Hurricanes searching for wins and good health
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – All the Guelph Hurricanes want for Christmas is to be healthy.
Due to injuries, suspensions and sickness, the Canes have rarely had a full lineup. They played their 27th games of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League season Saturday night at the Sleeman Centre – a 4-1 loss to the Brantford 99ers – and had only three players on the ice who’ve been in the Canes’ lineup every game.
“It’s kind of been one of those years,” Canes coach Adam Wallace said. “We got off to that hot start, but Rooker (forward Jacob Rooke) went down early and we just kind of got behind the 8-ball with injuries and now we can’t seem to get healthy and play with a full lineup.”
“We’ve been short most of the year so far,” Canes captain Liam Buckley said. “I think tonight was the first game we had four full lines all season. It’s good to get guys back, which is nice, but then we had a couple of guys go down with injuries which is tough to try to compete with three lines against teams that are rolling four lines.”
Forwards Anthony Mota and Tyler Harrison and defenceman Nathan George have played in all 27 games. Forward Mathieu Mercier and defencemen Brett Hunter and Payton McLeish have missed one game apiece while forwards Liam Buckley and Ryan George have missed two each. Forwards Bradley Smith and Ryan Sparkes have played 23 apiece and defenceman Mason Sinkeldam 22.
While the Canes had five wins and a tie in their first seven games, they got an early sign of things to come when Rooke suffered a season-ending injury (concussion) in the opening game of the season.
Not including back-up goalies, although the Canes have had them sit on their bench but not play, the Guelph squad has used 33 players this season.
Part of the reason for that high number is the result of trades, some made just to get players in the lineup.
Saturday, the Canes had 19 players suited up including back-up netminder Tanner Wickware who was replacing Trenton McGrail who was hurt a couple of games ago. Teams are allowed to dress 20, something the Canes haven’t done since Sept. 28 and that was the only time the Canes had a full lineup since the opening two games of the season in the Showcase Tournament at Brantford Sept. 9 and 10. Twice the Canes played with a lineup of 17 players.
“We keep games close until the third and then we run out of gas,” Wallace said. “It’s just hard when you’re playing short.”
Saturday, the Canes outplayed Brantford in the first period, but had nothing to show for it as the period was scoreless. The 99ers scored twice in the second period, both after the midway mark of the period, and they added two more in the third.
“We played a good first and then a couple of guys get hurt and we’re playing short again,” Wallace said. “Then guys get tired and they make mistakes and the puck ends up in the back of your net.”
“We’ve just got to get going and get guys scoring goals and we’ll be good,” Buckley said. “Get the first one early on and we’ll be good.”
Forward Seamus Mooney and defenceman Adrian Iudiciani were injured and their status for a game Sunday night against the Kitchener Dutchmen (9-16-0-2) at Kitchener’s Memorial Auditorium was unknown after Saturday’s game.
Nathan George prevented the Canes from being shut out when he scored with 44 seconds to go in the game. Sinkeldam and Mercier assisted on the goal.
“We’ve got to score dirty goals,” Wallace said. “It’s not like we don’t have chances. We certainly have enough chances to score goals, we’ve just got to focus and bear down and score goals when we get our opportunities because they don’t come that easy. When you work hard and you get opportunities, you’ve got to try to make the most out of them.”
Louis Latta, Mitchell Devins-Cann, Maxwell Lightfoot and Hunter Dubecki scored for Brantford who are now being coached by former Canes coach Peter Crosby. He added the 99ers to his stable of teams he coaches (Brantford Blast of the senior Allan Cup Hockey league and boys’ and girls’ teams at Paris District High School) and they’ve been 4-7-0 since. They’re still in the Midwestern Conference’s basement at 8-17-0-1, but are only two points behind the Canes (7-15-1-4).
Christian Polillo and Jack Gaffney each had two assists for Brantford Saturday while Will Hurley, Kyle West, Levi Tetrault and Latta each had one.
With their hot start to the season, the Canes were one point out of the conference lead in second on Sept. 24. Now they’re seventh and 25 points behind the leading Listowel Cyclones (22-4-0-0). That kind of a fall can make it difficult for players to stay upbeat.
“We just try to keep focusing on the little things, like winning individual battles,” Buckley said. “It’s one step at a time and getting back like that. Just win the small battles first and keep building off of that.”
Getting the shutout-breaking goal was Saturday night’s win.
Game time Sunday at Kitchener is 7:30 p.m.