Hitmen fall to Hurricanes 4-2 in tight divisional matchup

The first game after the trade deadline for both the Calgary Hitmen and Lethbridge Hurricanes was a back and forth affair which saw the Canes secure the road victory in the third. Both clubs were without top players as Calen Addison and Dylan Cozens continue to rest since returning from the World Junior Championship, while Calgary was without Egor Zamula who will miss the rest of the season due to back surgery. Although Brayden Peters and Carl Tetachuk both had solid outings, it was two late goals from breakout stars Alex Cotton and Oliver Okuliar that determined the outcome of this contest.

Oliver Okuliar (Photo: Erica Perreaux)

The first period of the fifth meeting between visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes and Calgary Hitmen featured an exciting fast paced style of hockey from both benches. Along with the energy and speed exhibited, neither teams took a single penalty in the frame. It was Lethbridge who lit the lamp first just 1:16 into the game when Jett Jones swiftly won a faceoff right to Noah Boyko who immediately snapped a shot over the shoulder of Brayden Peters for the early lead. The Hitmen, however, were quick to answer when Riley Stotts from the left boards of the offensive zone found a streaking Josh Prokop who went forehand to backhand and beat Carl Tetachuk before crashing into the boards. Although both goals were scored before the four minute mark of the first, with both also coming on one of the opposing team’s first three shots, it was the goaltenders who took the spotlight from this point on. Both Brayden Peters and Carl Tetachuk made a number of quick reactionary saves which kept the game tied at one. With under 13 minutes, remaining Lethbridge leading goal scorer Oliver Okuliar was given a top quality scoring chance which he labelled top corner on Peters. Peters however, had another outcome in mind and made a terrific glove hand snag. At the other end after Luke Prokop showcased his seldomly utilized offensive flare by going end to end, It was Tetachuk who denied Prokop off an awkward board bounce that the defenseman tried to stuff past the netminder. The period ended with the game standing at a 1-1 tie while Lethbridge took an edge in shots to the break with 14 to Calgary’s 11.

Josh Prokop (photo-Candice Ward)

The second period, much like the first displayed a back and forth high speed game. Around the five minute mark, Calgary began to take a slight edge in momentum with a high volume of shots on Carl Tetachuk. Tetachuk continued to stand tall saving all eight shots faced to the point when his Hurricanes were given the man advantage as Luke Prokop was handed a minor interference infraction. Lethbridge began the power play having tested Brayden Peters only twice, however, the 17 year old Taber, Alberta native made three timely stops to keep the game even at one. The Hitmen from this point on struggled to generate any offensive opportunity and were outshot six to none in the final seven minutes of the frame. Despite the deficiency in shots for Calgary, a Blake Allan pass directed on net by the skate of Ty Prefontaine nearly broke the tie. Instead, this served as the second disallowed goal of the game after a high stick from Jett Jones in the first caused the officials to almost immediately wave the goal. Both clubs left the ice for the second intermission with both netminders continuing to keep their respective clubs at a 1-1 tie.

The final frame did not start on a positive note for Calgary as Mark Kastelic was sent off just 1:02 into play. Lethbridge was able to capitalize when Koletrane Wilson whistled a low wrist shot that was redirected in front by Dino Kambeitz for the 2-1 Hurricanes lead. Calgary, however, were quick to respond yet again as a Danila Palivko holding call gave the Hitmen the advantage needed to tie the game back up. Just six seconds into the power play, Jett Woo who received the puck from a Mark Kastelic faceoff win fed Riley Stotts on the left point who walked in and wristed a shot over the shoulder of Carl Tetachuk. Later in the frame, after killing off a Devan Klassen kneeing penalty, the Hitmen found themselves hemmed in the defensive zone. After several unsuccessful attempts to clear the zone Brett Davis gifted Alex Cotton with a one timer pass and Cotton made no mistake. Cotton beat Peters for his 12th goal of the season and gained back the Lethbridge lead. Under two minutes later, Dino Kambeitz fell sent awkwardly into the boards when battling for a loose puck. Following this fall was a heated brawl which resulted in a Hurricanes power play and game misconduct to Jackson Van De Leest. After an overwhelmingly dominant power play that included two shots off the Calgary post, the Hitmen had reached a desperate time in the game and yanked Brayden Peters from the Calgary crease. Despite the late efforts, the Hitmen failed to produce any realistic scoring chances and Oliver Okuliar sealed the deal with a long shot from the Lethbridge end with 17 seconds. With the goal Lethbridge also took the lead in the season series over the Hitmen. 

Post game, Riley Stotts was quick to critique his teams game by stating “There were easy defensive breakdowns that we can fix, and I think once we key down on those we will be able to pull through and come out with the win” 

Stotts and the Hitmen will resume play on Sunday at the Saddledome against the Swift Current Broncos in the second meeting of the season between the two clubs.

The Hitlist:

  • The Hurricanes continue a six game point streak having won four and picking up overtime loss points in two other contests.
  • Riley Stotts extends four-game point streak with a goal and assist while leading all Hitmen in points with 17 goals and 24 assists in 38 games played.
  • In previous three starts Brayden Peters had posted a 0.935 save percentage with a 1.50 goals against average.

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