VANCOUVER, BC - Carter Popoff scored just over a minute into overtime as the Vancouver Giants upset the Lethbridge Hurricanes 5-4 Friday night.
A great start for the visiting Hurricanes in this game. Just 1:53 into the first period, the Canes struck first. Russ Maxwell ended a long goal scoring drought with his 20th goal of the season to give Lethbridge a 1-0 lead. After that, the Giants took over with three unanswered goals. Carter Popoff tied the game at 1-1 with a point shot which beat Ty Rimmer. 35 seconds later Vancouver took the lead when Dalton Sward notched a goal, giving the home team a 2-1 lead. Late in the period, the Giants would strike again with a goal from Taylor Vickerman. That gave Vancouver a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes of play. Ty Rimmer was busy in the opening period as the Hurricanes were out shot 18-8.
In the second, the Hurricanes would charge back to even the score. Russ Maxwell would get the Canes to within one goal when he scored his 2nd of the night just 1:00 into the period, beating Payton Lee to cut the Vancouver lead to 3-2. Lethbridge would get a power play later on and they would even the score at 3-3 when Maxwell sent a blind pass to Graham Hood who scored his 10th of the season to even the game. Late in the period though, the Giants would regain the lead with a shorthanded marker when Riley Kieser beat Rimmer between the legs to give Vancouver a 4-3 lead after two periods. The Giants also held a 28-15 edge in shots on goal.
In the third, the Hurricanes tied the game on a shot by Sam McKechnie. The Lethbridge forward's shot hit Lee and trickled by him and into the goal to even the score at 4-4. It was McKechnie's 26th goal of the season and a big one for the Canes. The game stayed that way till the last few minutes when the Hurricanes were called for hooking on a partial Giants breakaway and Vancouver was awarded a penalty shot. The rookie, Alec Baer was awarded a penalty shot and missed the goal on the opportunity. That ended up sending the game into overtime tied at 4-4.
Just over a minute into the extra period, the Giants would get the gamer winner. Carter Popoff's shot beat Rimmer between the legs to give the home side a 5-4 victory. Despite the loss, the Hurricanes get a big single point and now trail Kootenay and that final playoff spot in the East by 4 points. The loss drops the Canes record to 26-28-3-7 for 62 points in 64 games. Lethbridge went 1/4 on the power play while the Giants finished the night 0/5. The Vancouver Giants out shot Lethbridge 36-24. Assistant Coach Chris Chisamore was blunt on the CJOC post-game show: "It's not good enough. We need to get more out of everyone. It's do or die time now."
The Hurricanes have played in front of some huge crowds on the road this season. In Vancouver Friday, more than 8200 people filled the stands at Pacific Coliseum as the Giants honoured hockey legend Gordie Howe who celebrates his 85th birthday March 31st. Also in attendance for the game were former NHL coach Pat Quinn, former NHLer Marcel Dionne, and popular Canadian Jazz singer Michael Buble who sang Happy Birthday to Gordie Howe. The Canes also played in front of nearly 10,000 in Portland in January and over 12,000 in Saskatoon a few weeks ago.
The Hurricanes will close out this B.C. road trip Saturday (Mar. 2) when they take on the Rockets in Kelowna. This will be the second and last meeting of the season between the clubs. The Rockets have been incredible at home this season with a record of 26 and 5 at Prospera Place. Game time is 8:00 pm MST. The pre-game show on CJOC at 7:30. The Hurricanes are back home next week when they host the Red Deer Rebels on Wednesday (Mar. 6).