HESSE STOPS 39, LEADS OIL KINGS TO WIN AND REGIONAL TITLE
JASON LA ROSE
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Easton Hesse was lights-out between the pipes, turning aside 39 of 40 shots to backstop the Leduc Oil Kings to a 4-1 win over the Cariboo Cougars to finish the opening day of play Monday at the 2017 TELUS Cup.
In addition to an important two points, the win gave the Oil Kings the Pacific Region title; because the Cougars won the BCMML championship there was no need for a regional series, so the preliminary-round meeting between the teams decided the regional winner.
Sparked by a pro-Cariboo crowd of more than 1,500 at the CN Centre, the Cougars came out with early momentum, but discovered early that Hesse was on his game despite a 29-day layoff.
Colby Wolter opened the scoring against the flow of play, squeezing a shot through the legs of Cariboo goaltender Marcus Allen just shy of the eight-minute mark.
Brendan Morrow doubled the lead before the end of the opening frame, camping out in the slot and snapping a shot past the blocker of Allen off a pretty set-up from Dillon Hamaliuk.
The second period was almost all Cougars; the hosts peppered Hesse with 20 shots in the middle stanza, but could only dent the mesh with one; Trey Thomas picked up a loose puck in front of the Leduc net, made a quick move and roofed it from in tight to cut the deficit to 2-1 through 40 minutes.
An early five-on-three in the third period failed to produce an equalizer for Cariboo, and Hesse made arguably his best stop of the night shortly after the man advantage expired, reaching out to rob Darian Long with just over 15 minutes to go.
Breydon Berthold finally added insurance for the Oil Kings at 13:20 of the third, beating Allen to the blocker side, and Hamaliuk finished the scoring into an empty net with 45.1 seconds to go.
Allen was a hard luck loser; he finished with 26 stops, a number of them Grade-A scoring chances.
Leduc will try to stay perfect Tuesday when it takes on the Cape Breton West Islanders in a battle of Day 1 winners (4 p.m. PT), while Cariboo will look to bounce back against the Regina Pat Canadians in the final game of the day (7:30 p.m. PT).