HITMEN HEADLINES: The Calgary Hitmen (40-20-1-4) play game two of a three game road trip tonight in Saskatoon against the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup host Blades. Radio Broadcast on Sportsnet 960 The Fan starts at 6:00 p.m. MST. The Hitmen are coming off Sunday’s 5-2 loss in Medicine Hat. The Tigers built a 2-0 first period lead despite being outshot 21-9. Calgary finished with 41 shots while getting goals from Brady Brassart and Alex Roach. Calgary sits third in the WHL’s Eastern Conference with 85 points. Their magic number to clinch home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs is three. Any number of Hitmen wins combined with either Red Deer or Prince Albert losses totaling three will ensure the Hitmen open the post season at Scotiabank Saddledome.
VS. SASKATOON: Tonight is the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs. The Blades lead the season series 3-0 having outscored Calgary by a combined 13-2. Captain Brenden Walker tops Saskatoon in the season series with five points (3g 2a) while Andrey Makarov is 3-0 with a .65 GAA and a.982 save percentage. Calgary is 3-6 in their last nine trips to Credit Union Centre.
Nov. 30/12 at CAL: Blades 4 Hitmen 0; Matt Revel (2g1a) & Matej Stransky (3a) led the offence while Andrey Makarov made 25 saves.
Feb. 1/13 at SAS: Blades 6 Hitmen 0; Andrey Makarov made 42 saves. Brendan Walker and Nathan Burns both scored twice.
Feb. 27/13 at CAL: Blades 3 Hitmen 2 Shootout; Brett Stovin scored twice for the Blades while Andrey Makarov made 41 saves.
INSIDE THE SERIES
Shots on Goal: CAL 110 SASK 86 Power Plays: CAL 1-18 (5.5%) SASK 2-16 (12.5%)
DID YOU KNOW? The Hitmen have given up the first goal in each of their last four games….Calgary has been shorthanded a WHL leading 338 times. Conversely they’ve had the 12th most powerplay chances with 271.
SHORTHANDED THREAT: Brady Brassart scored shorthanded Tuesday in Medicine Hat. It’s was the 12th shorthanded goal the Hitmen have scored this season. Only Spokane (14) and Tri-City (13) has scored more.
ASSISTANT GM: The Hitmen have promoted Director of Business Operations Mike Moore to Assistant General Manager. While keeping his business role, Moore will now help General Manager Kelly Kisio on the hockey operations side. Moore is in his 16th season in the Western Hockey League and fifth season with the Calgary Hitmen. Prior to joining the Hitmen, he was the Director of Athletics at Edge School in Calgary. Moore spent seven years as a General Manager in the WHL with both the Kamloops Blazers and Medicine Hat Tigers, and was the Hitmen Assistant General Manager in 1997-98
SCORING WOES: Although the Hitmen enter tonight winless in four (0-3-0-1) it’s not from a lack of shots. In their last four games, including five failed attempts in a shootout, the Hitmen have only scored six goals on 154 shots. Opposition goalies Mackenzie Skapski (Ktn), Andrey Makarov (Sask), Eetu Laurikainen (SC) and Marek Langhamer (MH) posted a combined .961 save percentage. The run of hot goalies has also affected the Hitmen powerplay which has gone a combined 1-21 in that same stretch.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: This current trip which includes one more stop in Prince Albert tomorrow is Calgary’s last extended trip of the regular season. Once complete, the club will play four of their remaining five games on home ice with only a trip to Cranbrook in a season ending home-and-home series with the Kootenay Ice.
40 WINS: On February 22, the Hitmen recorded their 40th win of the season, marking the ninth time in franchise history the club has tallied at least 40 wins during the regular season. The club record for most regular season wins is 59, set in 2008-09 when the Hitmen finished the campaign 59-9-3-1.
SCORING RACE: Brooks Macek (73pts) and Cody Sylvester (72pts) 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
CLIMBING THE RANKS: In his fifth season in Calgary, Cody Sylvester is moving up the list of all-time scorers in club history. Sylvester has played 309 games with the Hitmen and has 89 goals and 122 assists for 211 points. The Vernon, BC product is now sixth all-time in games played, 10th in goals as well as 9th in assists. Sylvester only trails Ryan Getzlaf by four points for a share of eighth in all-time points.
MILESTONE WATCH: Brady Brassart is one assist shy of 100 career assists, while Swedish import Victor Rask needs one more helper to reach 50. Assistant captain Brooks Macek is one point away from hitting 200 career points.
WHL LEADERBOARD: Brady Brassart leads the league in game-winning goals at nine, followed by Justin Feser and Malte Stromwall of the Tri-City who both have eight game-winning tallies. The single season franchise record for most game-winning goals is held by Pavel Brendl, who scored 14 game-winning markers in 1999-00.
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: The Hitmen wrap up the road trip tomorrow in Prince Albert. Internet Broadcast on sportsnet.ca/960 starts at 6:00 p.m. MST. Calgary is then back in Scotiabank Saddledome this weekend for a pair of games hosting Lethbridge Saturday at 7pm and Red Deer on Sunday at 4pm.