By Dale Woodard on March 26, 2021.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes power play has been a plus thus far this season.
The five-on-five, however, remains in the negatives.
As they get set for their third straight three-games-in-as-many-days weekend — this time against the Medicine Hat Tigers starting tonight in Medicine Hat at 7 p.m. — the Canes will continue working that even strength number into a plus.
Heading into the weekend, the 3-4-0-1 Hurricanes have 25 goals for and 38 against for a minus-13 differential.
However, their man advantage units are clicking at 12 goals in 45 chances — with two shorthanded goals surrendered — good for a success rate of 26.7 per cent and seventh in the league.
“It’s definitely something we’ve emphasized so far,” said Hurricanes alternate captain Justin Hall, who leads the Hurricanes this year with six goals and 11 points in eight games, including five power play points.
“You look at our plus-minus right now and it’s not great. I think with our five-on-five offence we have tighten up the D-zone a bit and keep going. Our power play has been great. If we keep that going and then bring in five-on-five offence we can be a really good team.”
In last weekend’s 1-1-1-0 series against the Calgary Hitmen, the Canes man advantage units scored four goals on 13 chances.
“I think you look back at last weekend, our special teams did the job,” said Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio. “We were really good on our power play and our penalty kill was really good. Five-on-five play for us has to be better and we have to find a way to score some more goals.”
That chance will present itself against the Tigers (4-3-0-0) as the Canes get their first look at their Highway 3 rivals this season.
“Practices have to be hard, Medicine Hat is a good team,” said Hall.
“We have to be ready, but we also have to find a balance with rest. Those three-in-threes are pretty hard and we have to get a good amount of rest. But practices have been good so far and we’re excited to play the Hat.”
Heading into the weekend, Hall and defenceman Alex Cotton are the two players in double digits in points for the Hurricanes this season. Cotton is one behind with two goals and 10 points.
“I think I just worked really hard this off season,” said Hall of his quick start to the shortened season.
“I had a lot of time and I put my head down (last) summer and I knew it was going to be an extra long summer and tried to get as good as I could and use it to my advantage.”
It’s put some swagger into the Edmonton product’s game, always a key component for any player.
“Confidence opens up a lot of your game and allows you be a good player. I have to keep playing with this confidence even when I’m not scoring,” said Hall.
Hurricanes goaltender Bryan Thomson had a 1-1 weekend against the Hitmen, nearly recording a shutout in a 3-1 victory Friday at the Enmax Centre, but winding up on the wrong end of a 7-4 setback Sunday.
The native of Moose Jaw, Sask. has a 1-2-0-0 record, a 5.20 goals-against average and a .861 save percentage, splitting the goaltending duties with local product Carl Tetachuk.
“I got off to a bit of a rocky start, but I had a good bounce back last weekend,” said Thomson, who will turn 19 April 9.
“It gets tough playing back-to-back games, so have that little break in between is good for both of us.”
No matter who gets the start tonight, it’ll be the first glimpse of the Tigers for both goaltenders.
Still, some homework has been done over the past week.
“There’s video from last season and going over their tendencies,” said Thomson.
“Our goalie coach is really good with video and getting us ready for a game. Just having that is a big plus and then just preparing like every game before. It’s just coming out and playing the game I need to play.”
Sizing up this weekend’s opponent aside, Kisio noted the history between the two teams.
“They’ve been good for many years and the recipe is always the same,” he said.
“They have some skilled forwards up front that can compete in the league every year and get a lot of points and their back end is really skilled, too. So it’s a good challenge for us this weekend. We haven’t played them yet, but there is always a rivalry there and we’ve had some good playoff series and battles along the way. So I’m sure it’s going to be a fun weekend.”
Forward Chase Wheatcroft and defenceman Trevor Thurston sat out Sunday’s game against the Hitmen with injuries.
Kisio said Wheatcroft will return tonight, but Thurston’s status remains uncertain.
That potentially opens up spots for younger players on the expanded roster.
“It’s really important, it’s development, too,” said Kisio. “We have guys in the lineup right now who we want to see in the lineup and see playing games. But we’ve reiterated it’s how hard they work. Even if a younger guy takes over a spot or it’s an older guy or a younger guy who gets into the lineup, that’s the way it is. They’re battling for spots. People share ice times a bit, but there are three games in the weekend and if you can play two of them you’re doing pretty well as a younger guy.”
After tonight’s game, the teams return to the Enmax Centre Saturday at 7 p.m. before completing the weekend Sunday in Medicine Hat at 6 p.m.
NOTES — The WHL released the remainder of the Hurricanes 24-game regular season schedule Thursday.
The Canes remaining games are as follows April 9 vs. Medicine Hat (7 p.m.), April 10 at Medicine Hat (7 p.m.), April 12 vs. Medicine Hat (7 p.m.), April 16th vs. Red Deer (7 p.m.), April 17 at Red Deer (7 p.m.), April 19 vs. Red Deer (7 p.m.), April 23 at Edmonton (7 p.m.), April 24 vs. Edmonton (7 p.m.), April 26 at Edmonton (7 p.m), April 30 at Calgary (7 p.m.), May 1 vs. Calgary (7 p.m.), May 3 at Calgary (7 p.m.) and May 7 vs. Edmonton (7 p.m.).
A Central Division playoff has yet to be determined.
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