By Woodard, Dale on November 29, 2019.
The view from the top certainly agrees with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Of course, like the cliche goes, it’s also crowded up there and there’s still four months of hockey to be played.
Still, as the calender turns to December the Canes have the view from the upper perches of the Western Hockey League and will look to stay there when the Saskatoon Blades visit the Enmax Centre tonight at 7 p.m.
Heading into tonight’s game the 17-7-0-3 Hurricanes are one point up on the 16-5-3-1 Prince Albert Raiders and 15-6-4-2 Edmonton Oil Kings, two points up on the Everett Silvertips (17-5-1-0), four up on the 16-7-1-0 Medicine Hat Tigers and five up on the Kamloops Blazers (16-9-0-0), who did Canes fans a favour Wednesdasy night by defeating the Oil Kings 5-3 in Kamloops.
“To be first in the league is obviously exciting,” said Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens, who had three points in the Hurricanes 4-1 win over the Regina Pats Wednesday night and leads the league with 18 goals and 39 points. “We’re really excited about what we have right now. Obviously, it’s still early on, but playing against any team we know we can beat them and we know we can be the best team in the league. We’re really excited here, but we’re just trying to not get too high. We know it’s going to take hard work and we can’t get ahead of ourselves here. Just go out every night and work as hard as we can.
“We know where we sit right now and how big these games are and how every single game adds up at the end of the season. We just want to maintain where we are and go out and outwork every team every night.”
Since returning from the Buffalo Sabres camp in September after the team selected him seventh overall at the NHL draft last summer, Cozens has moved to top of the scoring standings, two points ahead of Aliaksei Protas of the Prince Albert Raiders.
He’s done so playing alongside overage forward and local product D-Jay Jerome and first-year Hurricane and import draft Oliver Okuliar.
“I have enjoyed it a lot, coming back and playing with two guys who I have never played with before and I have never even met before,” said Cozens. “But we seemed to click right away. So I love playing with those two guys. A huge credit to them, they’re both really good players and we built some good chemistry.”
In fact, Okuliar has joined Cozens near the top of the scoring standings with 34 points in 27 games, putting him seventh in the league.
The product of Trencin, Slovakia scored the empty-netter in Wednesday’s win, giving both he and Cozens the league-lead in goals with 18.
“It definitely doesn’t happen too often,” said Cozens. “We’re just trying to go out there and help the team win every night.”
The Blades are coming off a five-game U.S. road swing in which the team went 1-4. They defeated the Tri-City Americans Wednesday night to sit at 13-12-1-1 and in second place in the East Division, one point up on the 13-10-1-0 Winnipeg Ice.
They are led by left winger Riley McKay and centre Chase Wouters, who each have 10 goals and 23 and 20 points, respectively.
The defence tandem of Scott Walford and Nolan Kneen have 33 points between the two of them.
The Blades have a 2-0 edge on the Hurricanes in the season series.
Saskatoon downed the Hurricanes 3-2 Oct. 2 at the Enmax Centre and topped Lethbridge 2-1 Oct. 12 in Saskatoon.
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