The Calgary Hitmen made some history this week, though not the history they hoped for, and pushed themselves to a big on-ice milestone. For the first time this season, the local junior squad has hit the .500 mark.
Hitmen news from this week
Hitmen defender Vladislav Yeryomenko has left the club to participate in the Division 1A World Junior Championship tournament in Germany, where he’s representing Belarus. It’s the third consecutive season he’s suited up for Belarus in a U20 tournament – they were in the “main” World Juniors last year but were relegated back to Division 1A.
The week that was
The Hitmen played a pair of big games this past week.
Friday: 3-2 win over Swift Current
The Hitmen were tied or chasing for much of this game against the scrappy, rebuilding Broncos. But they managed to keep tying the game up quickly. Swift Current’s Ethan O’Rourke scored in the second period, but Riley Stotts tied it up 1:22 later. Swift Current’s Joona Kiviniemi scored midway through the second, but 42 seconds later Egor Zamula tied it back up. Just when it looked like it would head to overtime, Josh Prokop scored with 23 seconds left to seal the win. Jack McNaughton needed just 11 saves for the win, while Swift Current netminder Isaac Poulter (a 2019 NHL Draft eligible prospect) made 42 saves for the loss.
Sunday: 6-3 win over Kamloops
The annual Teddy Bear Toss game saw the Hitmen draw 18,005 fans and soundly outplay the Blazers in a game the home team never trailed. Kaden Elder scored the Teddy Bear Goal 4:18 into the first period, sending an estimated 29,635 stuffed toys to the ice. The Hitmen added goals from Jake Kryski, James Malm, Tye Carriere and a pair from Zamula to capture a big 6-3 victory. McNaughton made 23 saves for the win, while the six goals chased Kamloops starter Dylan Garand from the game.
The Hitmen set a franchise record for the Teddy Bear Toss – falling short of the Hershey Bears’ world Teddy Bear Toss record of 34,798 – and they also hit the .500 mark on the season for the first time in 2018-19. They were as far as seven games below .500 earlier in the season, so it’s a remarkable turnaround.
The week ahead
The Hitmen are back at .500 (with a 14-14-3 record), but the next task is to reel in a playoff spot. They head into a busy weekend three points behind the Brandon Wheat Kings for the last wildcard spot, but the Wheaties have a pair of games in hand.
On Friday the Hitmen host the Kelowna Rockets – Flames fans should keep an eye on this one, as the Rockets have several high-end 2019 NHL Draft prospects. On Saturday they head to Edmonton to face the Oil Kings. And on Sunday they finish off their three-in-three when they host Dylan Cozens and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.