In a 24-game season, back-to-back losses in week one isn’t what the Lethbridge Hurricanes would have drawn up for themselves.
The team allowed 14 goals against it in its first pair of games versus the Edmonton Oil Kings over the weekend, falling 7-1 and 7-2 on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
“It was obviously a little bit of a humbling weekend,” head coach Brent Kisio said after practice on Monday. “Edmonton was a lot better than us and played harder.”
“We know where the bar is now, Edmonton has set it.”
The Oil Kings were the top team in Alberta’s central division last year, winning 42 of their 64 games before the Western Hockey League (WHL) season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“We knew they were one of the top teams coming in and we knew it would be a challenge, but we’ve got a lot of work to do and I think we’ve realized that,” Kisio said.
The good news for the Hurricanes is that they now face a bye weekend, and the young team will have two weeks of practice to work out the kinks and shake off any remaining rust.
The players say it’s time to get to work, after the weekend’s wake-up call.
“We’ve got a young group this season, and we knew that right off the bat,” said Zack Stringer. “(We have to) come in and compete way more, battle more too.
“We just didn’t have it, and we can blame that on the older guys. We (have to) come and be those leaders for the younger guys, create momentum.”
Stringer says the message amongst the players is that the expectation is much higher than what Friday and Saturday’s performances demonstrated.
“We have to take it on ourselves to get better this week and next week,” he said. “We’ve got a long time off and we’ve got to use that to our advantage.”
The WHL hasn’t released the schedule for the central division past March 6, but the team is working under the assumption that they will play next on March 12.
With five teams in Alberta, one will sit out each weekend, while the other four will play home-and-home sets against a single opponent.
Medicine Hat joined Edmonton in sweeping the first weekend of play. The Tigers overcame a 4-1 deficit in the third period in Red Deer on Friday night to send the game to overtime, with Corson Hopwo completing a hat trick with the 5-4 winning goal.
The Tigers won again on Saturday night during their home-opener, a dominant 7-2 showing on the night of play-by-play man Bob Ridley’s 4000th game behind the microphone.
Medicine Hat and Edmonton sit atop the standings, with the Calgary Hitmen set to play their first two games this weekend against the Rebels.