After dropping the first game of the season in heartbreaking fashion to the Swift Current Broncos, on Sunday, the Calgary Hitmen dominated the young Broncos and grabbed two points in the first half of a home-and-home battle. Although winning by a rather tight final score of 3-1, Calgary was firing on all cylinders with an aggressive attack, bringing 45 shots. Both Conrad Mitchell and Connor Gabruch, who were acquired at the deadline, kicked in with a combined goal and an assist.
The Broncos, despite coming into this contest with a league low 21 points, managed to skate right alongside the much more experienced Calgary lineup in the first period. Although being outshot by eight in the frame, the Broncos mustered several quality scoring opportunities. The first quality opportunity of the game came from the stick of Sam McGinley. After activating himself in the rush, McGinley dangled around a Calgary defender and wristed a shot on net to test Brayden Peters who made a nice shoulder save. This chance was matched by Calgary as, minutes later, Jett Woo walked in from the right point and wired a shot which beat everything but the crossbar. The Hitmen continued to throw shots on net as Isaiah DiLaura held his own. With just over four minutes remaining, newly acquired Gabruch was penalized for tripping. Although Swift Current did test Peters in the first half of the power play, the Hitmen successfully killed the remaining time and returned to even strength. Both teams left the ice scoreless as Peters and DiLaura kept the nets free of pucks through 20.
To start the second, the Hitmen immediately established a far more aggressive approach. Calgary was able to maintain overwhelming offensive control throughout the entire second period with active defensemen and enhanced puck movement. Almost six minutes in, the scoreless tie was broken by Orca Wiesblatt. Jett Woo started the play, swinging low from the right point before dishing a gorgeous cross-crease pass to Wiesblatt who slapped the puck home. The Hitmen did not let off the gas as Blake Allan added his sixth of the season to put the Hitmen up by two. Just past the middle of the frame, Gabruch was gifted a loose puck in the slot after a net-front scrum. The winger, playing his first game in a Hitmen sweater, made no mistake, beating DiLaura with a hard snap shot. The Broncos, while being heavily outplayed, managed to fend off the Hitmen for the rest of the frame and Calgary headed to the third with a three goal lead.
The Hitmen carried their momentum into the third and continued with the heavy offensive zone presence. Swift Current, however, was first to strike and break the Peters shutout. Rookie defenceman Tyson Galloway was caught behind his own net by Tyler Smithies who fed a wide open Jaxan Kaluski for the lone Bronco tally. As play rolled on, fatigue became a trend for both clubs as game speed took a toll. Late in the game, Swift Current took a much needed timeout and removed DiLaura from the Broncos crease in one last effort to cut the lead. However, Calgary hung on and evened the season series.
The Hitmen will return to play against the Broncos in Swift Current as the team begins a five-game road trip over the course of 10 days.
- The Swift Current Broncos have now lost three straight while being outscored 14-4 during that stretch. The loss to Calgary also gives Swift Current a 3-16-1-1 road record for the year.
- Jett Woo (1g, 7a) extended his point streak to seven games with a primary assist.
- After a disappointing December that saw the Hitmen go 3-4-2-0, so far in January, Calgary has put up a 4-2-0-0 record.