By Woodard, Dale on January 6, 2020.
In a battle between two teams more than familiar with one another, the Calgary Hitmen won this round.
Hosting the Hitmen in the teams’ fourth game in a little under a month, the Hurricanes were edged 2-1 in overtime by Calgary in Western Hockey League play Saturday night at the Enmax Centre.
After duelling to a 1-1 standstill after 60 minutes, Hitmen veteran forward Mark Kastelic took only 18 seconds to end the three-on-three session as the Canes fell in OT for the second straight night following a 4-3 setback to the Seattle Thunderbirds Friday night at the Enmax Centre.
The loss put the Hurricanes at 23-10-2-5 to remain in second place in the Central Division, one point ahead of the 25-11-1-1 Medicine Hat Tigers and eight back of the 27-7-5-2 Edmonton Oil Kings, who beat the Saskatoon Blades 4-3 Sunday in Edmonton.
Justin Hall opened the scoring at the 12:40 mark of the first period with his 11th of the season before Calgary’s Orca Wiesblatt tied it on the power play a little under four minutes later.
From there, Hurricanes goaltender Carl Tetachuk and Hitmen netminder and Taber product Brayden Peters closed the door through the rest of regulation before Kastelic hit the 20-goal plateau 18 seconds into the extra session.
The Hurricanes had a five-on-three for 1:25 to start the third, but couldn’t grab the go-ahead goal.
In the past four games since Dec. 14 each two has won a pair of games, the last two in overtime after the Canes got past the Hitmen 5-4 Dec. 27 at the Enmax Centre.
“It almost feels like a playoff series seeing these guys so much in the past couple of weeks,” said Hall. “We get to know their strategies quite a bit, so it’s a fun game to play against these guys.”
For the second night the Hurricanes managed one point before the second one slipped through their grasp.
“I thought we were a lot better tonight,” said Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio. “I thought we battled harder in our structure was better. Calgary played hard and it’s been close every time we played each other. We’ve ended up on the right side of some of these overtime experiences and now we end up on the wrong side a couple of nights in a row.”
“I think we played them pretty decently,” added Hall. “We have to bear down on a couple of our chances. Everybody has to finish up a chance or two more. We had a lot of shots.”
The two teams have gotten to know each other over the past three weeks, minus a few faces, however.
The Hurricanes were with forwards Dylan Cozens and Oliver Okuliar and defenceman Calen Addison, who were in the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship. In the case of Cozens and Addison, they were overseas winning gold for Canada following a 4-3 win over Russia in the championship Sunday.
“It’s been good, but I’m sure both of us would like our top in guys back,” said Kisio. “So it’s been a little bit different. We played each other a lot and we’re missing a couple guys and they’re missing a couple guys as well. So it’s not quite what both teams probably are, but there of been some really good battles.”
In the absence of the big guns, affiliated players Briley Wood and Chase Pauls – making his WHL debut – drew in.
Wood, a centre, has played three games with the Canes, while Pauls was slotted in on defence.
“I thought they played really well,” said Kisio. “Pauls came in for his first game and I thought he did an outstanding job.”
Tetachuk stopped 33 of 34 shots and Peters turned aside 27 of 28.
“He’s been good,” said Kisio of Tetachuk. “He’s been playing some really good hockey for us and I thought he did a really good job. He controlled his rebounds and got the whistles when we had to and made some big saves.”
The Hurricanes and Hitmen will clash yet again Friday night in Calgary before the Canes return home Saturday night to host the Swift Current Broncos at 7 p.m. at the Enmax Centre.
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