Happy New Year! The Calgary Hitmen open 2013 against Flames prospect Michael Ferland and the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings tonight at Scotiabank Saddledome. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Radio Broadcast on Sportsnet 960 The Fan begins at 6 o'clock with the Mr. Fireplace Warm-up.
THE STANDINGS: Calgary is 24-10-1-3, at 52 points they sit third in the Eastern Conference, three back of the conference leading Edmonton Oil Kings. Brandon is 14-21-2-2, at 32 points they sit 11th in the conference, three points behind Moose Jaw for the eighth and final playoff spot.
COMING IN: Calgary is just 1-3 in their last four games including a 3-2 loss on the road in their last outing Monday against the Kootenay Ice. Tonight starts at three game homestand for the Hitmen who will also welcome Moose Jaw on Friday (7pm) and Vancouver on Sunday (4pm). Brandon meanwhile is also 1-3 in their last four coming off a 6-2 New Year's Eve loss in Edmonton. Tonight puts the wraps on a three game road trip for the Wheat Kings who will play four of their next seven at home.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Tonight is just the second of four regular season meetings. Calgary won the opener 4-2 in Brandon on November 3rd. The Hitmen got off to a strong start outshooting the Wheat Kings by a combined 28-9 over the first two periods building a 3-0 lead. The line of Greg Chase (3a), Chase Clayton (1g 1a) and Pavlo Padakin (1g 1a) combined for seven points. Calgary outshot Brandon 40-28. The Hitmen were 1-3 on the powerplay while the Wheaties went 0-3. They will meet two more times this month to wrap up their season series: January 8th in Brandon and January 27th in Calgary.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Hitmen powerplay is 3 for its last 43 (7%) while the penalty kill is a perfect 17 for its last 17.
STREAKIN': Zane Jones (2g 1a) has goals in back to back games for Calgary while Cody Sylvester (1g 2a) has points in two straight. Brandon's Taylor Cooper is on a three game point streak (3g 1a).
BACK IN THE WHL: On December 28th the Calgary Flames returned prospect Michael Ferland to the Brandon Wheat Kings. Flames General Manager Jay Feaster had this to say upon announcing the decision. “It was important to us to have him in training camp, give him some exposure to a pro hockey environment, and get a read on his development. Based on the depth of our team in Abbotsford, and the limited game minutes that Michael is currently able to get there, we felt that it would be in the best interest of his development to return to the WHL, where he can get the minutes that we want him to have, and continue to grow his skill and confidence. We continue to be bullish on Michael’s potential, and look forward to his contributions to the Flames in the future." Ferland, who had 96 points (47g 49a) last season in Brandon, had split time this season between the AHL (Abotsford) and ECHL (Utah) picking up a combined one assist in 10 games. He has one goal in three games since returning to Brandon.
WORLD JUNIOR IMPACT: The Calgary Hitmen are without Victor Rask who's with Team Sweden at the World Junior Hockey Championship. Rask has three points (2g 1a) in four games along with 14 shots on goal. Sweden will face Russia tomorrow in one semi-final. Brandon is without Alessio Bertaggia who is a member of team Switzerland. Bertaggia has four points (2g 2a) in five games along with 17 shots on goal. Switzerland will face the Czechs in the fifth place game.
CHL TOP PROSPECTS GAME: The top Canadian Hockey League players for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft will gather in Halifax on January 16th for the Top Prospects Game. Among them will be a pair of Brandon Wheat Kings in Ryan Pulock and Eric Roy. Both are members of Team Cherry.
Brooks Macek 16g 27a 43pts
Cody Sylvester 21g 16a 37pts
Brady Brassart 10g 23a 33pts
Alessio Bertaggia 16g 18a 34pts
Ryan Pulock 10g 19a 29pts
Jayce Hawryluk 9g 14a 23pts
Eric Roy 7g 16a 23pts