VANCOUVER, BC - The line of Phil Tot, Jay Merkley, and Nick Buonassisi combined for 10 points as the Hurricanes beat the Giants 6-3 in Vancouver Tuesday night.
The Hurricanes got off to a quick start in Vancouver Tuesday night. Just under 3 minutes into the game, Jay Merkley fired home his 9th goal of season. That gave Lethbridge a 1-0 lead. The Canes nearly made it 2-0 when Russ Maxwell rang one off the goal post, but the Giants took the puck and came back the other way to score the equalizer. Jordan Martinook's shot beat Liam Liston in the Hurricanes goal, tying things up at 1-1. Four minutes later, Lethbridge regained it's one goal lead when Nick Buonassisi took a nice feed from Phil Tot and tapped home his 12th of the season to give the Canes a 2-1 lead. Lethbridge nearly went up by a pair when Landon Oslanski hit the goal post on a dump-in from centre ice. Vancouver though would even the score again before the period would come to a close. Riley Kieser tipped in a Blake Orban point shot, beating Liston between the legs and the game would sit at 2-2 through 20 minutes. Vancouver out shot the Hurricanes 18-15 in what was a pretty wide open period of hockey.
In the second, the Hurricanes would regain their one goal lead late in the period, when Jay Merkley continued his strong play, scoring his second of the night on a power play. That was his 10th of the season and gave Lethbridge a 3-2 lead. Phil Tot added his 3rd assist of the game on that goal. That lead would hold up through 40 minutes. The shots were close, 27-25 Giants.
In the third, the Giants would tie things up early. Just 22 seconds into the period, Marek Tvrdon tapped the puck by Liam Liston on a power play. That tied things up at 3-3. Just 58 seconds later though, the Lethbridge would get that back. Jaimen Yakubowski snapped a shot by Jackson Whistle to give the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead. That goal was reviewed, but it stood up. The Hurricanes weren't done there. Phil Tot scored on a power play for his 7th of the season to make the score 5-3 for Lethbridge and then with two seconds to go in the game, Tot would get one more into an empty net to make it 6-3. He finished off with a 5 point night and the game's first star. Lethbridge was out shot 41-36 on the night. The power plays were a big factor. Lethbridge went 2/3 and the Giants 1/3. The win improved their record to 17-29-0-1.
Jay Merkley was outstanding in this game for Lethbridge and in my opinion, his best game of the season so far. He was all over the ice and was rewarded with plenty of ice time. That's 3 goals in his last 2 games for Merkley, who certainly looks to be finding a comfort zone on this team. Tot had a huge game and so did Buonassisi. Tot had a career game with 5 points and Buonassisi added 3 points too. That entire line was the difference. Liam Liston started his first game in for the Lethbridge Hurricanes since December 9th. Damien Ketlo had started 13 straight for the Canes prior to Tuesday's game in Vancouver.
The Hurricanes will play the Blazers in Kamloops Wednesday (Jan. 18). This will be the second meeting of the season between the two teams. Kamloops won the only other meeting in Lethbridge earlier in the year. The Blazers are probably the WHL's most improved team from year to year, having just missed making the post season in 2010-2011, to pushing for top spot overall this season. This will certainly be a huge test for Lethbridge, against one of the best in the west. This is also the Hurricanes 4th game of this 5 game BC road trip. They'll close out this swing Friday (Jan. 20) in Kelowna against the Rockets. Game time from Kamloops is 8:00 pm (MST). The pre-game show on CJOC at 7:30.