The Lethbridge Hurricanes increased their lead atop the Central Division standings by five points over Red Deer with a 6-1 victory against the Rebels Friday night at the ENMAX Centre.
The victory improves the Hurricanes overall record to 45-21-1-1 on the season. It still leaves them two points back of Brandon for top spot in the Eastern Conference, however the win against the Rebels kind of put the Hurricanes in the driver's seat in the Central Division with four games left in the regular season. It was also the 5th straight time this season the Canes have beat the Rebels, taking 10 points in their head-to-head match-ups.
Pretty much all the damage was done in this first period of this game. The Canes opened the scoring with three goals in a row. Cory Millette scored his 33rd of the season on a power play to make it 1-0 for the home side. About four minutes later, Ben Duppereault got in on the action, scoring his second of the season to put Lethbridge up 2-0. Then Captain Tyler Wong scored another power play goal for the Hurricanes, his 39th of the season and first of two in the game and that made it 3-0 Hurricanes with about 6:30 to play in thee period. The Rebels did manage to get one of those back when Luke Philp beat Stuart Skinner to cut the lead to 3-1. That was the only goal Skinner ended up allowing on this night. Before the period ended the Hurricanes lit the red lamp for a 4th time. Kord Pankewicz scoring his 5th of the season and the Lethbridge Hurricanes would take a fairly comfortable 4-1 lead into the dressing room through 20 minutes of play.
In the second, the Hurricanes all but finished this game. Arvin Atwal gave the Canes a 5-1 lead with his 10th goal of the season and later on in the period, Tyler Wong hammered home his second goal of the game and 40th this season to make it a 6-1 game after two periods of play.
In the third there was no offence from either team, but for the Hurricanes they didn't really need much more, cementing a well-earned 6-1 victory. They've had Red Deer's number from day one this season and it's these head-to-head games that right now are turning out to be a huge difference when it comes to securing first in the Division. That of course could play an important role come playoff time in two weeks.
It was a close game on the shot clock. The Hurricanes narrowly out shot Red Deer 35-34. Lethbridge finished the game 2/3 on the power play and Rebels went 0/5. The two teams play one last time Saturday (Mar. 12) for the return match-up in Red Deer, home of the 2016 Memorial Cup. A win tonight would nail down first in the Central for the Hurricanes.
After Saturday's game, the Hurricanes have three remaining this season. They return home Sunday (Mar. 13) to host the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings and then close out the year next Friday and Saturday with a home-and-home set with rival Medicine Hat. The Oil Kings and Tigers are currently battling it out for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference right now. The Hurricanes first round playoff opponent is still yet to be determined. Lots of factors are still at play in the final week of the season.