Early Season Struggles Continue For Hitmen

Candice Ward/Photo

The drought continues.

The Hitmen continue to look for their first win of the season after a 3-0 loss to the Saskatoon Blades Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Despite outshooting the Blades 42-30 in the contest, the quality of scoring chances and high percentage shots were limited all night.

“You are seeing a theme with our play,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “It’s a slow start and a strong third but we can’t continue that. I’d expect our guys to recognize that, I’d expect our leadership group to recognize that.

“There are good pieces here but right now the puzzle isn’t looking so good. It’s a struggle but you have a choice, you either persevere through it or you let it defeat you. I believe our guys will answer the bell.”

Logan Christensen and Michael Farren each had a goal and an assist to lead the Blades to the win, while Kirby Dach chipped in with a goal. Goaltender Dorrin Luding earned his second career WHL shutout, with both coincidentally coming against the Hitmen.

Carl Stankowski put on a solid outing, stopping 27 shots in the contest.

“We gifted them some easy opportunities three times and they didn’t,” Hamilton said. “That was really the difference in the game.

“We had a lot of shots, but we weren’t as willing to get where we needed to be to create high quality chances.”

The early starts to the game continued to haunt the Hitmen, as they were forced to play catch up in an attempt to get back into the contest, but were left frustrated by the Blades defensive game plan.

Penalties also continued to be the story as the Hitmen took six minor penalties, slowing the game down and putting a halt into the rotation of all four lines, despite killing all six.

“It’s tough,” Mark Kastelic said. “The game got away from us at times and we never really recovered from that.”

“You need to look yourself in the mirror and see what you can do to better to help the team win. I’ve been in the league long enough to know the best players stay composed and if we stay composed together we can get out of this rut.”

The Hitmen will now look to rebound with a clash against the Prince Albert Raiders Monday afternoon at the ‘Dome in a 2 p.m. start.

With just three games left on the six-game homestand, they’ll look to finish it off strong as they get set for a road trip in the middle of the month.

“It doesn’t get any easier on Monday, we have a big strong team coming in but we have a choice on how are we going to respond,” Hamilton said. “Our best guys need to be our best guys plain and simple and lead the way.”

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