May 18th, 2024

Hurricanes looking for a better start as Tigers visit

By Dale Woodard on November 19, 2021.

As they return home to the Enmax Centre tonight, the Lethbridge Hurricanes know they’ll have to be a little quicker off the draw.

That, and cut down on surrendered shorthanded goals.

After a five-game road swing that saw the Canes snap a six-game losing streak, but still go 1-4 on their trek through Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the team kicks off the first of four in a row at home as the Medicine Hat Tigers come calling in Western Hockey League play tonight at 7 p.m.

If the Canes (6-10-0-0) look to claw their way back up the crowded Eastern Conference standings, they’re aware quicker starts and less surrendered shorties will be key.

In Sunday’s loss in Moose Jaw to the Warriors, the Hurricanes trailed 3-0 after the first period with a short-handed goal against opening the scoring.

Against Brandon last Thursday, the Wheat Kings bagged two shorthanded goals – one of those coming from Wheat Kings forward and Lethbridge product Rylen Roersma – on the same infraction to build a 3-0 lead after the first period as the Wheaties prevailed 5-2.

“We surrendered three shorthanded goals in three games, way too much and three to start a game off, too,” said Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio. “Our powerplay, we could be up 1-0, but in Brandon we went down 2-0 instead. It was the same thing in Moose Jaw, we could have been up 1-0 if our powerplay executes, instead we’re down 1-0. Those are big swings in the game and things we have addressed and things that need to be corrected.”

The Canes kicked off the road trip with a 7-2 loss to the Swift Current Broncos and also fell 5-1 to the Canadian Hockey League top-ranked Winnipeg Ice, but managed to snap their pesky losing streak Saturday courtesy a 6-1 decision over the Regina Pats.

“We thought we played a pretty solid game against Winnipeg, they’re a good team,” said Kisio. “Brandon, it was the same thing. We keep falling behind and trying to chase games and you don’t have a lot of success when you fall behind early.

“In Regina we came out and played a strong game, start to finish, we knew we’d have to,” said Kisio. “The next night in the short turnaround, we again fell behind, but the last two periods we dominated and easily could have tied it. But you can’t fall behind 3-0.”

Hurricanes overage forward Justin Hall noted it was huge to snap the losing skid in Regina.

“But we can’t, after that game, come into Moose Jaw and have that period we did,” he said. “The next two periods were really good. I think we played five out of six periods in the last two games. What we learned from the road trip (is) we have to play fast and we are a fast team when we play like that.”

The Hurricanes power play is clicking at 20.8 per cent (15-for-72) but their six shorthanded goals-against is tied for tops in the league with Moose Jaw.

“It’s been discussed quite a bit with the power play guys,” said Hall. “It’s obviously unacceptable and something we can’t do. As a group that’s expected to go out there and score, you can’t get scored on repeatedly when we need goals at the start of games. It’s got to stop.”

The chance to halt the trend presents itself tonight with the 4-7-3-1 Tigers in town. The Canes and Tigers are tied for last with the Wheat Kings and Pats, both 6-10-0-0).

“(We have to) come out and play fast,” said Hall. “We know we’re a great team when we play fast and move pucks quick. Everybody knows they’re our rivals, so we’re going to come out hard.”

“They’re going to want to win and we’re going to want to win, it’s going to be a really good tilt.”

Though they’re in a tie in the basement, the fifth place Warriors (7-8-0-1) only sit three points ahead in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

“We have to have better starts, we know that,” said Kisio. “At this time of year it’s playoff games for us right now. We’ve kind of fallen behind a bit, standings-wise, but everyone is so tight that one win, you can go from 11th place to seventh place right away. These are playoff games for us right now, so we’re going to have to work.”

NOTES – Hurricanes forward Chase Wheatcroft remains out for the next month with an injured hand after blocking a shot prior to the Canes road trip.

On Thursday, the Pats announced vice president of hockey operations and general manager John Paddock is returning to the bench, taking over for departed head coach Dave Struch.

Struch was hired by Regina in August of 2014, and was named the Pats head coach four years later.

With eight goals and 14 points in 16 games, Roersma, 17, was named the Wheat Kings Player of the Month for October.

Roersma, who was drafted by the Wheat Kings in the first round and 16th overall in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, leads the Wheaties in goals scored.

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