The Regina Pats might have a lot of work ahead of them as they tweak their roster before the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup, but they had enough in the tank to finish off the Calgary Hitmen Sunday evening at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Playing their seventh of an eight game road trip, the Pats stymied the home town team 4-1 in front of the second largest Hitmen crowd this season, 9,087 fans.
Two players powered the Pats Sunday night at the ‘Dome. They are two names that the average fan wouldn’t associate with the Memorial Cup hosts.
The potent new top line of Sam Steel, Matt Bradley and Nick Henry was held off the score sheet. Instead it was a pair of third liners that stole the show for the Pats.
In 47 combined games this season, Bryan Lockner and Koby Morrisseau had combined for seven points. After 60 minutes Sunday, the dynamic duo collected six points.
“We knew that this was their third game in three nights, so we wanted to take it to them early,” said Lockner. “I’ve been playing with Robbie (Holmes) for a year now and Koby has been a solid addition. We want to keep this rolling now.”
It wasn’t the greatest of first periods for 16-year-old Hitmen centre Cael Zimmerman.
First, he didn’t square up to a point shot from World Junior Team Canada hopeful Josh Mahura at the 3:11 mark of the first period. Zimmerman flamingoed out of the way, as Morrisseau and Lockner teamed up and both assisted on the opening goal.
Early in the second, Zimmerman lost a puck battle at his own blue line to Morrisseau, sending him on a two-on-one with his sidekick Lockner against Jackson van de Leest. Morrisseau slid a pass over to Lockner, who beat Matthew Armitage glove side for his fourth of the season.
The Creston B.C. product Armitage was making his fourth start and second home start of the season. Nick Schneider played the first two games of this three-game set, playing 123:27 minutes and making 56 saves. Schneider had started the previous 12 games.
“It’s definitely difficult (to stay sharp in between starts), but I have a great staff and Matt Brown (mental performance coach) had tips for me to stay focused during practice and in games, and Barbs has been in my position a lot so he has a ton of knowledge for me,” said Armitage.
The last time Armitage got the call between the pipes was Oct. 28 against the Seattle Thunderbirds. He was seen last in a relief appearance Nov. 22 against the Portland Winterhawks.
Armitage recorded 26 saves as he still searches for his first career WHL win.
The rookie wasn’t thrown into the greatest situation, even though he had more than a day to prepare for the start, as the Hitmen came out predictably slow. The Pats (15-12-2-0) are on their longest road trip of the season, but arrived in Calgary yesterday and got a light skate it at the Stampede Corral Centre.
The Pats had the Hitmen (8-16-3-1) hemmed in their own zone for the front half of the first period, but only led 5-2 in shots. That’s when he 19-yaer-old left winger Jake Kryski got the Hitmen going on the power play.
His teammate, Vladislav Yeryomenko, drew a tripping penalty on the Pats right winger Scott Mahovlich.
On the ensuing power play, Hitmen’s leading scorer Jake Bean left a drop pass for Kryski in the right faceoff dot. Kryski gripped it and ripped it top corner past 17-year-old net rookie netminder Max Paddock. Yeryomenko picked up the secondary assist.
The goal meant that Kryski is the hottest Hitmen scoring, now with four goals in his past six games.
“I think I’ve just been finding the right area’s out there and shooting it when I see the right moment,” said Kryski.
Kryski is one of the few Hitmen players to still sport the Movember mustache. His look of choice: the handlebars. And if he’s producing at this rate, why shave it now?
“I just think it looks pretty cool. I think I’ll leave it for a while,” said Kyrski.
The Vancouver product’s seventh goal gave the Hitmen life. After being outshot in the first half of the opening frame, they closed the period out by outshooting the Pats 5-1.
The Hitmen were getting their chances in the second. While short handed, Mark Kastelic beat out Calgary product Cale Fleury to a puck on a breakaway, but was denied by Paddock with an old school pad-stacking save.
Jakob Stukel was looking dangerous flying down the wing shortly after Kastelic’s rush. Stukel saw Paddock fly out of the crease to challenge him, so he swooped around the net to try and tuck it in on the wrap around, but Paddock was bailed out by Marco Creta, who pulled the puck off the goal line.
In the second, the Hitmen found themselves in a little bit of penalty trouble, as they took three consecutive minors in the middle stanza.
Shortly after killing off a Stukel boarding minor, craziness ensued.
Armitage had his stick knocked out of his hands from a passer by and was swimming in his crease trying to track the Pats’ puck movement. Out of his crease, a three-deep wall of Hitmen formed in front of the net to turn away a Wyatt Sloboshan shot attempt. Lockner sent the rebound to Emil Oksanen, who rang one off the crossbar. Standing on the doorstep was Jake Leschyshyn, who tapped in his seventh of the season.
With the game out of reach in late in the third, Armitage came up with his best stop on the night, when he kicked away a sharp shot from Holmes. Unfortunately for the former Okotoks Oilers netminder, the red-hot Morrisseau was on the doorstep to swat in his second of the season.
The Hitmen dropped the first game of a four-game home stand. Up next, they will welcome their former captain back to the ‘Dome, when they take on the Swift Current Broncos (19-6-2-0) Dec. 8 (7 p.m.).
Prior to puck drop, the Hitmen held a moment of silence for Andrea Gallant, who was a billet mother for the Hitmen for the past 18 years. She passed away last week following complications from knee surgery. She was 44.