April 22nd, 2024

Canes move into playoff mode with overtime win over Tigers


By Lethbridge Herald on March 25, 2024.

Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Sean Tschigerl looks for options with the puck in the offensive end in the first period of a 4-3 overtime win Saturday at Co-op Place over the Medicine Hat Tigers. MEDICINE HAT NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB

James Tubb – SOUTHERN ALBERTA NEWSPAPERS – jtubb@medicinehatnews.com

The Lethbridge Hurricanes ended their regular season on a high note.

The Canes won the final game on their 68-game slate, beating the Tigers 4-3 in overtime Saturday in Medicine Hat. 

The win gives the Hurricanes a record of 33-28-7, putting them at seventh in the eastern conference heading into their seventh straight playoff appearance. They’ll face the two-seed, Central division winning Broncos starting on Friday in Swift Current.

Lethbridge assistant coach Matt Anholt called Saturday’s victory “a gutsy win” heading into the playoffs.

“We’re not really playing for anything, they aren’t either, but it’s two teams who don’t like each other,” Anholt said. “A big rivalry with nine games in a season against one team is a lot and and it’s nice to finish off on a high note.”

The Hurricanes playoff matchup was set after a 3-2 overtime loss Friday at the Enmax Centre to the Tigers. That set upt Saturday’s contest to be a tune-up for both teams having the same mindset, get prepared for the playoffs and avoid injuries.

Goaltender Harrison Meneghin, who made 50 saves in the OT loss Friday, didn’t even make the trip Saturday to rest with Brady Smith handling the duties in net for the regular season finale. The 18-year-old turned aside 27 shots for his sixth win on the year.

Carter Dereniwsky scored a shorthanded goal in the first period and Dylan Sydor cashed in twice, recording a power play marker in the second for a 2-2 tie after 60 minutes.

Tristan Doyle scored the OT winner on a rush play, capitalizing on a missed Tiger opportunity after a Lethbridge penalty kill to start the extra frame. 

The back-to-back nights of overtime hockey against a deep-rooted rival provided a little bit more of a taste of playoff hockey for the Hurricanes. Anholt liked how they bounced back from Friday.

“It’s hard to play those games and and those are two fast games too, back-to-back nights to play extra minutes,” Anholt said. “Obviously playoffs are going to be a little bit of a different beast with the overtimes, there won’t be any three-on-three. But we feel happy about our group.”

As the focus switches to the playoffs, the Hurricanes look to get their first playoff series win since the 2017-18 season. In eight matchups with Swift Current this season, the Hurricanes were 4-3-1, dropping the two latest contests following the trade deadline, with a 6-0 loss Jan. 31 and a 4-1 loss Feb. 14–both games at the InnovationPlex.

“They might be the hottest team in our conference since the deadline and they’ve got a big team, an old team,” Anholt said. “They added the right players and they’re kind of cooking right now. They’ve had our number a little bit since the deadline as well.”

Both teams added at the trade deadline, with the Broncos loading up with additions of Arizona Coyotes prospect Conor Geekie, former Calgary Hitmen defenceman Tyson Galloway and the signing of Czechia defenceman Jakub Dvorak.

Lethbridge added to their lineup with four moves, acquiring forward Hayden Pakkala from the Prince Albert Raiders, defenceman Braeden Wynne from the Seattle Thunderbirds, Hitmen captain Sean Tschigerl and Sydor from the Blazers.

Heading into the series, Anholt says their game plan has to be managing the puck especially with the length the Broncos have on the back end. The shortest defenceman in the full-time rotation for Swift Current is 20-year-old Zach Turner who comes in at 6-foot-2.5.

“They’re a big heavy group, we have to get them to turn,” Anholt said. “Their forwards are our deep, we can’t be letting them play in the o-zone all the time, especially with the benches over there. The changes are always a little bit of a different beast. It’s going to be an interesting matchup for us.”

Game 2 of the series is Saturday at Swift Current and Games 3 and 4 bring the best-of-seven matchup back to the Enmax Centre on April 2 and 3. While the Hurricanes are looking for playoff success, the Broncos are making their first postseason appearance since their 2018 championship run, falling one-game short last season in a Game 68 loss to the Tigers.

The weather in Southern Alberta may not feel like the prototypical playoff weather, with snow on the ground and single digits on the horizon. Anholt says the playoff feeling is in the air and he’s looking for the Hurricanes to find that playoff success against a team searching for the same.

“As the weather gets better the sun’s a little longer and you’re able to start coming to the rink in flip flops and shorts, it means that you’re playing longer in the season,” Anholt said. Our group has not had a lot of playoff success. Even though we’ve been playing in (the playoffs), we haven’t had any wins really as of late.

“Hopefully we’re able to turn those tables around this year.”

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