By Jensen, Randy on December 12, 2019.
With a few key components out of the lineup, a little secondary support earned the Lethbridge Hurricanes the win as the Canes doubled the Red Deer Rebels 4-2 in Western Hockey League play Wednesday night at the Enmax Centre.
With 50 goals and 117 points out of the lineup with Dylan Cozens and Calen Addison at the Canadian Junior Team selection camp and Oliver Okuliar at Slovakia’s selection camp, the secondary scoring stepped up as Justin Hall netted a highlight reel goal and rookie Alex Thacker struck for what stood up as the game-winner on the power play.
Noah Boyko and Zack Stringer rounded out the scoring for the hosts as the Hurricanes improve to 19-9-0-5 to stay two points behind the Medicine Hat Tigers – who beat the Prince Albert Raiders 8-4 Wednesday night in Prince Albert – for second place in the Central Division.
The Rebels (10-17-0-3) outshot the Canes 32-19 as Canes goaltender Bryan Thomson stopped 30 of 32 shots for his ninth win of the season.
At the other end, Rebels goaltender and Claresholm product Byron Fancy had a 15-save performance.
“There were a lot of guys playing in spots they’re not used to and it kind of felt like a feeling-out process in the first period where we didn’t have our legs and weren’t playing with energy,” said Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio.
“I thought we got better in the second period. We got into a little bit of penalty trouble and our penalty kill did a really good and Thomson was really good.”
The teams swapped some shorthanded chances and the Hurricanes were handed a five-minute power play 12:55 into the first when Blake Gustafson was given a major and game misconduct for a cross checking Lethbridge’s Nick Dorrington, but the teams skated into the first intermission scoreless.
The goals came in abundance in the second period.
The Rebels broke the ice 3:43 into the second when Ben King took a feed from Arshdeep Bains and sent a stick side shot past Thomson to make it 1-0.
The lead lasted 1:41 as Boyko netted his eight of the season, taking a pass from Logan Barlage off the right wing and sending it past Fancy.
It also didn’t take long the Lethbridge to take the lead on a highlight-reel goal from Hall, who toe-dragged around one Rebel and slid a backhand past Fancy to make it 2-1 at 5:46.
“I was trying to make a hard play on the D-man and pulled the puck past him,” said Hall of his fifth goal of the season. “I was just trying to get around the other D-man and it happened.”
Lethbridge upped its lead to 3-1 on the power play with Thacker’s third of the season.
“It wasn’t our usual power play unit so I just found my way through the middle,” said Thacker. “Hallsy had a good dish for me and I just had to roof it.”
The goals kept coming in the second and the Rebels pulled within one when Jace Isley was left unattended in front the Canes goal for his first of the season to make it 3-2 with 8:58 remaining in the middle period.
Red Deer kept up the pressure late in the second with the teams four-on-four, but weren’t able to net the equalizer as the Hurricanes headed into the second intermission up 3-2 despite being outshot 25-13.
The Rebels were handed a two-man advantage for 1:12 a little over four minutes into the third when Canes defenceman Ty Prefontaine was called for tripping and Koletrane Wilson followed shortly after for checking from behind.
The hosts were able to kill off both infractions to keep their one-goal lead intact.
“That was huge and I thought our guys did a really good job,” said Kisio of the late kill. “That was probably the most shots we’ve blocked in a long time. So our guys were paying the price. They wanted to win the game tonight. We didn’t have our legs under us so we had to find another way.”
Stringer rounded out the scoring on the power play with 1:29 to go for his fourth of the season.
“Those three guys are a big key to our team,” said Thacker of the missing trio. “But I think the boys pulled it out well. We battled hard, kept with our game and got pucks to the net and they went in.”
Hall added two assists for a three-point night and Boyko had a helper for two points.
“I thought Justin Hall was absolutely outstanding,” said Kisio. “He moved his feet and his goal was one of the nicer goals I’ve seen in a long time. Thacker played a really strong game. I thought they were probably our best line when they were together.”
Rounding out the trio was Chase Wheatcroft, who chipped in with an assist.
“We were missing our best players and I think we pulled together well,” said Hall. “Getting that win, a few guys stepped up that had to step up and it was a good win for the boys.
“There’s a little more ice time for everybody in the lineup. We can earn some ice time when they come back by playing in these games here.”
The Hurricanes power play was 2-for-5, while the Rebels were 0-for-5.
Wednesday night’s announced attendance was 3,354.
The Hurricanes play their final home game before the Christmas break Saturday when they host the Calgary Hitmen at 7 p.m. at the Enmax Centre.
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