WHL Throwback Thursday returns for another week with a look into key past moments from WHL history with a tie into the present day.
Last night’s WHL action featured plenty of offensive showings as the Calgary Hitmen, Kelowna Rockets, and Winnipeg ICE each tallied eight goals in their respective victories, with the Hitmen and Rockets scoring their wins at home while the ICE were on the road for their triumph.
In what may not be a useful stat for all, but still essential for some, it marked the fifth, sixth, and seventh times exactly eight goals have been scored on a February 12 since 1997. The first one came 23 years ago yesterday as the Lethbridge Hurricanes downed the Kamloops Blazers 8-4 thanks in part to a pair of goals and four points from Byron Ritchie.
Six years later, the Blazers had their moment of glory as they downed the Tri-City Americans 8-1 on February 12, 2003. Future NHLer Erik Christensen led the way for the Blazers with a natural hat trick to start the game, finishing with four points.
Over in Alberta that same night, the Rockets flexed their offensive muscles against the Medicine Hat Tigers to the tune of an 8-2 victory. The game featured two-goal performances from Tyler Mosienko, Jesse Schultz, and Simon Ferguson while Mosienko and Schultz each finished with four points.
The next eight-goal game on a February 12 belonged to the Portland Winterhawks, who topped the Seattle Thunderbirds by an 8-2 score in 2011. Ryan Johansen and Brad Ross each scored twice as part of three-point performances to lead the Winterhawks to that win.
While they went beyond the eight-goal marker, the Moose Jaw Warriors did tally eight goals in the third period of an 11-4 win on February 12, 1997. The eight goals were scored in a 9:50 span of game play, with Dustin Paul, Chad Hinz, and Darryl Laplante each scoring twice. Matt Higgins also added his second goal of the game as part of the offensive explosion in that period.
The leading performance from Wednesday’s action was that of Hitmen captain Mark Kastelic. The Ottawa Senators prospect tallied four goals and finished with five points, impressing for the home crowd. It marked the WHL’s third four-goal game of the 2019-20 WHL Regular Season, following a quartet of goals by Medicine Hat Tigers captain James Hamblin on January 18, 2020 and four goals by Anaheim Ducks prospect Brayden Tracey while with the Moose Jaw Warriors on November 1, 2019.
Since the January 1, 2010, there have been 77 performances of four goals or more, with the peak reached in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns when 12 instances featured during each of the respective regular seasons.
Also just as important, the Hitmen have tallied four-goal games in February for consecutive years, with Vancouver Canucks prospect Carson Focht notching a quartet of goals on February 27, 2019 against the Swift Current Broncos. For Focht, he jumped from 16 goals to 20 goals in the game last season while Kastelic went from 26 to 30 goals Wednesday evening.
Wednesday’s performance between the pipes was a special one for 2020 NHL Draft prospect Brock Gould, who turned aside 57 of 59 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Spokane Chiefs. Gould made 24 saves in the first, 19 in the second, and 14 more in the third for his incredible performance.
That matched Swift Current Broncos goaltender Isaiah DiLaura for the most saves in a single game this season after his 57-save performance on January 22 in a 5-3 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings. As great as those performances were, they still off from the highs of the previous three seasons. Last season, the honour belonged to Joel Hofer with the Broncos, as he stopped 65 on October 16, 2019. During the 2017-18 campaign, Riley Lamb stopped 63 shots for the Rebels on January 3, 2018. Back on January 1, 2017, Prince Albert Raider Nicholas Sanders made 65 stops of his own the lead the league in single-game performances that season.