After what was by chance the best period of hockey played by the Calgary Hitmen this season, it was the final frame which saw the Everett Silvertips surge offensively for the come-from-behind victory. The Silvertips got major contributions from Bryce Kindopp (1g,1a), Dawson Butt(3a), and Jake Christiansen (2g,1a). Along which five unanswered goals, this trio was ultimately too much for Jack McNaughton and the Calgary Hitmen to handle in the lone meeting of the two clubs.
The opening minutes of the first frame featured a fair amount of neutral zone play while the Silvertips brought the physicality. Under five minutes into the game, in an attempt to match Everett’s physical play, Mark Kastelic lined up a hit and awkwardly fell into the boards. Kastelic was later sent to the locker room for medical attention and did not return.
Both teams began to settle in and started generating quality scoring opportunities as both McNaughton and Dustin Wolf came up with stellar saves. Before the midway mark of the period, Aidan Sutter was sent off for boarding which gave the Hitmen their first man advantage of the evening. Despite a power play full of heavy pressure quarterbacked by Egor Zamula and Luke Prokop on separate units, the best opportunity was a deflected Zamula point shot that beat Wolf but not the crossbar.
The even score only lasted so long, as the Hitmen broke the tie with under five minutes remaining in the frame. Riley Stotts and Orca Wiesblatt connected for a back-and-forth passing play that saw an airborne Stotts tap the puck past Wolf to put Calgary ahead. Stotts, who had replaced Mark Kastelic on the first line, continued to step up in a major way for the Hitmen. Head coach Steve Hamilton complimented the play of Stotts postgame, saying, “Riley slid in to play some centre and did a good job there…obviously, when it comes down to those critical situations, you’d like to have your best centre.”
Stotts was especially effective after the Calgary power play when Kindopp and Butt were penalized just 18 seconds apart with just minutes remaining in the period. Zamula capitalized 49 seconds into the 5-on-3 when his wrist shot from the point deflected off a Silvertip stick and over Wolf to give the Hitmen a two goal advantage. Stotts and Carson Focht picked up assists on the goal as Calgary took the lead into the intermission.
The Hitmen began the second period on an unfavourable note as Wiesblatt was assessed a minor for checking to the head just 16 seconds in. Calgary, however, killed the penalty with ease, allowing no shots on McNaughton. It was just under a minute and a half later that the Hitmen ran into trouble when Cole Fonstad’s high slot shot rebounded onto the stick of Kindopp who tucked it past McNaughton, cutting the deficit to one.
After several minutes of back and forth action, Calgary began to pressure hard once again. Just before the mid-period stoppage, Wiesblatt entered the offensive zone while being relentlessly pestered by an Everett forward before dishing the puck to James Malm. Malm quickly sent it to Riley Stotts who stuffed the puck five-hole on Wolf for a highlight reel tally. Calgary followed up with quality shifts from all lines. However, it was the Silvertips that capitalized next. Jalen Price released a quick wrist shot from the hashmark area, resulting in an Everett goal. After the shot release, Price collided knee-on-knee with a Hitmen defender. Price left the game after the hit and did not return. Calgary held onto a 3-2 lead and entered the third leading in the shot column 26-18.
Right out of the gates of the third frame, the Hitmen saw a glorious scoring opportunity squandered by the right post of Wolf when Dakota Krebs came inches to recording his first of the season. Unfortunately for Calgary, the Silvertips responded immediately as Christiansen gained control of a puck off an offensive zone faceoff and wired a hard wrist shot past McNaughton for the 20-year-old’s fourth goal in just his third game back from Stockton (AHL).
It didn’t take long for Christiansen to make his presence known once again when a behind-the-net pass from Butt found the defenceman wide open to the left of the net. Christiansen snapped the puck on net, bouncing off the pad of McNaughton and in to give Everett a 4-3 lead. With 10:10 remaining in the final frame, Butt presented the Hitmen with a power-play opportunity as the winger was sent off again, this time for tripping.
This Calgary power play, however, only lasted a brief 24 seconds as Jett Woo was also penalized for tripping. Just six seconds into the 4-on-4, Wyatte Wylie wristed a puck past McNaughton for the two goal lead. With five minutes remaining, Calgary began throwing everything on the net. Unfortunately for the Hitmen, they were up against one of the WHL’s top goaltenders in Wolf who, since allowing three goals in the first two frames, had tightened up his game.
With under four minutes remaining, a tough defensive zone turnover off the stick of Woo turned into a gift for Martin Fasko-Rudas who received a nifty pass from Butt to seal the deal for Everett. Coach Hamilton later commented on his team’s late game struggles. “We need to be a better home team…we’ve had countless games this year where we’ve had early leads and we’ve let them slip and those are some choices we have to make.” With the 6-3 loss, Calgary falls seven points behind the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Medicine Hat Tigers who sit second and third respectively in the Central Division.
The Hitmen will play next in Lethbridge against the Hurricanes on Saturday the 14th as a part of a home-and-home before returning to the dome for a rematch against Lethbridge the next day. Stotts was asked about the divisional matchup set for Calgary this weekend, to which he responded, “We’ve had a tough couple weekends here and we’ll look to keep playing the way we have been playing against Lethbridge and go into the break on a good note.”
- Since returning from the Stockton Heat where the overage defender suited up for nine games, Jake Christiansen has recorded four goals and three assists in just three games with a plus-seven rating.
- Riley Stotts recorded his tenth multi-goal game of his WHL career while also picking up an assist on the Egor Zamula goal. Stotts now has 30 points (14-16-30) in 28 games played this season.
- Everett improves to 11-3-0-0 on the road while Calgary now sits at 7-6-1-1 at home. Calgary also drops to 1-2-1-0 against U.S Division clubs.