The Calgary Hitmen (31-17-2-1) open a three game road trip tonight in Cranbrook against the Kootenay Ice (27-15-4-4). The Hitmen have won six in a row and 14 of their last 15 games. However tonight is their first game since last Sunday's 4-1 home ice win over the Tri-City Americans. Kootenay meanwhile is winless in their last four going 0-2-1-1 including a 5-4 overtime loss in Spokane in their last outing Saturday night.
At 65 points the Hitmen enter play third in the WHL's Eastern Conference, three points back of Moose Jaw for second and a point ahead of Medicine Hat. Kootenay has 62 points to sit sixth in the conference, one point back of Saskatoon and four up on Regina.
Justin Kirsch was still a Hitmen the last time these two teams met
VS. KOOTENAY: Tonight is the fourth of eight meetings with the Ice. Kootenay leads the season series 2-1. Brooks Macek (2g), Danny Gayle (1g, 1a), Victor Rask (1g, 1a) and Jaynen Rissling (2a) have two points each to lead the Hitmen in the season series. Brock Montgomery leads all Ice with six points (6a) against Calgary while goaltender Nathan Lieuwen sports a .924 save percentage.
- Sept. 24 in KTN: Ice 5 Hitmen 1. Calgary outshot Kootenay 30-18 in the loss.
- Oct. 2 in CAL: Hitmen 4 Ice 2. Calgary erased a 2-1 third period deficit to beat Kootenay 4-2. Victor Rask and Danny Gayle led the Hitmen scoring attack with two points (1g, 1a) each.
- Oct. 23 in CAL: Ice 4 Hitmen 2. Kootenay jumped out to a 3-0 second period lead.
INSIDE THE SERIES
Shots on Goal: CAL 80 KTN 65 Power Plays: CAL 2-13 (15.3%) KTN 2-11 (18.1%) Next Meeting: Sun., Feb. 12 in Calgary
BC BATTLES: Calgary has fared well this season when taking on teams based out of British Columbia. In 10 contests, the Hitmen have a record of 7-3-0-0 against BC squads, which includes a 4-1-0-0 mark during their road trip out west in December. Calgary will play eight more games against BC teams this season following today’s matchup.
TOP PROSPECT: Winnipeg, MB, native Chris Driedger returns to the Hitmen lineup after attending the 2012 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on February 1. Driedger was ranked 12th among North American Goaltenders by NHL Central Scouting in their midterm rankings. Driedger suited up for Team Orr, coached by former NHL head coach Pat Quinn and pitched a 14 save shutout in his 30 minutes of work. The last Hitmen player to suit up in the Top Prospects Game was Matt MacKenzie in 2010.
SPECIAL TEAMS SUCCESS: Special teams have played a large role in Calgary’s success this season. In games which Calgary scores a power play goal, they hold a record of 23-8-0-1. In contests which the Hitmen allow a goal on the man advantage, they are 15-14-0-1.
STREAKIN’: Collin Bowman (1g, 5a) is currently riding a three-game point streak and is +3 in as many outings. Alex Gogolev has three points (2g, 1a) in back-to-back contests. Jimmy Bubnick has 17 points (7g, 10a) in his last 14 games while Cody Sylvester has 16 (3g, 13a), Brady Brassart has 14 (5g, 9a) and Chase Clayton has 12 (9g, 3a) over the same span. Chris Driedger has won his last six starts while Brandon Glover has won his last two.
CAREER WATCH: Jimmy Bubnick needs six more goals to reach 100 in his WHL career.
WHL LEADERS: Victor Rask is tied for fifth in WHL rookie scoring with 40 points (21g, 19a) while Alex Gogolev is eighth with 38 points (21g, 17a). Rask and Gogolev’s 21 goals place them in a tie for second among WHL rookie snipers in that category. Collin Bowman is 15th among WHL defencemen with 35 points (12g, 23a). His 12 goals are tied for the fourth most among WHL rearguards. Netminder Chris Driedger is tenth among WHL goaltenders with a 2.68 goals against average and 0.900 save percentage. Calgary has the fourth ranked penalty kill in the WHL at 82.6%. The penalty killing unit’s 11 shorthanded goals also places them fourth in the WHL.
UP NEXT: The Hitmen are in Red Deer tomorrow. Radio Broadcast on Sportsnet 960 The Fan starts at 7:00 p.m. with a 30 minute pre-game show. Calgary then heads to Medicine Hat on Tuesday before returning to Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday, February 8th for a 7:00 p.m. home ice contest against the Eastern Conference leading Edmonton Oil Kings.