October 24th, 2020

Dominant on defence


By Woodard, Dale on November 8, 2019.

Herald photo by Ian Martens Alex Cotton skates in a drill during practice Thursday as the Lethbridge Hurricanes get set to host the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday night at the Enmax Centre. @IMartensHerald

Hurricanes second-year blue-liner Alex Cotton enjoying breakout season

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald

sports@lethbridgeherald.com

Two months ago Alex Cotton looked ahead to his second year in the Western Hockey League.

The defenceman for the Lethbridge Hurricanes spoke of the 2019-20 season being his NHL draft year as well as the importance of setting goals, both personal and statistical.

Two months into the season, the six-foot-two, 180-pound native of Langley, B.C. has given himself one heck of a head start out of the gate.

He’s probably turned a head or two as well.

Cotton, who was selected by the Hurricanes in the fifth round and 99th overall of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, is operating at a point-per-game pace, leading all defenceman in scoring with four goals and 19 points in 19 games, already surpassing the 11 points in 54 games he put up in his rookie season.

With the Edmonton Oil Kings in town tonight at 7 p.m. at the Enmax Centre for a clash of first place in the Central Division, the Canes will look to their second-year blue-liner to continue his point-a-game pace.

“It’s been really good,” said Cotton. “I really have to give credit to my teammates, though. I wouldn’t get any of this without them. You have to have guys that can score and guys that can pass the puck. The credit goes to them into my coaches who are giving me the opportunity. I’m just trying to take as much advantage as I can this year.”

Cotton’s plus-12 tied for sixth best in the league among defencemen.

Of his 19 points, six have come on the power play.

The majority of his points have come five-on-five, but Cotton noted the company he’s in when he gets his power-play time.

“When you’re on the first power play with Calen Addison and Dylan Cozens it’s pretty good,” said Cotton with a grin. “The confidence gets a nice boost. It’s been really fun.”

He’s also playing from the viewpoint of a player with a year under his belt.

“It (game) slows down, for sure,” said Cotton. “I think it’s just a confidence thing, too. Also, playing more and getting the puck on my stick more. I just have to keep going.”

Fellow defenceman and overager Koletrane Wilson has gotten a front-row glimpse of the whole process from year one to year two.

“I would say the biggest thing is his poise,” said Wilson. “He has the puck and he waits for the open option. When you’re in year one you just want to make the simple play that you see first and sometimes that’s the right play. But there are also times when you look around and maybe find a different place that works in your favor. He’s moving his feet a lot and getting up in the rush. So it’s good for him.”

In the meantime, the three-way battle for first overall in the WHL continues continue, two-thirds of it at the Enmax Centre as the Oil Kings skate into town.

It’s going to be a really fun game,” said Cotton. “I expect a massive crowd. The first place game, it’s going to be a fun one to play in for sure.”

The Oil Kings are 12-2-3-0 and have two games in hand on the 12-4-0-3, who are riding an 9-0-0-2 11-game point streak.

The Hurricanes handed the Oil Kings one of their two regulation losses, a 5-2 decision Sept. 29 in Edmonton.

The Raiders – who gave the Oil Kings their other regulation loss this season – are at home against the Brandon Wheat Kings tonight.

The Hurricanes Cozens and Oliver Okuliar are tied for second in league scoring with 26 points each, but Oil King centre Riley Sawchuk isn’t far behind in sixth place with nine goals and 23 points in 17 games.

Oil Kings goaltender Sebastian Cossa’s 2.00 goals-against average is second-best in the league, while Canes netminder Carl Tetachuk is fourth at 2.05.

Cossa is also third in the WHL in save percentage at .933. Tetachuk (.931) is in fifth.

“It’s the biggest game of the year,” said Wilson. “Obviously, it doesn’t get much bigger than that. The winner gets first place. We’ll be watching the Prince Albert game this weekend. If you can’t get up for this one, I don’t know what’s going on with you. Hopefully we can bring it (tonight) and it should be a good one at the Enmax.”

NOTES:

Cotton and Okuliar were named to the seventh edition of the Vaughn CHL Team of the Week. They are joined by fellow WHL-er and goaltender Joel Hofer of the Portland Winterhawks. Rounding out this week’s team are forwards Connor McMichael of the London Knights and Cedric Pare of the Rimouski Oceanic and defenceman Marc-Antoine Pepin of the Shawinigan Cataractes. Canes overage forward D-Jay Jerome’s two-goal, three point night Wednesday against the Swift Current Broncos earned him the CHL Player of the Night award. The Hurricanes also earned an honourable mention in this week’s Canadian Hockey League rankings, finishing just outside the top-10 alongside the Portland Winterhawks. The Raiders have the second seed in the CHL and the Oil Kings are ranked third. The Sherbrooke Phoenix of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are in first.

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