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First Taste Of Victory

Candice Ward/Photo

The monkey is off their back.

The Hitmen picked up their first win of the 2018/19 season after a 6-5 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

It was a frantic finish to the game as the Hurricanes stormed back to pull within a goal with just one minute left to play, but the Hitmen were determined to get the win.

“We were really confident that tonight was going to be the night we were going to get that win,” Mark Kastelic said. “I think we managed our game a lot better but at the same time the last couple minutes of the third were a little scary.

“We stayed confident and it paid off getting the two points.”

Kastelic and Jake Kryski led the way with three points each, with Kastelic potting two goals and Kryski adding a single marker. Riley Fiddler-Schutlz scored his first career WHL goal, while Dakota Krebs and Kaden Elder also found the back of the net.

For rookie goaltender Jack McNaughton, it was his first career WHL win in his first career start, as he finished with 34 saves.

“It’s unreal to me,” McNaughton said. “As soon as the final buzzer went my head went down and I just thought ‘holy cow.’ I always wanted to do this, win on Saddledome ice.

“It was a bit frustrating at the end there and the nerves kicked in a little but the boys ended up grinding in out in front of me and I’m just so happy to get the win.”

For the Hurricanes, Logan Barlage scored a pair of goals, with Jake Elmer, Zachary Cox and Jadon Joseph chipping in with goals. Reece Klassen got the start but was chased after allowing two goals on seven shots as Carl Tetachuk ended with 26 saves after coming halfway through the first frame.

The Hitmen had a strong 40 minutes of action, thoroughly controlling the game and staying hard on the forecheck getting back to their brand of hockey to carry a 4-1 lead into the final 20 minutes.

The clubs would trade goals in the stanza before the Hurricanes would score three straight in the final seven minutes to set up the frantic ending.

“This win is a kick start for us to get going,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “It was a bit more dramatic than we wanted but we got the job done. We did a lot of good things and a lot of important guys stepped up for us when we needed them to.

“I’m proud of this group and proud to be the head coach of the Hitmen. We are all in this together.”

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