Lethbridge Hurricanes (24-11-0-0) vs. Red Deer Rebels (23-12-0-0)
The Lethbridge Hurricanes concluded a season long six game pre-Christmas road trip on Saturday night with a massive 6-1 victory over the Red Deer Rebels in a first place showdown.
The Hurricanes started slow but found their stride midway through the first period and never looked back scoring twice in the first, three in the second and adding one in the third period. Jayden Sittler was strong making 25 saves to improve to 6-1-0-0 lifetime against his hometown team and 11-5-0-0 on the season.
It was the Hurricanes fourth game in five nights and you could tell early on as the ‘Canes had somewhat of a sluggish start as Red Deer pounced on them early outing them 8-1 in the first seven minutes of the period. But a perfectly timed media timeout gave the Hurricanes an opportunity to regroup and shortly after resuming play Barrett Sheen tipped home his fourth goal of the season, and second in as many games, as the fourth line opened the scoring for the second straight night making it 1-0 – assists went to Arvin Atwal and Jordy Bellerive. Despite taking the lead, it didn’t last long as just 1:32 later Rebels captain Wyatt Johnson tied the game with a shot off the wing to make it 1-1. Late in the period, Giorgio Estephan blocked a point shot and hustled after the puck resulting in a breakaway from the centre ice line in and made no mistake slipping one five-hole passed Rylan Toth to give the ‘Canes a 2-1 lead with just 1:32 left in the period. With seconds remaining, Sittler made his best stop of the night as he absolutely robbed Presten Kopeck with a sprawling goal-line glove save on a breakaway to keep the ‘Canes in front 2-1 after one. Despite being outshot 8-1 early, the ‘Canes held the advantage 14-12 after one period.
In the second period, the ‘Canes added to their lead with two goals 1:33 apart. First, Carter Folk blew down the left wing and let a wicked wrist shot go that beat Toth high to the glove side giving the ‘Canes a 3-1 lead – assists went to Cory Millette and Ryley Lindgren. Shortly after, on a power play, Kord Pankewicz received a pass from Millette and he made no mistake moving in down the wing and beating Toth making it 4-1 with ten minutes left in the period – Justin Gutierrez picked up the second assist on the play. The Pankewicz goal was the end of the night for Toth who was pulled in favour of Trevor Martin; it was the second straight game against the ‘Cane that Toth was given the hook. Martin wouldn’t fare much better as on the first shot he saw the ‘Canes made it 5-1 as Egor Babenko redirected an Andrew Nielsen point shot passed the Rebels backup goalie, second assist went to Gutierrez, as the ‘Canes had a big lead after two periods of play.
In the third, the ‘Canes added one more as Ryley Lindgren busted in on the right wing and let a bullet go from the top of the right circle on the power play to give the ‘Canes a 6-1 lead just 3:20 into the final frame. The Hurricanes continued to press in the game and but wouldn’t add any more as they’d skate to the convincing 6-1 victory.
The Hurricanes outshot the Rebels 9-6 in the third period and 33-26 in the game. The ‘Canes went 2/3 on the power play while were a perfect 5/5 on the penalty kill.
Three stars of the game in the building were:
1) ‘Canes – #16 Ryley Lindgren – (1 goal, 1 goal)
2) ‘Canes – #9 Giorgio Estephan – (1 goal, 1 assist, including game winner)
3) ‘Canes – #33 Jayden Sittler – (25 saves)
The win for the Hurricanes was their fifth straight against Red Deer dating back to last year. It also improved their road record to 11-8-0-0 and was their fourth straight to head into the Christmas Break. The ‘Canes completed their long road trip with an impressive 5-1-0-0 record with the only blemish being a 6-5 loss in Regina.
The Hurricanes head into the break with an overall record of 24-11-0-0 on the season and sit in sole possession of first place in the entire Eastern Conference and just three points back of the Kelowna Rockets for first place in the Western Hockey League.
The Hurricanes are back in action on Sunday, December 27th when they travel to Medicine Hat to face the Tigers in the first of a home-and-home. The ‘Canes return home for their first game at the ENMAX Centre in three and a half weeks when they welcome the Tigers on Tuesday, December 29th.