GDB 62.0: TWO CITIES
(Photo Via: Broad Street Hockey )
Forward by Brock: As it turned out yesterday, something came up and there was no one available to write today’s game preview. There was, however, an experienced Hurricane follower that has regularly interacted with us on social media and here in the comments section. I reached out to him and he was willing to write today’s preview on super short notice.
I just want to recognize that and say thank you to our guest writer Richard “Dick” Gibson for turning this out in no time. Dick has probably forgotten more Hurricanes related knowledge than I’ll ever know. Enjoy his preview of tonight’s game.
Charles Dickens wrote the classic, “A tale of Two Cities” which included the line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Taking advantage of literary license, this is, “A tale of Two Hockey Teams” (But the quote still applies.)
Knowledgeable hockey pundits would be calling 911 to cart off anyone foolish enough to suggest that this season would have the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Lethbridge Hurricanes in a tug of war for first place in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
However, with but eleven games left in the season, the Wheaties and the Canes are separated by one slim point (Canes holding the top spot) going into tonight’s contest.
Which leads us to the “Best of Times, the Worst of Times”
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Tonight’s match up marks the fourth and final contest between Brandon and Lethbridge (barring an Eastern Conference Finals Playoff series). Wouldn’t that be great!
With first place at stake and the head-to head season series on the line, this is a key game. If previous meetings are any indication, it will be tight. The Hurricanes do have a 2-1 edge on Brandon having split two games in the Wheat city and winning their only meeting on Enmax ice in mid November.
If previous meetings are any indication, the Hurricanes hold a slight statistical edge. Canes have outscored Brandon 10-9; being outshot 108-107; and leading special teams with a PP at 3/8 and PK holding the Wheaties 0/14. One thing to keep in mind Estephan scored twice in one victory and Gutierrez scored twice in the other. (More on that in a bit)
Brandon after sluggish start to the season (not meeting expectations) have finally gotten their collective acts together and have ridden the up-elevator to within 1 point of first overall in the Eastern Conference. There is no doubt that the Wheat Kings can score, and score they do! They have surpassed the Hurricanes in the goals for department 250-249. Over their last ten games the Wheat City crew is 6-3-1-0 while outscoring their opponents 56-32. Mind you, that includes an 11-1 pasting of Kootenay.
The Wheat Kings definitely have scoring up front and on the back end. Nolan Patrick leads Brandon with 36 goals (including 10ppg) and Jacye Hawryluk with 30 goals (8ppg). If those two weren’t enough, former Lethbridge Hurricane blueliner Macoy Erkamps has 10 goals and 58 points (3rd amongst league dmen) along with Ivan Provorov (the Philadelphia Flyer’s first round pick) has scored 13 goals. Ivan is a force not only physically but on their power play as well.
Canes will have to be on the lookout for John Quenneville, Tim McGauley and guess I have to reluctantly mention Reid Duke as well.
After shaky start to the season (injuries as well) goaltender Jordan Papirny has risen into the top ten in the league (just ahead of Stuart Skinner) with an impressive 23 wins, .267 goals against average, and .904 save percentage. Jordan is the work horse between the pipes for the Wheat Kings. With Papirny having the other night off versus Kootenay, I would expect Kelly McCrimmon to call upon his number one to start.
Let me dwell on the 9-8 shootout loss to Regina first. That game may have been exciting, but it was nothing better than a glorified pond hockey game. You know the ones’ where last goal wins. No recap, as we all know what transpired. Bad start, porous defense, no forwards back-checking (thus no defensive zone coverage) which led to the shoot out at the OK corral. Certainly wasn’t ok with Kisio who fortunately has no hair left to pull out.
Both teams looked like they were working part time in a bakery with all the turnovers in the game. Ok the Canes showed character by coming back, but they did not need to put themselves in that situation. That game was an apparition!
The Canes display is symptomatic of the funk they are in. Last 10 games, the Canes are 4-4-0-1 and have just outscored their opposition 38-37. (keep in mind that includes the 8 vs Regina) A lack of scoring has been a problem! Certainly the injuries to Estephan and Gutierrez have definitely contributed to their scoring drought. Having their two top centres out affects everyone upfront. But, it is not only the lack of offensive output that is hurting the Hurricanes; but their starts to recent games are continually putting them behind the eight-ball.
Regina followed the lead of the Portland Winter Hawks by scoring 29 seconds into the first period. That puts the Hurricanes (having scoring problems) back on their heels, which leads to more difficulties offensively and defensively. There are too many defensive mistakes being made, which has led to Sittler and Skinner being left at the mercy of the opposition forwards. With all these factors coming into play, home ice has not been an advantage in their last 3 games.
In order to get back on the right track the Hurricanes collectively must attack from the get go. You can bet Kelly McCrimmon will have told his troops to pressure the Canes big time at the start! Lethbridge will have to tighten up their defensive game, stay away from the costly errors, eliminate the foolish penalties, and bring back their strong physical play, tenacious fore check, and most importantly, get more balanced scoring. Wong, Burke and Millette can’t be counted on to carry the load each night. Besides, how much more does Captain Tyler have left in the tank?
Pressure has to be on Babenko to pick up his game. He has been MIA since Justin was sidelined!
I look for Nielsen and Pankewicz to have big games tonight! Not certain on who starts between the pipes.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Knowing the importance of this game the Canes raise their level of intensity, but just fall short 4-3 in overtime.
OBVIOUS GDP: Fans will still boo Duke every time touches the puck.
NOT SO OBVIOUS GDP: Hurricanes PA announcers @theVinceofRock and @radiopat258 will sing the National Anthem together.
Many thanks to Brock for the opportunity!
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
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Remember to tell him Canes Domain sent you!