The Lethbridge Hurricanes dropped a 5-3 decision to the Calgary Hitmen in Game 3 of their opening-round WHL playoff series on Tuesday.
With the loss, Lethbridge now leads the best-of-seven series 2-1 after picking up wins in Games 1 and 2 over the weekend.
“It wasn’t our best game,” Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio said. “I thought Calgary came out and played really good to start the game. They were desperate and urgent and we didn’t match that.”
The Hurricanes fell behind early after Calgary scored twice in the first five minutes of the first period courtesy of goals from Ryder Korczak and Carson Focht.
The Hitmen played their best period of the series in the opening 20 minutes out-shooting the ‘Canes 16-8 in the frame.
“We knew they would come out hard,” Kisio said. “It was a big game for both teams and we knew the first 5 to 10 minutes was going to be played really hard and one team was playing harder than the other.”
The Hurricanes didn’t go quietly in game three though, trailing 3-0 in the second period Dylan Cozens and Zack Stringer scored back-to-back goals pulling Lethbridge to within one after 40 minutes.
“In the second half of the game I think we had a really good push,” Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens said. “Managing pucks and getting in behind their defence, and working them hard and just finding guys open in the slot. We know what we have to do next game and we know that we have to play a full 60 minutes.”
Calgary would restore their two-goal lead early in the third off a second goal from Focht to make it 4-2.
Five minutes after Focht struck the ‘Canes would once again answer back. Nick Henry made a beautiful pass through traffic to an open Cozens in the slot, who buried his second of the night to cut the lead to 4-3. The Hurricanes pressured late for the tie, but we’re unable to beat Calgary goaltender Jack McNaughton.
The Hitmen would tack on another goal in the dying seconds, when forward Luke Coleman potted his first of the playoffs into the empty net.
Calgary out-shot Lethbridge 36-29 on the night and won the special-teams battle, going 1/4 on the power play, while Lethbridge failed to score all five times they went to the man advantage.
“We’ll review the tape. We need to be better,” Kisio said. “We’ve got to play harder and just keep things a little bit simpler.”
Game 4 will take place in Calgary on Thursday night.
The Hurricanes’ loss in Game 3 also guarantees a Game 5 on Saturday back in Lethbridge. That game will be played at Nicholas Sheran Arena as the Enmax Centre will be playing host to the 2019 World Men’s Curling Championship.