LETHBRIDGE – “Ever since he's come he's got better and better. The regular season he played great, but you're right, he's found another level, and that's what you need to have success in playoffs.”
Lethbridge Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio was answering a question about Taylor Ross, but you could certainly be forgiven for thinking he was talking about someone like Brad Morrison or Logan Flodell.
All three mid-season acquisitions played key roles in helping the Hurricanes take a 1-0 series lead over the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL’s Eastern Conference semi-final Friday, April 6, with a dominant 5-1 win on home ice.
Ross – who now has seven goals and 11 points through six playoff games – opened the scoring while shorthanded at 6:23 of the first period, converting on a nice feed from Jadon Joseph.
The powerplay then took over the rest of the way, as the Hurricanes scored their next four goals while on the man-advantage, going an impressive 4/6.
Still in the first period, Jordy Bellerive scored while up a man to extend the lead to 2-0. Then, shortly after Brandon pulled to within one in the second, Joseph restored the two-goal lead. The third period would see Ross and Bellerive each get their second goals of the night. Of those four extra-skater goals, Morrison got the primary assist on three of them, giving him an eye-popping – and playoff leading – 19 points in six post-season games.
“I thought guys executed,” Kisio said of the powerplay. “We had a game plan going in, but once they're on the ice they gotta execute and they gotta find the open guys, and we found the open guys and we really bared down on our chances.”
Through five games against the Red Deer Rebels in the first round and now one game against Brandon, the Lethbridge powerplay is operating at a remarkable 51.8-per cent efficiency.
Of course, it’s also worth noting that early in the game and for a stretch in the second when Brandon started to put on the pressure, Flodell made several solid positional saves and a few acrobatic ones to keep his team ahead. He now sports a 2.57-goals against average in these playoffs, which is good enough for second in the playoffs, trailing only Everett’s Carter Hart.
As for the visitors, while Wheat Kings head coach David Anning made the clear observation that his club needs to take fewer penalties and improve the structure of their penalty kill, he said he’s not overly worried about one game – especially after their first-round comeback against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“Obviously you want to get the split on the road, it's important to get a win early if you can,” he told the media following the contest. “However, we've been in this situation where we didn't have the success early-on against Medicine Hat that we would have liked. So, our guys don't have any panic, we understand what's at stake. We'll make sure that we respond tomorrow.”
The two clubs meet again Saturday night at the ENMAX Centre for game two, before the best-of-seven series will shift to Brandon for games three and four on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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