The Lethbridge Hurricanes have been eliminated from the 2019 Western Hockey League playoffs following a 4-2 loss on home ice to the Calgary Hitmen in Game 7 of their opening-round series on Tuesday.
“At the end of the day we didn’t come out ready like they did,” said Hurricanes captain Jordy Bellerive. “And that showed in the end.”
The Hurricanes were slow to start in game seven, falling behind early in the game, as they surrendered three first-period goals. Hitmen Forward Carson Focht found the back of the net twice in the opening frame, while Riley Fiddler-Schultz also scored, helping the Hitmen to a 3-0 lead through 20 minutes.
In a series that was special to behold the Hurricanes would not go quietly into the night. In the second period the ‘Canes started to find their offence, sparked by a Zack Cox goal 2:49 into the frame. Lethbridge continued to push the pace in the second and was rewarded midway through the period when Alex Cotton hammered a one-timer past Hitmen goaltender Jack McNaughton to get the ‘Canes within a goal at 3-2.
WATCH: On Wednesday the Lethbridge Hurricanes met at the rink for the final time this season and as Matt Battochio explains, while wounds of defeat are still fresh, exciting opportunities lie ahead for many of the players.
In the third period the Hurricanes pressed for the tie, but we’re unable to beat McNaughton. Hitmen captain Mark Kastelic sealed the 4-2 win for Calgary scoring an empty-net goal in the final minute.
“It feels unbelievable. It was a long and hard fought battle between both teams,” Kastelic said. “They didn’t go down without a fight, so that made it really tough on us. But, in the end we stuck with it and it feels great.”
The series deciding game was played at Nicholas Sheran Arena in Lethbridge, with the 2019 Men’s World Curling Championship taking up residence in the ‘Canes usual home of the Enmax Centre.
“The two games in this rink I don’t know what it was. It was just throw pucks in deep and go to the net. Unfortunately with that our style didn’t match up very well,” Hurricanes head coach Brent Kisio said.
“It was terrible, but hey both teams had to play. But, it was not WHL hockey out there. Like I said, there were two teams on the ice and it became more of a battle and their guys battled harder.”
Hitmen head coach Steve Hamilton felt the smaller venue was a benefit to his hockey club.
“It was a great atmosphere here, but it certainly wasn’t the full enmax experience. It had a bit of a neutral site feel for both clubs,” Hamilton said. “We sort of embraced the building and it felt a little smaller out there, so maybe a little less room to wheel for them and it probably plays better into our hands. We found a way to grind out two games in Lethbridge.”
The Hurricanes beat the Hitmen in five of six match-ups in the regular season and finished the year with 12 more points overall, but the ‘Canes faced a different looking Calgary team in the post-season.
“I think playoffs is just a whole new game. Everyone comes to play a lot harder and a lot differently,” Hurricanes defenceman Calen Addison said. “They’re making sacrifices. So like I said you’ve got to give them credit, they had an extremely good series.”
The Hurricanes season officially came to an end with the loss Tuesday night, but the Hitmen will advance to face the Edmonton Oil Kings in round two.