CALGARY, AB – Following a successful road trip that saw the Calgary Hitmen (30-11-1-3) play four games in five nights in a swing through Saskatchewan and Manitoba, head coach Mike Williamson decided his players needed a break from the rink.
It was a luxury only possible thanks to a five-day layoff between their last game in Swift Current and their next home game Friday night versus the Prince George Cougars (13-24-2-4).
“The guys were tired mentally and physically so we kept them away from the rink for a couple of days,” Williamson said. “As the week has rolled on, we’ve tried to ramp up the intensity. Hopefully, we are in a good spot.”
The Hitmen had been firing on all cylinders since the turn of 2013. Through the first seven games, the only blemish came at the end of their Saskatchewan road trip in Swift Current. They are currently sitting third in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Central Division leading Edmonton Oil Kings.
Captain Cody Sylvester said it was important to step away from the ice for a few days.
“When you play those four games in five nights, the body gets a little banged so it’s a nice little break,” said Sylvester, who had an eight game point streak snapped against the Broncos that saw him notch 15 points.
Now comes the important part for the Hitmen is to keep the momentum going with back-to-back games against Prince George and Medicine Hat this weekend.
“That’s one of those mental parts of the game where you need to keep your head in it. With a couple of days off, you can’t lose your focus,” said Brooks Macek, who is equally hot with goals in three straight games and seven overall in 2013.
Coming into the Saddledome Friday night will be the Cougars, who are sitting in ninth spot and fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In an earlier season matchup in Prince George, goaltender Chris Driedger picked up a shutout in a 5-0 victory. Zane Jones notched a pair of markers, while Brady Brassart added a goal and two assists.
“Last time we played Prince George, they didn’t play their best game,” Macek said. “We played a pretty good game and they are going to be looking for a bit of revenge. It’ll be a good game.”
Williamson added, “They always work hard. They are younger team but (head coach Dean Clark) has them working hard. We don’t seem them a lot but every time we have, they seem to play a full 60 minutes and play hard and that’s what we have to prepare for.”