May 19th, 2024

U18 Canes ring in New Year

By Dale Woodard on January 11, 2022.

If the Lethbridge U18 Hurricanes New Year’s resolution is to climb up the Alberta Elite Hockey League South Division standings, they have thus far kept that promise.

And unlike most New Year’s resolutions that usually fall by the wayside by mid-January, it seems the Canes are intent on keeping this one.

Kicking off the 2022 portion of their AEHL season, the Hurricanes grabbed four points and a 2-0 home weekend thanks to a 4-1 win over the Calgary (NW) Flames Sunday and a 4-3 overtime win over the Edmonton Canadian (CAC) Gregg Distributors Saturday at Nicholas Sheran Arena.

With the wins, the Hurricanes improve to 14-9-3 to stay in third place in the South Division, but close to within seven points of the 17-7-4 Flames and eight points back of the front-running Calgary Buffaloes (19-8-1).

The Buffaloes had a 2-0 weekend of their own to start 2022 and take over first in the South.

But in their New Years homestand, the Canes kept pace thanks to a four-goal second period Sunday and two goals from John VandenElzen and one each from Peyton Twigg and Grady Martin.

“We’re still building toward our end goal, and that’s to be firing on all cylinders hopefully when we get into the playoffs,” said Hurricanes head Sean Gillam, whose team will play eight games this month with two each weekend. “It’s all about our process and we’re sticking to the things we want to stick to and getting some good results.”

On Sunday, Nolan Kelly got the Flames on the board first 4:34 into the second.

But Twigg tied it up 3:10 later before VandenElzen scored the next two and Martin added one more with two seconds left in the period.

“The Flames are a really good team and they’re shorthanded a little bit, too,” said Gillam.

“It was a good game. They (Flames) played three games in four nights. It worked in our favour today, but they’re a good team over there. But when we play the way we can play we can hang around with anybody.”

Martin added two assists for a three-point afternoon and Nolan Fomradas chipped in with two helpers.

Erick Roest kicked out 32 of 33 shots to earn the win.

“It was just sticking to our game plan,” said VandenElzen of the second period outburst. “We know what we have to do in order to win and we did that.”

On Saturday, the Hurricanes and CAC swapped goals throughout the game before Chase Bambrick’s second of the season pulled Lethbridge even midway through the third period to force overtime.

Twigg netted the winner 23 seconds into the extra period with his ninth of the season.

Carter Klippenstein and VandenElzen added the other Hurricanes goals.

Canes defenceman Blake Matheson had two assists in Saturdays win and Beck Boiteau turned aside 30 of 33 shots to earn the win.

“It’s always nice to get the results,” said Gillam. “We were a little bit rusty off the start, but we kept getting better as the game went on. We knew that was going to happen after our break. But we shook the rust off (Saturday) and I was really proud of the way the guys played this weekend.”

Following the weekend, the Hurricanes are three points up on the Calgary Royals (13-11-2) and the Airdrie CFR Bisons (11-9-6).

“I think we could be a little higher,” said VandenElzen, the six-foot-one, 200-pound forward from Coaldale who has eight goals and 12 points in 26 games. “We took some games off. But we’re in a good area.”

The close standings near the top isn’t unusual, said Gillam

“From what I’ve seen in this league it’s always tight with the top four teams and the rest get separated a little bit. It’s even more so this year with playing four times in your conference. Usually it’s only two. It’s going to be tight right down the stretch. We have a couple of games against Northern Conference teams, but I’d say nine of our next 12 are against division rivals. It’s going to be tight right to the end.”

The Hurricanes are back at Nicholas Sheran Arena Saturday when the Leduc Wilhauk Jerky Oil Kings (9-15-1) pay a visit at 4:15 p.m.

The Canes head to Okotoks Sunday to face the 8-15-1 Okotoks Bow Mark Oilers at 4:15 p.m.

See Wednesday’s Herald for the rest of the AEHL wrap as well as the Lethbridge Eagles of the Alberta Junior Female Hockey League.

Follow @@DWoodardHerald on Twitter

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