The Calgary Hitmen closed off their five-game homestand with a narrow victory against the East Division-leading Prince Albert Raiders. Josh Prokop and Riley Fiddler-Schultz both added goals, registering points in back-to-back games. While both Hitmen goals came in the first frame, it was Brayden Peters who made 39 saves to earn his team the victory. Head coach Steve Hamilton seemed happy with his club’s effort and complimented both sides, saying, “I thought it very much had an intense, playoff-like feel to the game. It was a good hockey game.”
The third of four regular season meetings between the two Eastern Conference teams opened with exciting, fast-paced, back-and-forth gameplay. Both netminders were faced with a high number of shots. However, it was Peters’ gorgeous right pad save early on that fueled the Hitmen to open the scoring on deadline acquisition and starting Raiders goalie Max Paddock. Prokop was presented with an opportunity on the doorstep and the right winger made no mistake, tallying his 13th of the season.
Kyle Olson, in his Hitmen debut, also made his presence known early in the first. Hamilton commented on the return of the overage forward, stating, “I think the guys felt great for Kyle. He plays with pace, edge and skill… We’re excited to have him in our lineup going forward.” The centreman and native of Calgary displayed an immediate physicality, establishing himself as a pestering opponent for the Raiders. With over five minutes remaining in the frame, Sean Tschigerl fired a shot on Paddock off a 2-on-1 break. The goaltender was unable to control the puck which allowed Fiddler-Schultz to pick up the garbage and his sixth of the campaign for a two-goal Hitmen lead. Late in the frame, Olson, who centered a line with Carson Focht and Orca Wiesblatt, continued with his physical edge during play and in post-whistle scrums. Unfortunately for the Hitmen, he was later sent off for high-sticking, allowing the Raiders to start the second on the man advantage.
After killing off the remainder of the penalty to Olson, the Raiders took a slight edge in momentum. This included better defensive play, limiting shots on Paddock. Just minutes later, however, the Hitmen were gifted a power play off a Justin Nachbaur trip. The Raiders killed the penalty off with ease, allowing no shots. After a quick spark in Calgary’s play that saw a number of quality shots test Paddock, the Raiders finally solved Brayden Peters. Off an offensive-zone draw, Brayden Watts snapped a quick shot that beat Peters just past the halfway point of the game. As the game continued on, physical play ramped up as veteran blueliners Dakota Krebs and Zack Hayes both sent opposing forwards flying with thunderous hits just seconds apart. The Hitmen once again headed to the locker room with a lead. This time around, however, they had just a one-goal cushion.
Early in the third, it was Prince Albert who applied heavy pressure and tested Peters with eight shots in under six minutes of play. Slightly before the middle mark of the final period, Jett Woo was penalized for interference. Despite how dangerous the Raiders had looked in the offensive zone for the entire frame, Calgary was able to weather the storm with a strong penalty kill. Nearing the five-minute mark of the third, the Hitmen forced a more aggressive offensive presence on the Raiders in the Prince Albert zone. Fast forward to less than 90 seconds remaining in the contest after Prince Albert had removed Paddock from his crease, when Jackson Van De Leest shot a puck out of play resulting in a delay of game penalty. Peters started the kill off with a timely glove snag that Calgary fans have become so accustomed to, and after killing the remainder of regulation, the Hitmen snuck out with the win. Peters emphasized the importance of the victory by saying postgame, “We’re first in wild card and they’re first in their division. That’s our first round match up… We’ve got to keep doing this down the stretch to try and improve our spot or just even make the playoffs because nothing is guaranteed.”
The Hitmen will face the Red Deer Rebels at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday and then finish the weekend off at home against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Sunday.
- With the victory over the Raiders, Brayden Peters picked up his first 30+ save win of his WHL career.
- Kyle Olson currently sits third in the WHL for penalty minutes per game at 2.35.