Hurricanes 4 Rebels 2
Even without their stars, the Lethbridge Hurricanes had enough firepower to top the Red Deer Rebels.
Wednesday, the Hurricanes were missing top point producers Dylan Cozens and Oliver Okuliar, plus blueliner Calen Addison. Cozens and Addison are away at Canada’s World Junior Camp, while Okuliar is with Slovakia. The dangerous trio has combined for 50 goals and 117 points this season.
And yet still, the rest of the Hurricanes crew dispatched the Rebels 4-2, despite being outshot 32-19.
Hurricanes netminder Bryan Thompson was the main reason Lethbridge escaped with the win Wednesday, as he made 30 saves including seven in the final frame. Meanwhile, Byron Fancy, who played most of his minor hockey in Lethbridge, stopped 15 shots in the Rebels net.
Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said that 32 shots may look nice on the scoresheet, his team wasn’t doing enough to challenge Thompson to make difficult saves.
“When you’re soft offensively, it’s hard to score goals. You can have all the shots you want but we need to get more tough goals and we’re not getting that,” he said.
“Guys gotta understand that if you want to win hockey games, you have to score but there has to be some hardness in your game offensively. We had chances, but they were just soft plays. Not bearing down.”
Two power play goals also proved to be the difference, as Red Deer failed on all five man-advantage chances, while Lethbridge converted on two of six.
Still, the Rebels got close in the third, trailing 3-2 but out chancing their opponent, only to allow a backbreaking goal after a delay of game penalty with 2:29 to go.
“That’s not a good penalty to take at that time in the game. Terrible penalty. We talk about discipline, that’s not discipline,” Sutter said.
Early in the game, Red Deer looked strong before they finally converted in the second. Arshdeep Bains dropped a pass to 17-year-old centre Ben King and he made no mistake with a shot off the post and in, 3:43 into the second.
Less than two minutes later, Noah Boyko tied the game with his eighth goal of the year.
Only 22 seconds after that, it went from bad to worse for Red Deer. Justin Hall walked out in front and buried backhand on Fancy.
Alex Thacker made it 3-1 midway through the frame in an ugly stretch for the visitors.
“Ten minutes in the second period, we got off our game, started turning pucks over and we didn’t play the way we need to play in those 1o minutes,” Sutter said.
“They had three goals on the first seven shots. You can’t even put that on your goaltender, because they were quality scoring chances against us. Just from bad plays we made.”
Jace Isley made it interesting, notching his first career WHL goal at 11:02 to get Red Deer back within a goal.
Red Deer had a 5-on-3 midway through the third for 72 seconds but failed to convert. Sutter added that the power play is being infected by a similar plague to even strength, with an inability to get scoring chances from the tough spots on the ice.
“Too much softness on our power play. Everything has to be a pretty or cute play, hard to score like that anymore on power plays,” Sutter said.
Mason Ward took an unfortunate delay of game penalty in late in the third that ended up costly. Zack Stringer tipped in a Justin Hall shot and rounded out the scoring.
Three Stars: Noah Boyko (1), Justin Hall (2), and Bryan Thompson (3).
Friday, the Rebels host the Medicine Hat Tigers 7 p.m., at the Centrium. Saturday, they host the Swift Current Broncos for their annual Toque and Teddy Bear Toss night at 7 p.m., at the Centrium.