Lethbridge Hurricanes (29-12-0-0) vs. Red Deer Rebels (28-13-0-1)
The Lethbridge Hurricanes flexed their muscle again on Friday night as they picked up a 4-3 shootout victory in Red Deer against the Rebels to earn their 29th victory of the season and sixth straight against the Rebels dating back to last season.
Jayden Sittler was again terrific against his hometown team as he made 36 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped all three shooters in the shootout to improve to 7-1-0-0 lifetime against the Rebels and 5-0-0-0 in Red Deer. Egor Babenko scored in regulation and added the shootout winner in the victory.
The Hurricanes surrendered the first goal of the game just 2:19 into the contest as a shot by Braden Purtill clanked off the goal post and bounce in behind Sittler before eventually being bounced home by Brandon Hagel to make it 1-0 home side. The ‘Canes tied the game just three minutes later as the Captain Tyler Wong banged home a rebound after Giorgio Estephan hit a goal post on a power play for his 25th of the season and to tie the game at 1-1. The teams continued to trade goals as Michael Spacek added his 11th of the year at the 8:27 mark with a power play goal before Egor Babenko scored his 20th of the season, again with the extra man, to make it 2-2. With just 38 seconds left in the period, Justin Gutierrez picked up his 20th goal of the season as he gave the ‘Canes a 3-2 lead after twenty minutes. Hurricanes were outshot 15-6 in the opening frame despite holding the lead.
The Hurricanes were much better in the second period firing 14 shots on Rebels goalie Rylan Toth but couldn’t break through to score a goal. Hurricanes were terrific in the offensive zone as they controlled the attack. Rebels had a few good looks on their nine shots, the best was a breakaway late in the period by Hagel, but Sittler made two stops including the rebound with the glove on the goal line to keep the ‘Canes in front by one as the second ended with the ‘Canes in front 3-2.
In the third, the Rebels outshot the Hurricanes 12-11 in the period and had some very dangerous shifts. Rebels had a strong push midway through the period and tied the game as Adam Helewka wristed home his 20th of the season, and fourth in four games with the Rebels, at the 7:44 mark to tie it at 3-3. Late in the period, Estephan had a breakaway of his own, but failed to get a shot away as the game went to overtime.
Hurricanes directed four shots on Toth in the extra frame while Red Deer had three on Sittler but neither team would score a winner. For the second time this season, the ‘Canes went to a shootout and they would stay perfect in extra time as Babenko scored the only goal of the shootout while Sittler stood tall stopping Spacek, Ivan Nikolishin and Helewka in the shootout to give the ‘Canes a 4-3 shootout victory.
Final shots in the game favoured the Rebels 39-36. Hurricanes went 3/5 on the power play while Red Deer was 1/4 with the extra man.
Three stars of the game were:
1) Rebels – #28 Adam Helewka – (1 goal)
2) ‘Canes – #33 Jayden Sittler (36 saves, 3/3 in shootout)
3) Rebels – #31 Rylan Toth – (32 saves)
The ‘Canes have now posted a perfect 4-0-0-0 record against Red Deer this season and have won six straight games dating back to last season. The ‘Canes have won their last four straight in Red Deer.
The Hurricanes improve to 29-12-0-0 on the season and take sole possession of first in the Eastern Conference with 58 points. The ‘Canes sit just one point shy of the league-leading Kelowna Rockets for first in the Western Hockey League.
The ‘Canes are back home to host the Kootenay Ice at the ENMAX Centre on Saturday night at 7:00pm.