GDB 71.0 WRAP UP: FOR ONE NIGHT
Before I go any further let me say I understand this is anything but the ultimate prize. I get it. The playoffs are where things count for real. The big championship is the WHL Final, and beyond that, the Memorial Cup.
All that said, the Hurricanes just claimed the regular season Central Division crown in a season where the Rebels are hosting the Memorial Cup. That is incredible! When you factor in what this group of players, fans, and the entire organization has been through over the last five years, there’s something extra special about tonight’s win.
So you know what? Set aside the temptation to immediately look beyond tonight. For the next few hours, I suggest reveling in what this team has accomplished in 2015-2016. You’ve been through hell Hurricanes fans. Tonight is your chance to let loose! To celebrate an achievement worth celebrating. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
From all of us here at Canes Domain, we congratulate you Hurricanes. You deserve it.
It would be hard to imagine a better start for Lethbridge. The Hurricanes dominated the first period from beginning to end. There weren’t many whistles in the first half of the opening frame and Lethbridge spent allot of that time with zone possession. Tyler Wong would win a puck battle in the corner, pass the puck to Lingren at the low circle, and he would fire and beat Schneider. The goal came before the halfway mark and it gave Lethbridge a well-earned 1-0 lead.
The Hurricanes would continue to press and at the 6:23 mark Ben Duperreault was rewarded. Hard on the forecheck, Duperreault forced a turnover by Tigers captain Ty Stanton, made a quick deke, then put it home for the 2 – 0 lead. It was a fantastic solo effort for Duperreault – shades of his big goal against Red Deer last weekend. Lethbridge flirted with trouble on some late powerplays but the Hurricanes managed to hold things at 2 – 0 after twenty.
Lethbridge would go to an early powerplay in the 2nd. It was a penalty that proved costly for the Tigers. Cory Millette would put it home after Bellerive deflected a shot from Babenko at it wound up sitting in the crease. The goal gave the Hurricanes a 3 – 0 lead with just under forty minutes left in the game.
The Tigers would get one back just a few minutes later on when David Quenneville fired the puck passed Skinner on the powerplay. Stuart had made the initial save but kicked the puck right at Quenneville and couldn’t recover in time to face the shot.
A couple minutes after the Tigers made it 3 – 1, Caleb Fantillo took two penalties when he hit Carter Folk along the boards. Folk was fine but Fantillo was assessed an interference and boarding penalty on the play. Ryan Vandervlis was also given a 2 minute minor for coming to the defense of his teammate and the end result of it all was a Lethbridge powerplay.
Tyler Wong would make Fantillo and the Tigers pay by showing off his stick handling skills down below the net to put the Canes up 4 – 1 with a short side goal.
The Tigers responded well and played some of their best hockey of the night on the ensuing shifts, but couldn’t solve Stuart Skinner or the Hurricanes’ defense. In the dying seconds, Brayden Burke broke in on a partial breakaway from centre ice. Burke did a marvelous job of protecting the puck before quickly pulling it forehand and firing it up and over Schnieder for the 5 – 1 lead.
The third period began as the first two ended – with a Hurricanes goal. Brayden Burke would score his score his second of the night on a beautiful passing play between he, Bellerive and Folk to extend the lead to 6 – 1. Things changed after that.
Around the midway mark of the 3rd the Hurricanes and Tigers came together for I can only describe as a mini-line brawl. Darian Skeoch made his presence felt, but when all was said and done, the Hurricanes found themselves shorthanded. The Tigers would make them pay.
Quenneville scored his second of the night on a one-timer that snuck through Skinner short side and on the very next shift (and still on the PP) Zach Fisher finished off a stellar play created by Steven Owre bring the score to 6 – 3. Then the wheels fell off for the road team….
The Tigers rolled the dice and pulled Schneider with just over 4 minutes remaining. It didn’t pan out as Colton Kroeker would score early into the empty cage. With nothing left to lose, Medicine Hat kept the net empty – a move that paved the way for a little history.
Stuart Skinner took the puck with time behind his net, aimed, and fired a lob over centre and into the open cage to put Lethbridge up 8 – 3. The building went MAD. It was unlike anything I’ve maybe ever seen! Vandervlis would add to the lead before the buzzer ran out and when the dust finally settled, the Hurricanes claimed the Central Division with a 9 – 3 win over their arch rivals, the Medicine Hat Tigers.
- Weeeeee are the Champioooooons (of the regular season division… but hey… it’s still amazing)
- The team was READY to play at puck drop tonight. There was no lul, no warm up period, no fooling around. The Hurricanes came into this one with one thing in mind – winning and their first period really showed it.
- It’s always great to see the awards given out and I think tonight was a little extra special considering what this team has done this season. Wong, Estephan and Burke the big trophy winners and it’s hard to argue otherwise. Incredible to think that all three could be back next season.
- The 4th line set the tone in the 1st period with a fantastic early shift. Kisio through them out there early and they rewarded they coach. Kisio followed it up with the 1st line and the Hurricanes rolled from that point on. The Tigers were on their heels.
- Ben Duperreault has himself two great solo-effort goals in the last week. Those are the sorts of plays/goals that win you playoff series’. Ben’s quietly gone about his business since returning from the Terriers. That business is playing consistent, smart, hard nosed hockey. He’s tenacious and doesn’t let his size be a detractor. Great game from him.
- Skinner scored a goal! It was crazy! I’ve never seen it happen in-person and I may never see it again. The crowd went WILD. It was epic. It’s not often your goaltender leads his teammates to the bench after a goal… it happened tonight.
- Operating at just 50%, the penalty kill got beat up again tonight. It’s not something to panic about, but the Hurricanes haven’t been their best while down a man (or two) of late.
THIS AND THAT
- The 50/50 was massive tonight. Mainly because….
- … It was packed in the building tonight! There was a palpable energy and I really believe in that sort of thing translating to the ice. Support for this team is growing. There are more billboards and radio comments about them than I’ve heard since ‘08. Fantastic.
- The Ronald McDonald guy was possibly the happiest person I’ve ever seen or met in my entire life. Which is something I’m still processing as I write this.
I’m kind of at a loss for words. I could dive into tonight’s game but it’s hard with so much surrounding the win. What I will say is the Hurricanes were the better team tonight and deserved the win. They did get out-shot, but when it really counted, in the crucial moments, the Hurricanes were better.
Looking back on the game, I would argue of the key moments was in the opening five minutes. Kisio was able to get his 4th line out early and they rewarded him with great zone time and an established cycle. Kisio was able to follow up with the top-line and put Medicine Hat on their heels. Lindgren scored the opening goal a few shifts later and the team just sort of rolled on from there. The tone had been set. Lethbridge was refusing to leave without two points.
It was fitting that on a night where the rewards were dolled out, the key players were just that, key players. Brayden Burke’s two goals were the real back-breakers. His first came right at the end of the 2nd and his second goal came in the opening moments of the 3rd. Those two goals turned out to be pivotal and in many ways, I felt they encapsulated Burke’s entire season. Incredible.
Overall, I believe this win tells us something about this team. They are capable of closing something out.
Sure there’s a difference between a do-or-die situation in the playoffs and securing a regular season division crown, but there’s enough of a similarity that I have to draw the connection. This team showed up the second the puck dropped. They overwhelmed the Tigers in the first half, and while penalty troubles made things interesting, Lethbridge had done it’s heavy lifting early enough to be afforded a few mistakes along the way.
That’s where I will leave it for now. There’s another game tomorrow! Let’s not forget!
As always, we’l be back in the morning with a preview of tomorrows regular season capstone in Medicine Hat.
Warm up the minivan Jeremy! We’re headed to Tiger town!