HITMEN HEADLINES: The Calgary Hitmen (35-16-1-3) play game seven of a season high nine-game road trip tonight in Kent against the Seattle Thunderbirds (19-32-4-1). Internet Broadcast on www.sportsnet.ca/960 starts at 8:00 p.m. MDT. The Hitmen improved to 3-3 on the trip last night with a 5-1 come from behind win over the Everett Silvertips. Jake Virtanen scored twice, including once into an empty net as Calgary overcame a 1-0 Everett lead after 20 minutes. Pavlo Padakin (1g 1a), Spencer Humphries (1g 1a) and Calder Brooks also scored for the Hitmen while Victor Rask chipped in a pair of assists. Calgary outshot Everett 38-29. Mack Shields picked up the win in goal making 28 saves. The Hitmen went 1-4 on the powerplay while the Silvertips were 1-7. Calgary is third in the Eastern Conference, 13 points back of the front running Edmonton Oil Kings but with two games in hand.
WILLIAMSON WATCH: Wednesday's 4-3 win for Calgary in Portland over the CHL's number one ranked Winterhawks wasn't only a major triumph for the team but was also a milestone win for the head coach. It was the 150th regular season win for Mike Williamson since taking over as the clubs bench boss on July 22nd, 2009. It ironically came against a Winterhawks team where Williamson broke into the Western Hockey League, spending a total of 15 seasons, first as a player before making the transition into coaching. Williamson ranks third on the franchise list for most regular season coaching wins. Dean Clark leads the way with 183 followed by Kelly Kisio with 163 then Williamson with 151. Tonight against Seattle produces a second milestone for Williamson this week. It is his 800th career regular season game as a WHL head coach, becoming only the 12th bench boss in league history to hit that mark
300 CLUB: Cody Sylvester will play his 300th regular season game in the Western Hockey League tonight against Seattle. The 20-year-old captain is in his fifth season. He was an eighth round pick by the club in the 2007 Bantam Draft. The centre played his first game in the WHL on September 19th, 2008 in the Hitmen home opener against Red Deer and had an assist. In 299 career games he has 84 goals 117 assists for 201 points. Sylvester is also starting to climb the franchise record books. He is now sixth all-time in games played, 11th in goals and 10th in both assists and points.
FORMER TEAMMATES REUNITE: Tonight is the first meeting since the May 4th, 2012 trade that saw the Hitmen send 20-year-old goalie Brandon Glover to Seattle in exchange for a third round pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Over parts of two seasons Glover played 70 regular season games in Calgary, adding four more playoff appearances. During that time he collected 1,672 saves while picking up 30 wins and two shutouts.
DID YOU KNOW? The Hitmen have given up the first goal in four straight games and in five their last six contests....Including tonight Calgary’s next four games are against teams from the Western Conference. The Hitmen will then close out the regular season with 13 straight against Eastern Conference rivals….Alex Roach is the top scoring defenceman in the Eastern Conference with 41 points. His plus 36 is also number one in the Eastern Conference….Hitmen forward Pavlo Padakin is tied for fourth in goals by a rookie in the WHL with 16….Nine different Hitmen have scored 10 or more goals this season….Calgary has outshot their opponent in nine of their last 10 games …The Hitmen have been shutout five times this season and have blanked their opposition three times…. Cody Sylvester (62pts) and Brooks Macek (59pts) are in a battle for the team lead in scoring. This is the 18th season of Hitmen hockey and only on three previous occasions has there been a tie for top scorer at the end of the season. In the 2007-08 campaign both Ryan White and Kyle Bortis finished with 72 points. In the 2005-06 season Ryan White and Brodie Dupont finished with 53 points each while in the 2003-04 season Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd both had 75 points….NHL Central Scouting has released their mid-term rankings for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with two members of the Calgary Hitmen cracking the list. Forward Greg Chase, in his second season, is ranked 94th among North American Skaters. Rookie Mack Shields is ranked 28th among North American goalies.
HOME AND AWAY: Calgary is 19-8-0-1 on the road while Seattle is 11-13-3-0 at home.
TURNING ON THE RED LIGHT: Five Hitmen are having career years in the goal scoring department. Brooks Macek has set a career-high in goals at 25, three more than his previous high of 21 set in 2009-10 with Tri-City. Cody Sylvester has 28 goals this season, three more than his previous best of 23 set last year. Alex Roach has 14 goals, topping his previous best of four set in each of the last two seasons. Greg Chase has 14 goals eight more than the six he scored in his rookie campaign last season. Zane Jones has scored 18 times this season topping the 14 he scored last season in Victoria.
MILESTONE WATCH: By setting up three more goals, Brady Brassart will reach 100 career assists. Chris Driedger is 79 saves shy of 2,500.
NHL PROSPECTS: Chris Driedger (Ottawa 2012); Kenton Helgesen (Anaheim 2012); Jaynen Rissling (Washington 2012); Alex Roach (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Los Angeles 2011); Victor Rask (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Carolina 2011).
UPCOMING GAMES: Calgary continues their five game tour of the U-S Division on Tuesday in Kennewick against Tri-City before stopping in Spokane on Wednesday. The Hitmen are then back home one week from tonight on Saturday, February 16th to host the Victoria Royals. Game time is 7:00 p.m. at Scotiabank Saddledome.