0Hitmen Report

Hitmen Report: Heading into the holiday break

The Calgary Hitmen had a busy weekend, playing three games in three nights. They’re heading into the Western Hockey League’s holiday break with a solid 0.500 record and their eyes on a playoff spot.

The week that was

Friday: 5-1 win over Kelowna

The Hitmen controlled the entire game against the youthful Rockets. Jake Kryski had two goals and Egor Zamula, Riley Stotts and Ryder Korczak added their own. Kyle Crosbie had Kelowna’s lone marker. Jack McNaughton made 25 saves for the victory for the Hitmen, while Kelowna’s James Porter made 27 stops for the loss.

Saturday: 3-2 overtime loss in Edmonton

Calgary got out to a 2-0 lead off goals by Kaden Elder and Kryski, but the Oil Kings rallied back to force overtime off goals from Vince Loschiavo and David Kope. Former Hitmen forward Andrew Fyten scored 40 seconds into overtime to win it for Edmonton. McNaughton made 41 saves in the loss, while Oil Kings goaltender Dylan Myskiw made 32 saves for the win.

Sunday: 6-4 loss to Lethbridge

Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Jordy Bellerive had a pair of goals for the Hurricanes, who also got scoring from Taylor Ross, Ty Prefontaine and 2019 NHL Draft prospects Dylan Cozens and Logan Barlage. The Hitmen saw goals from Elder, Stotts, Mark Kastelic and Bryce Bader, but weren’t able to hold on for the win. Lethbridge netminder Carl Tetachuk had 24 saves, while McNaughton had 20 stops.

Where things stand

The WHL is on a holiday break until Dec. 27. The Hitmen are back in action on Dec. 28 when they visit the Oil Kings.

After a really bad (0-6-1) start, the Hitmen are back at the .500 mark with a 15-15-4 record. They’re two points back of the Brandon Wheat Kings for the last Eastern Conference wild card spot. They’re also within striking distance of the three Central Division playoff teams and given there’s no runaway team in the division this season, it’s not out of the question that they could make a run at one of those spots.

We’re coming up on the WHL’s trade deadline in mid-January and it’ll be interesting to see if the Hitmen make a move to add a game-breaking forward. Their offense has largely been carried by veterans like Kryski (37 points), James Malm (34 points), Elder (29 points) and Zamula (29 points), but they really could use a speedy offensive forward.

Their goaltending does seem to have solidified after early struggles, with McNaughton really cementing himself as the starter after the recent injury to Carl Stankowski. McNaughton is 9-8-2 with a 3.25 goals against average and 0.888 save percentage.