By Woodard, Dale on April 16, 2018.
For the second straight season, the Lethbridge Hurricanes have guaranteed they’ll be playing into at least late April.
The Hurricanes sent the Brandon Wheat Kings packing in five games in the WHL Eastern Conference semifinal thanks to a 3-0 win Friday night at the Enmax Centre to advance to the Eastern Conference final.
Though it’s yet to be determined who the Hurricanes will face for the East bragging rights, there’s no doubt it’ll be a formidable opponent.
Lethbridge awaits the winner of the Swift Current Broncos and Moose Jaw Warriors series as those two titans battle in Game 7 tonight in Moose Jaw after the Warriors stayed alive in the series thanks to a 3-2 triple overtime win Saturday night in Swift Current.
However, a potential matchup with the Broncos would no doubt have local fans and media alike drumming their fingers in anticipation.
After all, it’s been a little over three months since the Hurricanes and Broncos set the league on its ear with a blockbuster trade deadline deal that saw the Hurricanes send captain Giorgio Estephan, goaltender Stuart Skinner and forward Tanner Nagel to Swift Current in exchange for forwards Logan Barlage and Owen Blocker, goaltender Logan Flodell and defenceman Matthew Stanley.
“If you were to ask us after that trade deadline if we’d be going back (to the Eastern Conference final) I think a lot of people would have laughed at us,” said Hurricanes captain Jordy Bellerive. “But it was kind of interesting the day we got together as a new team. We kind of knew we had something special with the character and how close we’ve bonded so fast. It’s unbelieveable, we’re really excited about it.”
Still, the Hurricanes lost eight of their last eight games to limp to a 33-33-6-0 regular season finish.
But since then they’ve gone 8-2, dispatched the Red Deer Rebels and Wheat Kings in five games each to get back where they were at this time last year.
“We had a meeting before the playoffs and went around the room, just talking about the importance of every guy’s role and what they can do to help us in a playoff game because that’s what we had last year,” said Bellerive. “Moving on this year, it’s a completely different squad, but the same mentality. Everybody feels important and knows their role. It doesn’t matter who scores a goal or who makes a big hit, everyone is excited. It’s a great team mentality.”
Flodell said he wasn’t sure what to expect when the 20-year-old goaltender landed in Lethbridge at the deadline.
“I was new to these guys, but the way we’ve worked so hard and gelled together is just incredible.”
Tonight, the Canes and their fans alike turn their attention down the road to Moose Jaw to see who they’ll face in the final four.
Bellerive was non-commital about his ideal opponent in round three.
“I don’t think that matters,” he said. “Whatever team comes to the plate, we’ll show up.”
Flodell, however, played it coy.
“We all know who we want to play,” he said. “But at the end of the day whoever we end up playing is who we have to get ready for.”
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