Feature Game of the Night: Lethbridge Hurricanes (26-11-2-5) @ Moose Jaw Warriors (11-27-2-0) 7 PM CST
This is an intriguing matchup of two Eastern Conference teams with some playoff implications for the Hurricanes as well as some draft lottery implications for the Warriors.
The Hurricanes are just a single point behind Medicine Hat for second in the Central Division. This battle is going to go down the stretch as the two teams also play a home-and-home set to close out the season. With 24 games left apiece, the competition for home-ice advantage is going to be tight.
In the meantime, the Warriors are just two points ahead of the Swift Current Broncos for last in the WHL. Recently, the team has gone into a nosedive, winning just one game in its last nine and losing six in a row, being outscored 35-15 in the process.
The Warriors do have a scorer in the top 30 in WHL scoring. That player is forward Ryder Korczak. The 17-year-old has exploded since being dealt from the Calgary Hitmen to Moose Jaw. He has 12 goals and 32 assists in 40 games this season. There is a steep drop off though as the next closest Warrior has 29 points. That Warrior is 20-year-old Owen Hardy. The left winger has 19 goals this season, exceeding his previous high of 14. He is one goal shy of 50 for his career. Recently-added Martin Lang rounds out the top-three scorers for Moose Jaw. He has three assists in four games since coming over from the Kamloops Blazers.
The Hurricanes have offensive weapons and they aren’t afraid to use them. Three players are in the top 30 in WHL scoring, and one of them is a defenseman. The team is led by Dylan Cozens. Despite missing time for the World Junior Championships, Cozens has 49 points over 32 regular-season contests. He is 13 points from 200 in his career. This season, he has 21 goals and 28 assists. Next up is import Oliver Okuliar, who has also missed time due to the World Junior Championships. In his first WHL season, Okuliar has 24 goals and 23 assists in 36 games. Rounding out the Hurricanes’ top-three scorers is defenseman Alex Cotton. This season, Cotton has vaulted himself into a great all-around player from the blue line. With 13 goals and 31 assists, he is just two points off the WHL pace for d-men, currently held by Max Martin of Kamloops.
Speaking of defensemen, the Hurricanes also have Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Calen Addison patrolling the back end. Although slightly off his pace from last season, Addison is among the league leaders in the WHL with 31 points in 33 games. Expect Addison to have a strong final push to the playoffs.
Moose Jaw struggles to collect points among its defensemen with Chase Hartje leading the way. He has only been with the team for 16 games after coming over from Winnipeg. Hartje has two goals and six assists in that time and four goals and 12 assists in total this season. 17-year-old Daemon Hunt was having an excellent season before getting hurt. In 23 games of action, he had 11 assists. He is expected to be out four or five more weeks.
The Warriors were part of the trade deadline goalie carousel, eventually landing on Brock Gould and Boston Bilous. Neither goalie has done exceptionally well since being brought in. Expect Bilous to get the start this evening. He is 15-13-4-1 on the season, with four losses coming as a member of the Warriors. His goals-against average is 2.77 and he has a .892 save percentage.
Lethbridge is likely to start Bryan Thomson as he has performed well of late, winning three of his last four starts. The rookie netminder is 12-4-1-0 and has seen 21 games of action this season. His 2.66 goals-against average ranks him 12th in the WHL. He also has a .905 save percentage.
On special teams, the Hurricanes are among the leaders on the power play. They are clipping along at 22.6% (42-of-186). The Warriors are more of a middle-of-the-pack team, converting at an 18.4% clip
(27-of-147). Neither team is particularly “special” at killing penalties. Lethbridge is 19th at 76.1% and Moose Jaw is 20th at 75.4%.
In other WHL action:
Edmonton Oil Kings (30-7-6-3) @ Swift Current Broncos (9-29-1-3)
The Broncos are looking for their 10th win of the season, the last team to hit that mark in the WHL this season. Edmonton is one of just three teams that has already surpassed 30 wins. The team has points in eight straight contests. The Broncos did pick up one win against Edmonton in three attempts back on October 2nd.
Everett Silvertips (29-11-2-1) @ Spokane Chiefs (23-15-4-1)
A matchup between second and third in the US Division, the teams are separated by 10 points in the standings. Everett will be looking for its 30th win of the season, a mark the team has hit every season since 2012-13. Spokane has struggled of late, winning just four of its last 10 games. Everett has won all six matchups between the two clubs.