September 27th was not only the home opener for the Calgary Hitmen but also the club’s first of eight games against heated rival Edmonton Oil Kings.
Edmonton came into town as the recently ranked number four team in the Kia CHL Top 10, while the Hitmen had fallen off after being granted an honorable mention in the season-opening rankings.
Edmonton’s lineup also arrived having had Todd Scott within the top 10 goaltenders in goals-against average, while defenseman Conner McDonald, Ethan Cap, and Wyatt Mcleod were all top-15 leaders in defensemen scoring.
Jack McNaughton and Todd Scott were the starters for their respective clubs, and right out of the gate, the teams provided all 5,137 fans with fast-paced, exciting, back-and-forth action.
It didn’t take even seven minutes into the first frame for first blood to be drawn when Jake Neighbours buried a puck in the midst of a messy net-front battle.
Just under seven minutes later, 16-year-old rookie Dylan Guenther capitalized just seconds into a tripping penalty to Sean Tschigerl. The goal came off a behind-the-net feed from Carter Souch. The power-play goal stood as the final tally of the period.
The second frame brought a much more physical and at times chippy style of hockey.
The Hitmen immediately took control of the majority of time on attack and shots after an even 10 from both sides in the first period.
David Kope was tossed early in the second on a hit from behind to the back of Riley Fiddler-Schultz. After alternating back and forth from five-on-four to four-on-four, the Hitmen struck when an Egor Zamula point shot found its way through traffic and was redirected by Josh Prokop.
Soon after the major expired, James Malm roofed a puck to capitalize on another man advantage after Scott Atkinson was charged for tripping. Despite tying the game after completely taking overall momentum, the Hitmen were unable to keep the score even heading into the second intermission as Josh Williams received a slick pass to tuck five-hole on the breakaway.
To begin the third, Edmonton pressed with an immediate heavy attack before Calgary gained the spark needed to even the score. Orca Wiesblatt broke in and stalled above the far-right hashmark before feeding a nifty pass to Carson Focht, the Vancouver Canucks fifth rounder, made no mistake and tied the game at three. Later in the frame, Jaylen Luypen caught a break and used his lethal speed to create a terrific scoring opportunity on the breakaway before being denied by the glove of Jack McNaughton. The save stood to be critical as three periods weren’t enough to solve this one and overtime was necessary.
Edmonton managed to control the puck for the better part of the first minute. However, stellar defense on Calgary’s behalf allowed for only one Oil Kings shot. It was when an Oil Kings forward slipped up at centre ice that the Hitmen were presented with their first real opportunity of the period.
Nearly a minute and a half into the extra frame, James Malm was able to intercept a loose puck and feed Carson Focht who walked in and ripped his second of the night to clinch two points and secure the comeback.
Malm spoke postgame about the massive victory to start the weekend. “Obviously, we wouldn’t want to go to overtime every game this weekend, but I think it (the weekend) started off pretty well, and I think we can keep it going”
The Hitmen hit the road again and are set to battle the Red Deer Rebels tonight before wrapping up the weekend on Sunday afternoon as they host Medicine Hat. Calgary will look to feed off this exciting victory and excellent performance from Carson Focht (2g) and James Malm (1g,2a). Malm will also look to continue his offensive contributions, as he stated, “I got a goal so I felt pretty good about myself, and that’s the kind of thing I can build off for the rest of the weekend.” With the win, the Hitmen improved to 1-0-1-0 and move to third in the Central Division.
- Egor Zamula, who had five assists against the Oil Kings last season, continued his hot play against the divisional rivals Friday night with two helpers.
- Edmonton’s first line of Jake Neighbours, Josh Williams, and Riley Sawchuk combined for six points (2g,4a).
- Carson Focht led all players with six shots on goal. Jake Neighbours and Josh Williams led the Oil Kings with four apiece.