Gameday Preview: Winnipeg ICE @ Lethbridge Hurricanes

DUBNetwork Game of the Night: Winnipeg ICE (32-19-1-0) @ Lethbridge Hurricanes (33-12-2-5) 7:00 PM

These teams connect for the third time this season. Lethbridge holds a slight edge in the season series, winning once and taking the ICE to a shootout in their loss. These games were played back in late October and early November so there have been some changes in both cities.

Lethbridge has since welcomed back Brett Davis, while Winnipeg has added Dawson Barteaux. Both players came from the Red Deer Rebels.

Both teams enter the game on winning streaks; for Lethbridge, it’s four games, and for Winnipeg, it’s three games. Lethbridge has climbed itself into the Central Division title hunt, now just six points back of the Edmonton Oil Kings. Winnipeg and Prince Albert have been trading the lead back and forth for a while now. Winnipeg edges Prince Albert based on games played as both teams have 65 points.

With a win tonight, the Hurricanes can clinch their fifth straight season of playoff hockey.

Dylan Cozens of the Hurricanes leads the scoring for both teams. He has 29 goals and 38 assists in just 40 games. Cozens missed time while a member of Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. 20-year-old Isaac Johnson leads the way for the ICE with 21 goals and 41 assists in 62 games. He is having a career year as a member of the ICE.

Oliver Okuliar came into the season with a lot to prove. He was released following the QMJHL’s season from the Sherbrooke Phoenix. Okuliar has done nothing but pile up points this season with 31 goals and 29 assists in 44 games for the Hurricanes. Another import is also scoring seemingly at will but for the ICE. Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Michal Teply has 24 goals and 27 assists for Winnipeg in his WHL rookie season. Both players spent time at the World Junior Championships this winter.

We can talk all day about the offense the Lethbridge Hurricanes defensemen bring to the table. Alex Cotton and Calen Addison are first and seventh respectively in WHL defenseman scoring. Cotton leads with 17 goals and 40 assists. Addison has 10 goals and 33 assists in just 39 games this season.

Winnipeg also has a pretty fantastic duo in Dawson Barteaux and Carson Lambos. Rookie Lambos has seven goals and 22 assists for the ICE while Barteaux has 10 goals and 29 assists. Since joining the ICE, he has three goals and 13 assists over 12 games.

Liam Hughes of the ICE and Carl Tetachuk of the Hurricanes have pretty similar stat lines heading into tonight’s tilt. Hughes has played 11 fewer games than Tetachuk but has come in and helped Winnipeg in its march to the playoffs. He is 16-6-0-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. Tetachuk is 18-8-1-5 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.

Both team’s power plays are in the top half of the league and they are very similar. Winnipeg is seventh in the WHL with a 23.4% success rate. Lethbridge comes out on top though with a 23.6% success rate, good for sixth in the WHL.

Neither team is decidedly excellent on the penalty kill but Lethbridge is considerably better than Winnipeg. 78.2% is the Hurricanes’ penalty kill success rate, good for 14th in the WHL. The ICE are successful 75.0% of the time, 20th in the WHL.

You can watch all the action on WHL LIVE or you can tune into Winnipeg ICE play-by-play man Mitch Peacock HERE, or the voice of the Lethbridge Hurricanes Dustin Forbes HERE.

In other WHL action (all times local):

Swift Current Broncos (10-37-1-3) @ Prince Albert Raiders (28-16-5-4) 7:00 PM

Prince Albert has dominated Swift Current on its way to a playoff spot in the East Division with a record of 3-0-0-0 against the Broncos this season. Prince Albert has the same number of points as Winnipeg but is in second place currently based on playing a single game more than the ICE.

Saskatoon Blades (27-21-2-3) @ Brandon Wheat Kings (28-19-3-2) 7:30 PM

This is the second game of a home-and-home in which Brandon took the first game 5-1. Saskatoon still leads the season series with a 2-1-0-1 record to Brandon’s 2-2-0-0 record. Brandon occupies the third playoff spot in the East Division. Saskatoon is just two points back but resides in the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Regina Pats (18-28-3-2)@ Edmonton Oil Kings (35-8-6-3) 7:00 PM

The Pats are reeling following two huge losses, being outscored by a combined 15-1. Edmonton has won four games in a row and leads the Central Division by six points over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Regina is 18 points back of a playoff spot with 17 games remaining.

Red Deer Rebels (18-30-2-3) @ Kamloops Blazers (32-16-3-1) 7:00 PM

Red Deer is coming off its second straight loss on the BC Division road trip. The team is all but eliminated from the playoffs, trailing the final spot by 18 points with 15 games remaining. Kamloops leads the BC Division but the gap is closing as they are in their season-worst slump. The team is in the midst of a five-game losing streak. Five points is their lead on the Victoria Royals.

Spokane Chiefs (31-17-4-1) @ Portland Winterhawks (37-7-3-4) 7:00 PM

In six previous games, the Winterhawks have yet to lose in regulation to the Chiefs as the team has gone 4-0-2-0. Spokane has won six straight games and has crept to within five points of Everett for second in the US Division. Portland leads the US Division by nine points.

Moose Jaw Warriors (12-34-4-0) @ Tri-City Americans (15-31-4-1) 7:05 PM

This is an intriguing matchup as both teams have struggled this season. Both teams are on lengthy losing streaks. Tri-City has lost four in a row, while Moose Jaw has lost eight straight (two of those losses required extra time). Tri-City has seven more points than Moose Jaw in the race for a lottery pick.

Victoria Royals (29-18-4-1) @ Vancouver Giants (26-20-3-2) 7:30 PM

The gap between second and third has tightened up a bit as the Giants are playing their best string of hockey this season, with a winning streak currently at seven games. The Royals have struggled some recently, with Shane Farkas on the injured list. Six points separate the two teams. The season series has been tight as well, as both teams have a 3-3-0-0 record.

Seattle Thunderbirds (21-24-3-3) @ Everett Silvertips (34-12-3-1) 7:35 PM

These two teams do not like each other, based on recent comments made by both general managers. The Silvertips have outplayed the Thunderbirds this season, owning a 5-2-0-0 record. Seattle is 2-4-1-0. Everett is second in the US Division, Seattle fourth and hanging onto the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

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