By Woodard, Dale on December 30, 2019.
The New Years fireworks started a little early Saturday night at the Enmax Centre.
The Canes blanked the Swift Current Broncos 6-0 in Western Hockey League play to round out their last home game of the decade on a winning note.
The hosts lit the fuse early as Justin Hall scored 1:14 in, Logan Barlage had a four-point night on one goal and three assists and Jett Jones added a pair of goals as the Hurricanes posted their second win in as many nights. That improves them to 22-10-0-5 and one point ahead of the Medicine Hat Tigers for second place in the Central Division.
Going back the other way, Canes rookie goaltender Bryan Thomson turned away all 24 shots he faced for his 10th win of the season and his first career shutout. The puck stopper from Moose Jaw is now 10-4-0-0 with 2.46 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
With Dylan Cozens, Calen Addison and Oliver Okuliar packing up their offensive punch and heading overseas to the Czech Republic for the World Junior Championship, some of the younger guns took advantage of some extra ice.
Jones’ two goals give him five on the season, while fellow rookie forward Chase Wheatcroft had a three-assist night Saturday.
First-year left winger Alex Thacker had an assist and now has six points in his last five games.
“I think for all the young guys it’s their time to shine,” said Jones. “They’re getting a little more opportunity and it’s everybody trying to make the best of their opportunity.”
The eventual game-winner came early Saturday night when Hall opened the scoring 1:14 in.
Trevor Thurston and Barlage paced the Canes to a 3-0 lead after the first period.
“It was really good for us,” said Barlage of the quick start. “I think we’ve been playing the right way for a lot of the year and it was a good reward for a lot of guys with lots of opportunity with our three big guys gone.”
Jones scored on a nice deflection in close off a shot from Koletrane Wilson for the lone goal of the second and added his second in the game six minutes into the third, batting home a loose puck on a crease scramble.
Noah Boyko capped off the scoring with 9:06 remaining with his ninth of the season.
“We had a good start,” said Jones. “We just kept going all game long and didn’t take any shifts off. We killed some big penalties and it just helped us out in the end.”
Barlage’s four-point outing gives him 12 goals and 32 points in 35 games.
In the absense of the big three, the product of Humboldt, Sask. has enjoyed picking up the slack.
“It’s lots of fun,” said Barlage. “I love having guys like Okuliar and Cozens around, it’s just as good with them. They’re really good leaders as well and we all support each other and it’s good to have other guys step up as well and get more opportunities.”
The third-year veteran who will turn 19 Jan. 12 noted the efforts of the younger players lately.
“They’ve been playing a good game for us all year and I think it’s a good reward for them because they really stepped up tonight.”
Jones now has 12 points in 35 games, going plus-five over that time in his first WHL campaign.
“It’s a great experience,” said the six-foot-three centre who hails from Olds. “It’s a great group of guys and a good coaching staff that takes care of us. We’ve had success, so it’s been really fun.”
The Hurricanes round out 2019 tonight in Swift Current for a rematch with the Broncos at 6 p.m.
They are back at the Enmax Centre Friday when the Seattle Thunderbirds pull into town at 7 p.m.
Lethbridge is back home the next night when they host the Calgary Hitmen, also at 7 p.m.
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