- The Hurricanes got themselves into some penalty trouble once they were up 3 – 1. It was nothing major, but two or three quick minors forced the PK to come up huge. They (the PK units) were great, and it didn’t end up costing the team anything.
- The Josh Thrower hit was the kind of hit league managers and officials are trying to get out of the game. It was predatory in nature. Thrower waited for Bellerive to put his head down, then left his feet and followed through with his elbow. The brunt of the contact was made with Bellerive’s head and the game misconduct was warranted. I have to assume Thrower will be getting a call and a potential suspension. Bellerive was okay.
THIS AND THAT
- I was impressed with the defensive play of the Warriors tonight. A little strange considering the score, but 5 – 1 isn’t indicative of how most of the game played out. It was a one goal game through the first two periods, and until they were forced to open things up, the Warriors had done an admirable job of containing Lethbridge. Led by Tanner Faith, I felt Moose Jaw did a good job of forcing attackers wide and eliminating passing lanes to the middle of the ice.
And just like that the losing streak is over. Turns out the team just needed a little home cook’in to get back on track. All in all, it was a complete game by the Hurricanes. The Warriors were better out of the gate, but by the end of the 1st, Lethbridge had the momentum and the lead. It was another well contested game between these two teams and I don’t really feel the final score was indicative of how the game played out.
The Warriors were good for much of the night, but they didn’t get the saves at key times and went 0/4 on the PP (though their loan goal was basically a powerplay goal as the penalty had just expired to Kroeker). Willms was actually quite good for most of the game, but the two Cory Millette goals were game changers. They were gritty goals; the kind you need to have stopped if you’re Moose Jaw. It seemed to me that the visitors simply struggled to execute. They generated chances off the rush, and looked dangerous on the powerplay, but they also squandered a few odd man rushes by refusing to skate or taking low percentage shots.
The Warriors dug their own grave tonight but I think they will get back on the winning track in the near future.
For the Canes, I think it’s important they were able to halt the skid at three. It keeps potential anxiety and/or mental games from creeping in and allows everyone to take and deep breath and press forward. The next two weeks are incredibly “soft” and it’s crucial the Hurricanes get some wins of the league’s bottom feeders.
They will have their first crack tomorrow night in Cranbrook against the Ice.
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