Gritty Hurricanes edge Rebels in shootout
Hurricanes 6 Rebels 5 (SO)
Already hopelessly out of the Western Hockey League playoff hunt, the Lethbridge Hurricanes are playing for pride.
The ’Canes certainly displayed plenty of grit Friday at the Enmax Centrium, battling back from a 5-3 third-period deficit to post a 6-5 shootout win over the Red Deer Rebels before a recorded audience of 5,621.
“There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a lot of pride in this dressing room,” said Lethbridge head coach Drake Berehowsky, following the ‘Canes’ 11th win of the season.
“This is a proud organization and this is the culture that we’re setting.”
The Rebels appeared to have this one in the bag when Presten Kopeck, on the power play, buried a rebound early in the third period to forge a 5-3 lead for the home side.
But, with Rebels rookie forward Meyer Nell off for hooking, Kolten Olynek notched a man-advantage goal for the visitors at 7:30 and Reid Duke potted his second of the evening just under five minutes later.
From there, the clubs battled through a scoreless overtime period and Olynek notched the winner in a 10-player shootout.
“You’re up two goals in the third period and you take a penalty 180 feet from your net,” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter, referring to Nell’s offensive zone infraction. “You can’t take penalties like that at this time of the year.”
The Rebels, assessed two minor penalties in the first three minutes of the contest, were being outshot 6-0 when Rhyse Dieno connected on Red Deer’s first shot, driving down the right side, shifting around a defenceman and beating Lethbridge netminder Jonny Hogue to the far corner at 4:19.
Duke got that one back just 33 seconds later when he ripped a shot over the shoulder of Rebels stopper Patrik Bartosak from the top of the circle.
From there, Red Deer veteran Brooks Maxwell scored back-to-back man-advantage markers at 6:36 and 8:35 and Carter Folk replied for the ‘Canes late in the period.
The clubs traded second-period goals, with Red Deer defenceman Nick Charif converting a nifty feed from Nell at 3:09 and Lethbridge rearguard Nick Walters sneaking in from the point and beating Bartosak to the blocker side just over two minutes later.
Hogue, was beaten on each of the Rebels’ first two shots, had a shaky start but settled in nicely and finished with 36 saves through the overtime frame. He then foiled all five Red Deer gunners in the shootout.
“He (Hogue) struggled a bit early, but we pride ourselves on battling every step of the way. Jonny came to play after his slow start and we’re really proud of him,” said Berehowsky.
“These guys never cease to amaze me. Despite the ups and downs we’ve been through this season, they came out here and worked hard tonight. They got behind and kept battling and we’re happy with the two points.”
Sutter was impressed with the Hurricanes’ work ethic while bemoaning several missed scoring opportunities and a lack of defensive coverage by his club.
“That team (Hurricanes) worked hard, they played hard,” said Sutter. “They were playing for nothing. They were loose and just playing, there’s no pressure on them at all.
“We had some scoring opportunities we didn’t capitalize on tonight, but defensively we had moments in our game in our own zone when we weren’t very good. That was especially true in the first period. Both goals we gave them were due to mental mistakes.
“But we’ll take the point. Every point is huge and we’ll move on. It’s disappointing, though, when you’re up two in the third period and you lose the other point. You can’t question our effort tonight but the focus and the mental toughness were not like they need to be at this time of the season.”
l Bartosak stopped 28 shots through 65 minutes . . . Rookie forward Vukie Mpofu returned to the Rebels lineup Friday after missing seven games with a lower-body injury. Forwards Wyatt Johnson and Lukas Sutter both remain out indefinitely with upper-body injuries . . . The Rebels host the Tri-City Americans tonight, then head west Sunday for a four-game trip that will include stops in Vancouver, Kelowna and Prince George, where they will take on the Cougars Friday and Saturday.