Cochrane’s Wong off to second round of WHL playoffs
Tuesday, Apr 11, 2017 06:00 am
Despite a daunting deficit to overcome, Cochrane’s Tyler Wong and the Lethbridge Hurricanes are onto the second round of the Western Hockey League (WHL) post-season.
Entering its first round series with the Red Deer Rebels, the Hurricanes had home ice advantage by virtue of finishing second in the Central Division. The team needed all seven games in the series and an impressive comeback effort to knock off its divisional foe.
“It’s been amazing the confidence this group has had,” Wong said. “To be able to stay positive throughout being down 3-1 and going through the big must-win games…I’m extremely proud of this group.”
After splitting the first two games with Red Deer in Lethbridge, Wong and his teammates headed north to Red Deer looking to regain home ice advantage.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as the Hurricanes squandered away a 3-1 lead late in the third period of Game 3 and eventually lost the game 4-3 in double overtime.
Dropping a game in that manner may serve as a demoralizing point in the series, but the Hurricanes were not done yet.
“It was definitely a heartbreaker, but we refocused and came out hard in Game 4,” Wong said.
In Game 4, the 21-year-old potted two goals, but his team couldn’t bounce back after the let down of Game 3, going on to lose the game 5-3 and trailing in the series 3-1 heading back to Lethbridge.
With his junior career on the line and facing a similar challenge to what he and the Hurricanes had during the 2016 WHL playoffs, when the team went down 3-1 in the series to the Regina Pats, Wong helped lead the comeback against the Rebels in hopes of avoiding the same fate in back-to-back seasons.
“Having last year’s experience and the series going the other way where in Game 5 we were nervous, Regina came to play and we didn’t battle back,” Wong said. “That summer we had so much regret so to have that feeling in our back pockets helped us.
“We knew Game 5 wasn’t going to be the end of our season.”
Back in Lethbridge, facing the start of three straight must-win games, the Hurricanes roared back against the Rebels, taking a 5-3 victory on home ice and extending the series to Game 6.
Following a road trip to Red Deer for Games 3 and 4, the Hurricanes returned to Red Deer for Game 6 April 2, looking to continue the series and force Game 7 back on home ice.
The Rebels scored less than a minute into Game 6, but that would be the lone goal it would get in that game as Wong and his teammates rallied back in the second and third periods en route to the 4-1, forcing a decisive Game 7.
“We have a really confident and positive group,” Wong said. “That was definitely a big game for us. We knew they were trying to finish the series out at home.”
Returning home with the series knotted up and all the momentum, the Hurricanes completed the comeback over the Rebels with a 6-2 victory April 4, punching the Hurricanes’ ticket to the Central Division Finals.
“I knew we were going to win,” Wong said. “We had so much confidence in that game…It was a great way to finish off that series.”
Wong finished the first round with a team-leading 10 points (5g, 5a) and currently sits in a tie for third in the league playoff-scoring race.
The Hurricanes now turn its attention to the Central Division regular season champion, the Medicine Hat Tigers, which it will play in the second round of the WHL playoffs beginning April 7 (after press time).
In the regular season series, the Hurricanes won three of seven games against the Tigers, but haven’t beaten its longtime rival since Dec. 30.
Since then, the Tigers have won three straight games over the Hurricanes, but Wong said the season series doesn’t prove anything heading into the post-season.