LETHBRIDGE – For the second consecutive season, with a much different cast of characters, the Lethbridge Hurricanes are headed to the Western Hockey League Eastern Conference Finals.
Lethbridge defeated the Brandon Wheat Kings 3-0 in Game 5 of their second-round series on Friday, April 13, in front of a raucous sold-out crowd at the ENMAX Centre.
The Hurricanes came out flying, with captain Jordy Bellerive nearly opening the scoring early, but Wheat Kings goaltender Dylan Myskiw stood tall.
With Brandon on the powerplay 9:15 of the first, Taylor Ross was hauled down on a breakaway and earned a penalty shot.
Again, Myskiw stood tall, denying Ross and keeping the game scoreless.
Just past the ten-minute mark of the period, Bellerive fed Brad Morrison for a shorthanded breakaway and he made no mistake. His 11th goal, and 28th point of the playoffs gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead as the building erupted.
Emotions then began boiling over. A big hit by Hurricanes defenceman Matthew Stanley set off a fracas in the corner.
Several scrums broke out before the period came to an end, but when the horn sounded Lethbridge headed to the dressing room still up 1-0.
Shots after a period of play were dead even at 11 apiece.
Then in the second period, with Brandon's Ben McCartney in the box for high sticking the Hurricanes power play went to work.
Dylan Cozens, Brad Morrison and Calen Addison were all denied on great chances before Humboldt, SK native Logan Barlage scored to put Lethbridge up 2-0. The PP goal was Barlage's third in three games.
A back and forth, end to end pace continued until the second period was finished. Lethbridge took a 2-0 lead to the third period, just twenty minutes away from the conference finals.
In the third period, Hurricanes goaltender Logan Flodell had his time to shine. Making save after save while sprawled in the net midway through the helter-skelter frame to keep Brandon off the board.
With 1:31 to play, the Wheat Kings pulled Myskiw for the empty net. Brad Morrison stole the puck and, faced down the empty cage but clanged it off the post.
Seconds later, a high-sticked puck confused the Brandon defender behind his own net who thought it was an icing call, leading to a Morrison steal and he atoned for his miss by burying the puck into the empty net and sealing the 3-0 win for Lethbridge.
Head Coach Brent Kisio says it's been an up and down year, but that he’s proud of the way his guys have played all playoffs long.
“We’ve given ourselves a real good shot now, so we’ll enjoy this and then get reset and ready for whatever comes next,” Kisio said.
Kisio was also very complimentary of his goaltender.
“Flodell has been outstanding. We had some breakdowns tonight, and he was there for us,” Kisio continued. “That’s what he does, he’s been one of the best goalies in the league for a few years now and he’s obviously continued that for us.”
Kisio also had high praise for the faithful in Lethbridge.
“Our fans are the best in the league. When we’re going, and our fans are going, it’s a tough combo for our opponents,” Kisio stated.
For his part, this was the first time in Logan Flodell’s career that he’s had the opportunity to be a starting goaltender in the playoffs.
After being acquired from the Swift Current Broncos in January, and now that his team is headed to the conference final, he says he’s excited about the opportunity.
“You never know what to expect in playoffs. It’s a lot of hard work, but I’m happy with guys and we’re going to enjoy this,” Flodell said.
The Hurricanes opponent in the conference final is still to be determined, between either the Swift Current Broncos or the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“We all know who we want to play, but at the end of the day whoever we end up playing is who we’ll get ready for,” said Flodell.
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