A tough weekend at home for the Calgary Hitmen saw the club fall in back-to-back evenings, both of which were fueled by late goals by the opposition. Despite out shooting the opposition by 20 over the two games, the Calgary offense struggled to find the back of the net as the Hitmen tallied just twice in each game. The Hitmen now sit in the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference while just four points back of the Medicine Hat Tigers with two games in hand.
The Hitmen will polish off their five game home stand this week as they play host to the Prince Albert Raiders on Wednesday and then the Tri-City Americans on Friday. This will mark the first time the Hitmen battle both these clubs this season. After Friday night’s game the Hitmen will travel to Edmonton and take on the Oil Kings for the fourth time this season.
The Wednesday matchup between Calgary and Prince Albert will feature a hot Raiders club who hold a comfortable lead in the east division. The strength of Prince Albert begins in the crease with Boston Bilous. Bilous has enjoyed an excellent season thus far recording nine wins in 14 games played while putting up a 0.913 save percentage. Bilous also received third star of the week honours earlier this year. The Raiders defense corps has also been strong led by first year draft eligible Kaiden Guhle, as well as overagers Jeremy Masella and Zach Hayes. Lastly, the Prince Albert offense has seen outstanding performances thus far from Aliaksei Protas. The 6-foot-6 forward was selected by the Washington Capitals in this June’s draft. Coming off his first four point game of his WHL career, Protas leads all Raider players with 26 points while draft eligible Ozzy Wiesblatt and brother of Hitmen forward Orca Wiesblatt, follows with 19. While the power play for the Hitmen has struggled, the Raiders possess a top five penalty kill in the WHL killing 45-of-53 penalties thus far. The Hitmen, however, have a great opportunity to gain confidence on the penalty kill as the Raiders are just 11.1% on the road this season while on the man advantage. The Raiders are also on a four-game winning streak, three of which have come on the road.
Friday nights contest will see two teams in very similar scenarios in the standings as both teams have 17 points. Tri-City is a very young team who have heavily relied on the likes of Sasha Mutala and captain Kyle Olson throughout their first 15 games played. While victorious in eight of the 15 games played, the Ams have averaged just 2.8 goals per game. Production from Mutala has been significant, however, after a very hot start the Colorado Avalanche prospect has been less consistent. Depth scoring on the other hand has been stepping up as of late, which means with top performances from players such as Mutala, Olson and the top rest of the top-six could be dangerous Calgary. The Hitmen, however, match up well against the Americans with a much more veteran group full of size and strength which will surely be depended upon. In last years lone meet up between the two teams Carson Focht and Riley Stotts tallied for the Hitmen before Calgary took the road loss in the shootout.
Calgary’s fourth meeting against the Oil Kings on Saturday will give the Hitmen a chance to get revenge after a heated battle this Sunday that resulted in David Kope scoring with just 54 seconds left in regulation.
- Although pointless through two games, Sean Tschigerl was named an alternate captain of Team Canada Black at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. Team Canada Black is currently undefeated after two games played with an overtime win over Team Canada Black and shootout victory over Team Czech Republic.
- Hitmen prospect Mason Finley is off to a hot start as the 15 year old forward has 11 points 5-6-11 through eight games for the Okanagan Rockets in the BC Major Midget League.
- In the season series between the Hitmen and Oil Kings thus far Edmonton has outshot 100 to 84, and outscored the Hitmen 12-10 while up five points compared to Calgary’s two.