SASKATOON, SK. - Three goals in the first period powered the WHL-leading Saskatoon Blades past the Lethbridge Hurricanes 5-0 Saturday night.
Things didn't start too well for Lethbridge in this game. Just 14 seconds in, Jake Trask would cash in a rebound past Dylan Tait. That gave Saskatoon a very early 1-0 lead. About 7 minutes later, the Blades would go ahead by a pair. Darian Dziurzynski knocked the puck by Tait for his 25th goal of the year to give Saskatoon a 2-0 lead. Before the end of the period, Saskatoon would make it 3-0. Brayden Schenn was left alone in front of the Lethbridge net and tapped in the puck to give the Blades a commanding lead after 20 minutes of play. Dylan Tait was very busy in the Lethbridge goal as Saskatoon out shot the Hurricanes 17-6.
In the second, the Blades would score another early goal, this one short-handed. 39 seconds into the period, Josh Nicholls tipped a pass in front of Tait to give the Blades a 4-0 lead and then before the 10 minute mark of the second, the Blades would make it 5-0 on a beautiful passing play. Stefan Elliot blasted a shot by Tait on a delayed Lethbridge penalty. That would be it for Tait as he would be pulled in favour of Brandon Anderson who would finish the game between the pipes for the Canes'. The Blades held the edge in shots on goal 31-15 after 40 minutes of play.
In the third, the Hurricanes pushed to try and break the shutout bid by Saskatoon's Steven Stanford, but it wouldn't happen on this night. Neither team found the back of the next in the final 20 minutes and the Blades would skate away with 5-0 victory. Saskatoon had a couple of back-to-back 5-on-3 power plays late in the game, but the Hurricanes penalty killers managed to kill them off. In the end, the Blades went 0 for 8 and the Hurricanes 0 for 5 on the power play in this game. Saskatoon out shot the Canes' 45-23, making for a busy and long night for both Dylan Tait and Brandon Anderson.
The loss drops the Hurricanes record to 17-26-3-8 on the season. It's also the Canes' 6th consecutive loss. Lethbridge just couldn't generate any offence against the high-powered Blades. Saskatoon officially clinched a playoff spot with that victory, which was also their 23rd on home ice in 26 games this season. Despite this losing streak, Lethbridge is only 3 points out of the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference and that sets up a huge head-to-head game Wednesday in Lethbridge between the Hurricanes and Regina Pats. The two teams are even with 45 points each in the standings. Having said that, the Hurricanes need to start putting together some wins. They have 18 games remaining in the regular season and have a number of very important divisional games coming up in the next two weeks.
On Saturday's pre-game show, Rich Preston expressed concern regarding the number of goals his team has given up over the last few weeks. The Head Coach and G.M. noted the Hurricanes have been giving up, on average, more than 4 goals a game the last while and says that's way too many. He's right. In fact, on this recent 6 game losing skid, the Hurricanes have surrendered 34 goals to their opposition, which is over 5 goals against per game. Preston says this has to change from the goaltender out.
AT THE 3/4 POINT
Looking at the numbers through 3/4 of this WHL season for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. After 54 games last season, the Hurricanes record sat at 15-34-3-2 for 35 points and well out of a playoff position. This season after 54 games, the Canes' are 17-26-3-8 for 45 points and thre points out the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are 4 points back of 7th place. The majority of the Hurricanes points this year have come via extra time. 23 of this team's 45 points have been earned in either overtime or shootouts. Lethbridge has gone into overtime 17 times this year, which ties Seattle for the most extra time games in the WHL.
The Hurricanes return home for their next three games. On Wednesday, the Canes' host the Regina Pats. On Friday the Prince George Cougars will stop by the ENMAX Centre and on Saturday the Red Deer Rebels, another one of the WHL's top teams will be in Lethbridge. Game time for all three of those game is 7:00 pm (MST).
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