HITMEN HEADLINES: The Calgary Hitmen (21-16-2-1) are back in Scotiabank Saddledome this afternoon to host the Lethbridge Hurricanes (16-26-0-1) in their first home game since December 16th. The Hitmen are fresh off a BC Division road trip where they won four of five games. After dropping the opener in Prince George, Calgary rattled off wins in Kamloops, Kelowna, Victoria and Vancouver tying their season high four game winning streak. The trip came to a close Wednesday night in Vancouver with a 6-4 victory. Collin Bowman led the way with a goal and two assists. He was also +4. Chase Clayton scored the game winner with 4:15 remaining snapping a 4-4 third period tie. Calgary is seven points ahead of Red Deer for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but trail Brandon by just a single point for seventh and Saskatoon by two points for sixth.
VS. LETHBRIDGE: Today is the fourth of six meetings with the Hurricanes. Calgary is 1-1-1-0 against the ‘Canes. The Hitmen have twice fired a season high 47 shots in a single game against Lethbridge. The team scoring first has won all three meetings. Alex Gogolev tops the Hitmen with seven points (3g 4a) in the season series while Victor Rask (2g 3a) and Cody Sylvester (1g 4a) have five points each. Cam Braes leads Lethbridge in scoring against the Hitmen with six points (4g 2a) while Brody Sutter is next with five (2g 3a).
-Sept. 30 in Leth: Hurricanes 6 Hitmen 5. Brandon Anderson made 42 saves in the ‘Canes net. Jay Merkely 2g 1a.
-Nov. 13 in Cal: Hitmen 6 Hurricanes 2. Alex Gogolev 2g 2a.
- Dec. 14 in Leth: Hurricanes 6 Hitmen 5 OT. Cam Braes forced sudden death with 25 seconds remaining leading to Graham Hood’s winner 21 seconds into the extra session
INSIDE THE SERIES
SHOTS ON GOAL: Cal 123 Leth 96 POWERPLAYS: Cal 6-11 (54.5%) Leth 4-12 (33.3%)
They will close out their season series with a pair of games in March: The 9th in Lethbridge followed by the 14th in Calgary.
HOME SWEET ‘DOME: Today marks the start of a stretch that will see the Hitmen play eight of their next nine games at Scotiabank Saddledome. Heading into this afternoon, the Hitmen have played only 16 games at home compared to 24 on the road.
GOLD MEDALIST: Rookie Victor Rask won a Gold Medal for Team Sweden at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. It marked the 13th straight year a Hitmen player has been part of this prestigious tournament. Rask finished the tournament with one assist in six games to go along with 14 shots on goal.
TEAM PACIFIC: Greg Chase, the only 16-year-old rookie on the team this season, helped Team Pacific to a fifth place finish at the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Windsor, Ontario. In five games, Chase finished the tournament with six points (1g 5a). Two current Calgary Hitmen, Chase Clayton and Rob Trzonkowski, represented Team Pacific at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Winnipeg, Manitoba one year ago.
CAREER YEARS: Cody Sylvester has 44 points, 12 more than his previous career best of 32 set last season. Danny Gayle has 27 points, six more than his previous high of 21 set last season. Brady Brassart has 12 goals, three more than his previous best of nine in his rookie campaign two seasons ago. Second year forward Chase Clayton has 13 points, four more than his nine point rookie season.
STREAKIN: Ten Hitmen take point scoring streaks into today’s game. Alex Gogolev (3g 2a), Brooks Macek (3g 2a) and Victor Rask (1g 4a) are riding four game streaks. Cody Sylvester (1g 5a), Collin Bowman (1g 4a), Chase Clayton (4g), Danny Gayle (1g 4a), Joey Kornelsen (1g 2a), Brady Brassart (1g 1a) and Peter Kosterman (2a) all have points in back-to-back games. Defencemen Alex Roach and Jaynen Rissling are both a combined +6 over their last four games.
DID YOU KNOW? Chris Driedger recorded his first WHL shutout New Year’s Day in Kelowna. The 27 save milestone came in his 45th appearance for the 17-year-old. Chase Clayton recorded his first WHL hat-trick January 3rd in Victoria. Jimmy Bubnick played his 300th career regular season game December 30th in Kamloops. Calgary’s top two picks from the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft both played on the BC road trip. Jake Virtanen had a pair of goals in five games, while Josh Thrower has an assist in two games.
MAJOR IMPROVEMENT: The Hitmen have won 21 games, one more than their win total from all of last season.
WHL LEADERS: Alex Gogolev is eighth in WHL rookie scoring with 30 points while teammate Victor Rask is ninth with 29 points. Hitmen defenceman Collin Bowman is tied for 13th among WHL defencemen in points with 27.
CAREER WATCH: Cody Sylvester is two goals shy of 50 while Trevor Cheek needs on point for 50.
HITMEN ALUMNUS: Paul Postma, who played parts of two seasons with the Hitmen (2007-08 to 2008-09), is in the American Hockey League with the St. John’s IceCaps. The 22-year-old defenceman has 27 points (6g 21a) in 26 games. He has also played three games with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets this season.
UP NEXT: The Hitmen will wrap up this three game home stand next weekend hosting Canadian World Junior Quinton Howden and the Moose Jaw Warriors on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. before welcoming Calgary Flames prospect Laurent Brossoit and the Edmonton Oil Kings Sunday at 2:00 p.m.