5Hitmen Report

Hitmen Report: Streaking into 2019

The Calgary Hitmen continue to chug along. As the calendar flipped over into 2019, the Western Hockey League club has continued to pile up the points and strengthen their once-tenuous spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Hitmen news this week

The WHL’s trade deadline is Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. MT.

As of this writing, the Hitmen have made one swap: they acquired the rights to AJHL forward Quinn Olson (and a conditional sixth round pick) from Prince Albert for Bryce Bader (and a conditional sixth round pick). While not formally announced, it seems reasonable to link one conditional pick to Olson reporting to Calgary and the other to Bader meeting some games played or points requirement. Olson is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, but maybe being traded to his hometown team might change his mind.

The week that was

The Hitmen headed into the week having never beat a Central Division opponent this season. They sure fixed that.

Friday: 5-3 win over Red Deer

The fourth line paced the Hitmen, as 2019 NHL Draft prospect Cael Zimmerman had two goals and an assist to lead the way. Bryce Bader, Luke Coleman and Kaden Elder also scored. Red Deer’s Brandon Hagel, who’s just decimated the Hitmen this season, was relatively quiet with two assists. Calgary’s Jack McNaughton had 20 saves for the win, while 2019 NHL Draft prospect Ethan Anders (of Red Deer) had 23 saves in the loss.

Saturday: 4-3 win over Medicine Hat

Scoring by committee continued for the Hitmen. Jake Kryski, Carson Focht, Bader and Coleman scored for Calgary in a game of lead swings; the Hitmen led 1-0, Medicine Hat led 2-1 and then the Hitmen got out to a 4-2 lead that held up. McNaughton had 33 saves for the win, while Medicine Hat’s Jordan Hollett made 38 saves but took the loss.

Wednesday: 3-2 shootout win in Moose Jaw

Dakota Krebs forced overtime with 2:35 left in regulation and Elder also scored as the Hitmen found a way to get two points once again. James Malm, Josh Prokop and Focht scored in the shootout. Moose Jaw got multi-point nights from Montreal Canadiens prospect Josh Brook and Dalton Hamaliuk. McNaughton made 33 saves for the win, while Warriors netminder Adam Evanoff made 35 saves for the loss.

Looking ahead

The Hitmen head into this weekend six points up on Brandon for the last Eastern Conference wildcard spot (but the Wheaties have two games in hand). They’re also just three points back of Medicine Hat for the first wildcard spot (with a game in hand) and five points back of the Edmonton Oil Kings for the last Central Division playoff spot with two games in hand. Winners of five straight, the Hitmen are in a surprisingly strong position for a team that couldn’t buy a win to open the season.

They continue the road trip that began on Wednesday in Moose Jaw next week. They play the Saskatoon Blades on Friday and visit Prince Albert to play the powerhouse Raiders on Saturday. They’re back home on Sunday, Jan. 20 to host the Red Deer Rebels.

    • Beer League Coach

      Hitmen started the year with Carl Stankowski in goal. He is from Laguna Hills, CA and might be a good fit in Stockton. He was injured and local boy, Jack McNaughton, took over. He was not drafted in the WHL bantam draft and with a late October birthday is not eligible for the NHL draft until 2020. Hitmen started the year with a string of losses and broke that string when McN took over in goal. They are now looking like a good bet to finish in the top 3 of their division.

      No thanks for Gillies. Maybe BT can trade him to an eastern team and recover a draft pick or another prospect for the D. Not sure all of Stockton’s problems this year are because of goal tending. I doubt if any G could have a good season behind the D that the Heat are playing with this season.

  • freethe flames

    So we are still first in the Pacific with games in hand. The team needs to take advantage of the nonplayoff teams in their schedule before the All Star break. With no morning story from any of the writers I wonder if something is brewing or if they are having a well deserved sleep in.