Lethbridge, AB – The Lethbridge Hurricanes kicked off 2016 with their first home game of the New Year against the Calgary Hitmen and the ‘Canes won their 27th game of the season picking up a 4-3 win in front of 4,638 fans at the ENMAX Centre.
Andrew Nielsen led all Hurricane scorers in the game with three assists while Arvin Atwal chipped in with a goal and one helper. Giorgio Estephan scored his 20th goal of the season which proved to be the game winner while Stuart Skinner made 30 saves in his 15th victory of the season.
The Hurricanes got on the board early as Ryan Vandervlis scored the prettiest goal of his career as he barreled into the attacking zone, danced the defenseman, and slipped it five-hole past Cody Porter to make it 1-0 just 4:42 into the first period. Calgary tied the game at the 11:49 mark as Andrew Fyten jumped on a loose puck and beat Stuart Skinner to make it 1-1. Calgary outshot Lethbridge 17-6 in the opening period.
Early in the second, the Hurricanes re-took the lead as Brayden Burke scored his 11th goal of the season just 2:59 into the period – assist went to Justin Gutierrez. ‘Canes made it 3-1 when Atwal snapped home his seventh of the season to set a new career high – Tyler Wong and Nielsen picked up the assists. Calgary got within one as Pavel Karnaukhov continued his hot hand against the Hurricanes as he scored his 10th career goal against the ‘Canes to make it 3-2 after forty minutes. The Hurricanes outshot the Hitmen 13-9 in the middle frame.
In the third, the teams traded goals. First, Estephan redirected a Nielsen point shot through the legs of the netminder Porter to give the ‘Canes a 4-2 lead just 2:02 into the third; Estephan now has goals in five straight and in eight of his last ten games. Karnaukhov once again pulled Calgary within a goal as he tucked home his second of the night with 9:08 left in the game. Despite a strong push at the end by the Hitmen, the ‘Canes escaped with a 4-3 win.
The Hurricanes outshot the Hitmen 8-7 in the third period but the ‘Canes were outshot 33-27 in the game. Both the ‘Canes and Hitmen went 0/3 on the power play in the game.
Three stars of the game were:
1) ‘Canes – #4 Arvin Atwal – (1 goal, 1 assist)
2) Hitmen – #9 Pavel Karnaukhov – (2 goals)
3) ‘Canes – #21 Ryan Vandervlis – (1 goal)
The Hurricanes improved to 15-3-0-0 on home ice; the most home victories in the entire WHL. They also improve to 27-12-0-0 on the season and sit in top spot in the Eastern Conference with 54 points – two points better than the Hitmen and Red Deer Rebels.
The Hurricanes are back in action on Wednesday night when they welcome the Swift Current Broncos at the ENMAX Centre at 7:00pm.
(Photo Credit: Cindy Adachi)