By Woodard, Dale on September 9, 2019.
The preseason auditions continued Saturday night for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Playing their first home game of the exhibition season, the Canes scripted an overtime win courtesy a 3-2 win over the Red Deer Rebels in Western Hockey League play at the Enmax Centre.
Rookie forward Zack Stringer scored 2:10 into overtime, but not before Chase Wheatcroft forced the overtime session with his game-tying goal with 3:54 left in regulation after the Rebels had taken a 2-1 lead just before that.
Meanwhile, first-year defenceman Rylan Thiessen opened the scoring Saturday night for his second goal in as many games following Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the Rebels in Red Deer.
“There are a bunch of different guys moving in and a bunch of different parts, but we liked our game,” said Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio. “I thought we got a little better from the night before and that’s the main thing in exhibition. We just want to keep getting better.”
The teams exchanged goals in the first period as Thiessen scored 10:23 in before Chris Douglas tied it with a shorthanded marker with 4:1 left in the first.
It stayed tied until the latter stages of the third when Red Deer’s Zak Smith turned and put a shot past Hurricanes goaltender Carl Tetachuk after a funny hop off the end boards caused a scramble in front of the Lethbridge goal.
However, the Canes evened it back up when Chase Wheatcroft showed a little patience with the puck at the top of the circle before sneaking a shot past Rebels goaltender Eric Ward with 3:54 remaining.
After starting overtime with a powerplay the Rebels were able to kill, Stringer netted the winner off a generous rebound from a shot from Koletrane Wilson to give the Canes a 1-1 split with Red Deer.
After getting in three games with the Hurricanes last season, Thiessen is operating at a goal-per-game pace in the preseason.
“It’s just being bigger, stronger and faster,” said the product of Brandon, Man. “Just being able to play and compete against everybody on the ice, no matter who you’re up against, the first line or the fourth line. I’m just trying to be ready to play against whoever and make quick decisions out there.”
“I thought he’s been really good, he’s played really solid,” added Kisio of Thiessen. “Obviously, he has some things he has to improve on, but we like his game. We like the way he’s moving pucks. He’s showing confidence and poise.”
Having a veteran blue-line tandem of overagers Wilson and Ty Prefontaine has proved beneficial for Thiessen.
They’ve been awesome,” he said. “They’ve obviously been in this league for a while. Just following in their footsteps, they are perfect to have on the team for us young guys.”
Off-season acquisition Alex Thacker drew an assist on Thiessen’s goal and now has two points in as many games after scoring in Friday’s loss.
“It’s been great,” said Thacker, 17, who comes to the Hurricanes from the Swift Current Broncos. “I’ve really been enjoying it here and the coaches have been great and had a lot of feedback for me. I’ve really been liking it here.”
Thacker, who hails from Fort Saskatchewan, got in a pair of games with the Broncos last season and now brings his game to southern Alberta.
“I feel like I can be a good two way forward, both good in the defensive zone and bringing offence and good play-making decisions on the ice.”
Meanwhile, Hurricanes import draft Oliver Okuliar had two assists Saturday night.
“You can see he’s a composed player right now,” said Kisio of the 19-year-old forward from Trencin, Slovakia. “He has skill and he’s just trying to learn our system a little bit, but he is going to be a good player for us.”
Tetachuk stopped 18 of 20 shots as Lethbridge outshot Red Deer 31-20.
Lethbridge’s Byron Fancy got the start for the Rebels Saturday night, stopping 10 of 11 shots in the opening 30 minutes before Ward came in.
Saturday night’s attendance was 863.
The Hurricanes are back at the Enmax Centre Friday at 7 p.m. when the Broncos come to town.
The teams head to Swift Current for the rematch Saturday, which also wraps up the Hurricanes’ preseason.
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