The Lethbridge Hurricanes are coming off a busy week of three games and are getting set for life without three of their top players who are away at IIHF U20 World Junior Championship camps.
The week that was
Rewind back to December the 4th — the Hurricanes welcomed the Everett Silvertips to the Enmax Center for their only visit of the season. The Silvertips came in riding a strong start to the season that featured Calgary Flames prospect Dustin Wolf’s hot play in goal.
This game was no different. Using a strong third period and getting goals from Gage Goncalves and Martin Fasko-Rudas, the Silvertips beat the Hurricanes 3-1. Oliver Okuliar had the lone goal for Lethbridge, which was his league leading 21st at the time. Wolf made 23 saves for the win, while Bryan Thomson stopped 34 in the loss.
The Hurricanes looked to get back on track Friday night (Dec. 6th) against archrival Medicine Hat. The Tigers beat the Hurricanes 8-3 in their previous meeting so Lethbridge was looking to even the score. It was a good start for the hometown team as they jumped out to a 3-1 lead that included two goals for Okuliar.
The Tigers, however, did not go away. Two quick goals from Cyle McNabb and Elijah Brown forced overtime and eventually a shootout. Brett Kemp’s third-round shootout goal proved to be the winner to cap off the comeback win for Medicine Hat.
Then on a season-long four-game losing streak, the Hurricanes hit the road Saturday, December 7th, to visit the Swift Current Broncos. Star Dylan Cozens led the way for the Hurricanes, scoring a goal and adding two helpers in pacing the Hurricanes to a 5-3 win. The win brought Lethbridge to a perfect 3-0-0-0 record vs the Broncos this season. Thomson was strong in the win with 26 saves while his counterpart, Isaac Poulter, held his own with 36 saves in a losing cause.
Coming this week
The Hurricanes have already played this week. On Wednesday night, the divisional foe Red Deer Rebels came to town for a showdown. This game marked the first time the Hurricanes played without Cozens, Okuliar, and Calen Addison who are away. Lethbridge received four goals from four different players along with a 30 save performance from Thomson to double up the Rebels 4-2. Byron Fancy only faced 19 shots on the night for Red Deer, making just 15 saves.
This weekend, the divisional battle will continue. The Hurricanes will play a home-and-home set vs the Calgary Hitmen. The teams will square off for the first time this season in Lethbridge on Saturday night before a return game in Calgary on Sunday afternoon. This will be the first time these two teams will meet since game seven in the opening round of last year’s playoffs. The Hitmen came out victorious in that series.
The Hitmen are coming off a 6-3 loss last weekend to the Silvertips and are 5-3-2-0 in their last 10 games this season. They are without forward Jonas Peterek and defenceman Egor Zamula who are battling for roster spots for their respective countries of Czech Republic and Russia at World Junior selection camps.
World Junior selection camps
Lethbridge will be without three players for the next few weeks. Forward Oliver Okulair will head to Europe and help lead Team Slovakia. Sabers prospect Dylan Cozens will headline Team Canada and will be joined by defenceman Calen Addison.
Okuliar currently holds the WHL lead in goals at 23. Cozens is just behind Okuliar in goals with 20 and is also second in league scoring with 46 points. Addison sits second behind teammate Alex Cotton in defencemen points with 29. Cotton has 36 to lead all WHL defencemen.
Call to the Hall
Former Hurricanes defencemen and first overall NHL draft pick Chris Phillips is set to join an elite group. The former Senators rearguard is set to join the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020. The Fort McMurray product spent two years with the Prince Albert Raiders before being moved to Lethbridge in the 1996-97 season. Phillips helped the Hurricanes to a WHL championship and a visit to the Memorial Cup final. That season, he won the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as top defenceman in the WHL for his efforts.
Phillips spent 18 years in the NHL all with Ottawa and appeared in 1,178 career games, collecting 288 points. His jersey will be retired by the Senators later this season.
Shooting the breeze
Hurricanes forward Nick Dorrington scored his first WHL goal on Saturday in Swift Current vs the Broncos. He is the ninth player on the roster to score their first WHL goal this season.
With one assist Wednesday night, Alex Cotton’s point streak is at five games now, with two goals and five helpers over that span. With an assist vs Red Deer, Logan Barlage now has points in four of his last five games, including two goals.
Saturday will mark career game 200 for D-jay Jerome in the WHL. He is also just 16 points shy of 100 career points.