Lethbridge Hurricanes (6-19-3-2) vs. Kelowna Rockets (25-4-3-0)
A day after Head Coach Drake Berehowsky was relieved of his duties, and on the day that General Manager Brad Robson was dismissed of his role, the Lethbridge Hurricanes played host to the best team in the Western Hockey League, the Kelowna Rockets.
Despite all of the distractions surrounding the team in the 24 hours leading up to the game, the Hurricanes led by assistant coaches Bryan Maxwell and Mike Craig played a gritty game that saw them eventually fall 4-3 in the shootout.
The Rockets, who entered with a 13-1-2-0 road record, were without their captain Madison Bowey and the leagues leading goal scorer in Rourke Chartier. However, it was 16-year-old Cochrane native Dillon Dube who got things started banging home a rebound passed Stuart Skinner just 2:05 into the game. Both teams had chances in the first twenty minutes, but the score would end 1-0 Rockets. Kelowna had the edge in shots with 12-4.
In the second, the Rockets started to take penalties giving Lethbridge ample opportunity on the power play. And on their third shot on the man advantage, the Hurricanes made good. Jaeger White took the puck around the goal and fed Bryton Sayers at the blue line and the Prince Albert native wired one to the top shelf passed Jackson Whistle to equalize making it 1-1 with 7:54 gone in the second – Giorgio Estephan picked up the second assist. For Sayers, it was his second goal of the year, both have come on the power play. ‘Canes continued to have their chances with the extra man, but would fail to capitalize again as the game was tied after forty minutes of play.
The Hurricanes would get caught flat footed to start the third period as just ten seconds in Rodney Southam picked up a rebound and popped one by Skinner to give Kelowna their second lead of the night, 2-1, on a spitting image of their first goal. Just over seven minutes later, Dube was back at it scoring his third in two games and just fourth of the season as he gave the Rockets a 3-1 advantage. With under six minutes remaining, the Hurricanes would dig deep. At the 14:27 mark, Kord Pankewicz had a chance at the side of the net but carried down below the goal line pulling Whistle out of the net before quickly feeding Taylor Cooper in front of the net who made no mistake burying it into the open cage to get the ‘Canes within one, 3-2. The goal for Cooper extends his point scoring streak to five games (4g-1a) in this span and is now on a three-game goal scoring streak. The ‘Canes would get another chance with the extra man and pulled the goaltender and the six-on-four attack paid dividends. Cooper hit Nick Walters at the blue line and the overage defenseman stepped into one that had eyes to the top shelf to tie the game 3-all as the ‘Canes came all the way back to force overtime.
In the extra frame, the Hurricanes out shot the Rockets 4-2 despite Walters taking a goaltender interference penalty and giving the top ranked power play in the league a chance to win it. But, the ‘Cane PK came up huge sending the game to a shootout.
In the shootout, Jamal Watson opened the scoring to make him a perfect 4/4 on shootout attempts this year – best in the WHL. Some big saves by both Skinner and Whistle would follow. On the final shooter of the three-man shootout, Justin Kirkland tied things up sending it to extra shooters. Zane Jones would miss before Nick Merkley slipped one through the legs of Skinner to win the game for the Rockets, 4-3.
The Hurricanes were out shot 29-19 in the game. Lethbridge went 2/9 on the power play while Kelowna was held to 0/4 including the one in overtime.
1) Rockets – #19 Dillon Dube – (2 goals, 1 assist)
2) ‘Canes – #8 Bryton Sayers – (1 goal)
3) ‘Canes – #3 Nick Walters – (1 goal, game-tying goal)
The Hurricanes are now 3-1-0-1 on Wednesday’s this year, but fall to 6-19-3-2 on the season. The ‘Canes are next in action on Sunday when they host the Kamloops Blazers at the ENMAX Centre, a 4pm puck drop. It is the final home game for the ‘Canes before Christmas and it is School Rocks Night and Ugly Christmas Sweater night.