Lethbridge Hurricanes (26-12-0-0) vs. Calgary Hitmen (25-13-1-1)
The Lethbridge Hurricanes concluded 2015 in Calgary against the Hitmen and had their six game winning streak snapped as they were handed a 6-4 loss at the Saddledome.
It was a game of power plays. The Hurricanes were on the wrong end of many of the calls as the power plays in the game favoured the Hitmen 9-4, including six straight man advantages in the second period. Giorgio Estephan scored a pair of goals while Jordy Bellerive snapped a 25-game goalless drought in the losing cause.
The Hurricanes opened the scoring as Brayden Burke scored his 10th of the season on a two-on-one just 3:50 into the hockey game. Justin Gutierrez made a perfect saucer pass across to Burke who buried it high passed Cody Porter to make it 1-0. Calgary equalized less than three minutes later as Keegan Kanzig put a shot from the line to the net that deflected off Kord Pankewicz and passed Jayden Sittler to make it 1-1. With just 1:52 left in the period, the Hurricanes took the lead as Carter Folk passed across to Bellerive on a two-on-one and the 16-year-old made no mistake scoring his second of the season to help the ‘Canes to a 2-1 lead after one period. Shots favoured the Hitmen 12-10.
Just 45 seconds into the second period the Hurricanes added to their lead as Estephan scored his first of two goals in the period as he let fly with a shot top shelf from the top of the circle to make it 3-1 – assists went to Burke and Andrew Nielsen; Estephan now has goals in seven of his last nine games. However, from there the Hurricanes continued to get tagged with penalties as seven straight penalties were called against the ‘Canes and Calgary made good on two in the period. First, Jakob Stukel scored to make it 3-2 with a power play goal at the 7:30 mark. Estephan added his second of the night and second shorthanded goal of the season to make it 4-2 but a power play goal at the 15:53 mark by Kanzig made it 4-3 heading into the third period. ‘Canes were outshot 9-4 in the middle frame.
Calgary added three more goals in the third period, including the eventual game winner on yet another power play. The Hitmen tied the game on a rush in on the wing and Layne Bensmiller sniped one over the blocker of Sittler at the 9:20 mark to tie the game at 4-4. Just 2:59 later, Stukel added his second of the game on a back-door feed from Jackson Houck as he gave Calgary their first lead of the night making it 5-4. The Hurricanes thought they had tied the game as it appeared that Cory Millette has knocked a puck in across the line. The referee nearest to the net signalled a goal, but upon a lengthy review was overturned despite what appeared to be inconclusive angles. The Hurricanes continued to press for an equalizer as they were awarded a power play late in the game but as they pulled the goalie for the extra attacker, Jake Bean found the empty net while shorthanded to seal the 6-4 win for the Hitmen in the first of the home-and-home with the Hurricanes.
The ‘Canes were outshot 17-4 in the third period and 38-18 on the night. It was the lowest shot total the ‘Canes have had all year. The Hurricanes went 1/4 on the power play while Calgary was 3/9 with the extra man.
Three stars of the game were:
1) Hitmen – #10 Jakob Stukel – (2 goals, 1 assist including game winner)
2) ‘Canes – #9 Giorgio Estephan – (2 goals)
3) Hitmen – #5 Keegan Kanzig – (2 goals)
The Hurricanes have their six game winning streak snapped by the loss and fall to 26-12-0-0 on the season. Despite being tied in points with the Hitmen with 52, the Hurricanes remain in first place in the Eastern Conference having played two less games than Calgary.
The two will ring in the New Year with a Saturday showdown at the ENMAX Centre at 7:00pm. Tickets are available by calling 402-329-SEAT.
(Photo Credit: Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen)