By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
The Wheatland Chiefs know what it’s like to be the top dog. Last year, they stormed through the regular season at breakneck speed on their way to the franchise’s first provincial title.
This year, things are different, and they find themselves looking up at a team in the standings for the first time.
That team is the Lethbridge Hurricanes and they made a stop at the Strathmore Family Centre Nov. 4 in a battle of the top-two teams from the South Central Alberta Hockey League in the South Division.
The Hurricanes got the best of the Chiefs on Oct. 13, skating to a 3-1 victory in Lethbridge, but the Chiefs were prepared and threw everything they could at the Hurricanes and left the arena with a 1-1 draw.
The visiting team came out and peppered the local double-A midget team, owning the time of possession in the first period thanks to a pair of power plays. The Hurricanes defencemen looked very comfortable handling the puck on the blue line, pinching in where needed in order to keep plays alive.
“The biggest difference from this game to last game was our penalty kill,” said Chiefs Assistant Coach Matt Gregory. “We knew they had a deadly power play, so we worked on our kill all week. The kids came out and did exactly what we wanted them to do.”
The Chiefs (6-3-2) managed to grab the lead less than a minute into the second, as Lucas Muenchrath skated out from the corner and had the puck glance off his knee and in.
Just past the midway mark of the second, Cole Berg caught Dylan Stevenson with a vicious knee while exiting the offensive zone. Berg was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct, while Stevenson had to be helped off the ice.
That’s when that lethal power play went to work.
Halfway through the Berg major, Braden Grue cut in from the corner, drove on net and stuffed one past a rock-solid Riley Stovka.
“Stovka played unreal and he was our best penalty killer despite allowing that one goal,” said Gregory, about his goaltender who was only credited with 16 saves. “He was pristine; he was flashing the pads all night and this was his best game all year. He played phenomenal.”
The game turned heavy in the third. Stovka kicked out a few nice toe saves and Jayden Hendricks nearly ended things late, but rang one off the crossbar.
The Chiefs will enjoy a bye week this weekend, before getting another crack at the Hurricanes (10-0-2) Nov. 17 to even the score. The third of four meetings this season will take place back at the Family Centre. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Wheatland Warriors split a pair of road games last weekend against two of the top bantam teams from the North division.
First, they handled the 8-2-1 Airdrie Lighting 5-3 Nov. 3 at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.
The Warriors scored a pair in the first, from Tate Yule on the power play and Jerrin Hendricks less than one minute later.
They scored another pair in the second from Joel Romano and Hendricks again.
Up 4-3 with less than a minute remaining, Phillip Raycroft sealed the victory with an empty netter. Corey Ross was brilliant in net, stopping 39 shots for his third win.
Two days later, the Warriors (5-8-1) took on the top-seeded West Central Tigers (9-1-2) Nov. 5 at the Rocky Arena Complex, but fell 5-2.
Jarred Schrock netted his fifth of the season in the second on a solo effort and Romano banged in his second of the weekend from Ray Warrack at the 4:34 mark of the third period.
The Warriors will take the weekend off to accommodate the atom tournament in town and will resume play Nov. 19, when they host the Taber Golden Suns at the Family Centre (2-9-1).
Braves show firepower
The Wheatland Braves have really begun to take off, as they have scored 22 goals in the past three games.
The latest goal-scoring surge came Nov. 5, when they blasted the Okotoks Oilers Black (5-5-1) to the tune of 8-3 at Murray Arena.
It marked the sixth straight win for the Braves and their second game in the last three outings where they have netted eight goals.
Luc Trevors led the way with two goals and one helper, and Connor Radke provided one goal and two assists. Jace Koole and Charles Goll registered two goals each, while Garrin Gosling netted a single. Wyatt Yule, Adam Lee and Tyler Fairbairn contributed assists, while Connor White stopped 30 saves for his fifth win.
The local double-A peewee team opened the weekend with a convincing 6-2 win over the Airdrie Lightning White (3-3-2) Nov. 3 at Hussar Arena.
Goll scored a pair and added an assist, Radke sniped two goals, Fairbairn registered one of each and Nolan Bell supplied the other marker. Trevors picked up a pair of assists, along with Adam Moore, Aden Miller and Kolten Kuryk recording one assist each. Matthew Dovichak made the customary 15 saves for his fourth win.
The Braves (9-3-0) are in action over the weekend, but have been relocated to Hussar Arena, where they will host the Okotoks Oilers Green (6-6-0) Nov. 12 at 3:45 p.m.