The Calgary Hitmen had a rough start to the season, but they’ve found their stride in recent weeks. They enter the upcoming weekend in a playoff spot.
The Western Hockey League’s trade deadline is Thursday, Jan. 10, so don’t get too attached to any Hitmen players. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them make a move for some additional scoring depth.
The Hitmen have swapped around backup goaltenders a bit with Carl Stankowski still out with his ankle injury.
- Matthew Armitage returned to the BCHL without playing a game.
- Brayden Peters was briefly brought back and then returned to the Lethbridge AAA Midget Hurricanes without playing a single minute of hockey.
- Ethan Hein, acquired from the Swift Current Broncos last fall, joined the Hitmen as backup after playing in the Macs Tournament.
The week that was
The Hitmen returned from their holiday break and looked pretty decent, all told.
Friday: Hitmen lose to Oil Kings 7-3
The Hitmen stumbled a bit out of the blocks after the break, admittedly. After a scoreless first period, the Oil Kings erupted for six goals in the second. Hitmen captain Mark Kastelic scored twice and Carson Focht added another, but it was too little, too late. Seven different Edmonton players scored. Oil Kings goalie Dylan Myskiw made 29 saves for the win, while Hitmen ‘tender Jack McNaughton made 31 saves in the loss.
Sunday: Hitmen beat Giants 4-0
The Giants were a bit flat, but the Hitmen were quite good in this win. McNaughton made 25 saves for his second shutout. Riley Stotts scored twice, with Kastelic and Jake Kryski also scoring. But the big factor was former Giants forward James Malm, traded earlier this season to Calgary for Tristen Nielsen. Malm had four points and was a huge factor in the Hitmen victory. Giants goaltender David Tendeck made 39 saves for the loss.
Tuesday: Hitmen beat Royals 6-3
The Hitmen continued their momentum on New Year’s Day. The locals never trailed, answering back whenever Victoria started to gain any ground. Focht had a pair, while Malm, Kastelic, Luke Coleman and Kaden Elder also had goals. McNaughton made 23 saves for the victory, while the Hitmen chased Victoria starter Griffin Outhouse midway through the game after he made just eight saves on the first 13 shots he saw (backup Brock Gould finished things off).
The Hitmen enter the coming week with a 17-16-4 record. They’re two points up on the Brandon Wheat Kings for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, though Brandon has two games in hand.
Calgary opens their weekend with a pair of divisional clashes: they host the Red Deer Rebels on Friday and the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday, before heading on the road to face Moose Jaw on Wednesday in the first game of a four-game trip.