By Dale Woodard on September 14, 2021.
The fight was on for roster spots as the Lethbridge Hurricanes hosted their annual Red vs. White intra-squad game.
Perhaps not literally, but the heat was noticeably cranked up as the Canes iced their annual, training camp-ending game Sunday afternoon at the Enmax Centre.
At times, the Red vs. White game had a few players seeing red with a few post-whistle hacks and whacks between the otherwise teammates as Team White went on to post a 9-6 win in the physical affair.
“We thought it was a really good group of kids, lots of skills out there and everybody was working hard to show what they had today,” said Hurricanes assistant coach Jeff Hansen. “I thought we had a really entertaining Red and White game with a lot of goals and usually a little more physical (play) than you normally see in these kinds of games.”
In the eyes of the assistant coach, the fire and feisty play was all good.
“I think a lot of these kids, especially the younger kids that came up, they didn’t play much hockey last year,” said Hansen. “So I think we had a really competitive atmosphere and the blood kind of got boiling. It was good for the kids to have that kind of competitiveness back in their games. Not only with the younger guys, we saw it with our older guys and the vets, too. Even though these guys are teammates through the year, it was a very physical affair.”
While the players who will become teammates Oct. 1 when the Canes drop the puck on their Western Hockey League regular season shared a dislike for each other Sunday, returning forward Chase Wheatcroft felt that will bode well in the long term.
“I think that is honestly something our team needs,” said Wheatcroft, who scored once and added two assists for Team White. “I think this year we’re going to be hard to play against the entire year. I think we need to bring that attitude to every game, even it’s a Red and White Game. That’s what we showed out there. It’s going to be hard to come into this barn and take wins from us. I think that’s something to carry on for the rest of the year and that will really help us down the road.”
The cranked up temperature made it that much more enjoyable for veteran defenceman Alex Cotton, who suited up for Team White and scored a pair of goals Sunday.
“It’s just jokes between teammates in this game where the older guys go after the older guys and the younger guys go after the younger guys. It was fun. It’s never usually like that, that game, but it was probably the most fun I’ve had in one of those.”
Amongst the physicality, Sunday’s game – and training camp as a whole when it began Thursday – was the first chance for Hansen and the rest of the coaching staff to scope out some draft picks they didn’t get to see last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We got a look at some of our draft picks from two years ago who we really haven’t seen yet because they haven’t been playing,” said Hansen. “It’s interesting, we have a bunch of 18-year-olds coming back who have barely played in the league. Even though it feels like we’re inexperienced in places, we have some guys who are older guys now and it’s going to be really important for us to get some leadership from those older guys and get off to a good start here.”
Of those drafted in 2020, Cole Miller – selected in the first round and 16th overall – spent last season with the Canes.
Other members of that draft class, such as second-round pick and defenceman Noah Chadwick and third-rounder and forward Logan Wormald made their debuts last week.
“We’re really happy with seeing how these kids have progressed since the draft,” said Hansen. “Noah on back end looks really good. He’s going to be a big part of our team moving forward. Up front Logan is looking really good. He has a lot of energy and he’s physical and feisty for a little guy, kind of like a Brendan Gallagher-type of guy is what we see him as in our league.”
Dustin Renas, selected in the fifth round last year, was a pleasant surprise, said Hansen.
“Dustin was a kid who really exceeded our expectations on how he came in and played. I think he was really close in leading our camp in scoring. Pretty impressive for a young guy.”
Nolan Viesner also scored twice for Team White. Justin Hall, Zayden Sadlemyer, Peter Repcik and Rylan Gage also scored for Team White.
For Team Red, Logan Barlage, Sal Collora, Trevor Thurston, Alex Thacker, Nolan Bentham and Noah Boyko were the goal scorers as Team Red netted four third-period goals to make it close.
With training camp complete, Hurricanes forward Ty Nash and Cotton are headed to the Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings rookie camps, respectively.
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