The local major-junior hockey team, the Calgary Hitmen, played three games against division opponents this week and hoped to make up some ground in the Central Division race.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
The Hitmen began their week on Friday evening, thumping a surprisingly flat Red Deer Rebels squad by a 4-1 score. Jake Bean had a goal – as per usual – but fellow draft-eligible player Carsen Twarynski had his first hat-trick of his WHL career (and perhaps his first hattie ever), including a diving swipe at the puck to score an empty-netter to cap it off.
The Hitmen polished their week off with a home-and-home series with the division-leading Lethbridge Hurricanes, the best team in the Eastern Conference. Sunday’s game in Calgary went as many have for the Hitmen: Lethbridge rolled over them by a 4-2 score. To make matters worse, #1 Hitmen goalie Cody Porter went down with an injury. In the return match-up on Wednesday, the Hitmen rallied back from Sunday’s loss to decisively beat Lethbridge 6-2.
Notable performances this week? Bean led the way with six points (two goals, four assists), while Twarynski (four goals, one assist) and Travis Sanheim (one goal, four assists) were right on his heels with five point weeks. And yes, Bean and Twarynski are eligible for this year’s NHL Draft.
THE PLAYOFF RACE
The Hitmen didn’t really reel in Lethbridge much as they split their two games, and so they remain 12 points back. But their win over Red Deer, combined with the recent Rebels four-game skid, has brought them within four points of their divisional foes. Home ice could be huge in the first round, so it would be very interesting to see if the Hitmen can topple Red Deer and have that advantage when the post-season begins in mid-March.
In terms of Calgary’s playoff hopes, they’re pretty secure overall. They have a 14-point cushion on the wild-card Edmonton Oil Kings for the final Central Division spot, and a 25-point bump on Medicine Hat for the last divisional spot. Short of Mark French deciding not to dress a goalie for the final 15 games of the season, they’re in good shape.
It’s a busy weekend!
The Hitmen kick it off with three games in three nights: Friday they’re in Medicine Hat to face the Tigers, Saturday they’re back at home to host Lethbridge, and on Sunday they welcome Medicine Hat once again. They get a one-day break and then cap off their week with a visit from the Portland Winterhawks on Tuesday night.