The Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen hit the road this week, hoping to maintain some momentum and keep a healthy distance between themselves and the Eastern Conference’s wild-card playoff teams.
The good news is they have that distance, but the bad news is their roadie could’ve gone a lot better than it did.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
The Hitmen were busy this week, a contrast to last week’s really light home schedule. They played four games in British Columbia. They earned three of a possible eight points, but at least three of the four games were close, right?
- On Wednesday, they lost 4-1 to the Victoria Royals.
- On Friday, they needed overtime to get a 3-2 win over the West’s worst team, the Vancouver Giants.
- On Saturday, they took the powerhouse Kelowna Rockets to a shootout, losing 3-2.
- On Monday, they lost 3-2 to the Jarome Iginla-owned Kamloops Blazers.
Despite this, there were some strong individual performances. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Radel Fazleev had five points while fellow Flyers pick Travis Sanheim had three assists. Overage forward Jackson Houck had three goals – giving him 30 points since joining the Hitmen in an early-season trade with Vancouver. Fellow former Giant Jakob Stukel had two assists; he’s been excellent since the trade and leads the Hitmen in goal-scoring.
Top Hitmen goalie Cody Porter had a rough January (.830 save percentage, 4.53 goals against average and just two wins in six games) but he was pretty good this week (.911 save percentage, 2.25 goals against average) despite only winning once. If the Hitmen can start generating a bit more offense on the road, they may be formidable down the stretch.
THE PLAYOFF RACE
After the road trip, the Hitmen are nine points back of Lethbridge for first place, but the Rebels have also quietly started reeling the Hurricanes in. Suddenly Friday’s clash between the Hitmen and Red Deer has some implications for the visitors, and the Hitmen have the chance to reel the Rebels in a bit (and play spoiler).
SUM IT UP
The Hitmen aren’t a great road team. But luckily for them, they have a couple home games against divisional rivals on Friday (Red Deer) and Sunday (Lethbridge), giving them a chance to get some points and reel in the two teams above them in the standings.