Although the Calgary Hitmen did not manage to record the win on Sunday evening as they fell 2-1 to the Medicine Hat Tigers, it was still a beary good game.
With an impressive 25,303 stuffed animals collected during the 17th Annual Petro Canada Teddy Bear Toss, the support demonstrated by Hitmen fans and sponsors proved, once again, to be extraordinary.
As for the much-anticipated Teddy Bear Toss goal, Calder Brooks would take that honour.
“Some of the guys were joking around that I was going to get it actually and it happened that I did so it was nice! I actually had my money on sly, he’s got it the last couple years but it was a pretty special moment when I did get it,” said Brooks.
Unfortunately the Hitmen came up short on the score sheet, largely in part to Tigers’ netminder, Tyler Bunz who turned away 37 Hitmen shots.
“In past games here we have stuck around the net and scored 5-6 goals so I think we kind of got away from that tonight, so we will just do some video and get back to working hard and getting the little things right,” said Williamson.
The Tigers would get on the board first as they took advantage of a mishap in the Hitmen zone. A turnover to Tigers’ Emerson Etem proved damaging as he circled behind the net to find a wide-open Curtis Valk in the slot who fired it past Chris Driedger.
Playing in front of a crowd of over 16,000 fans, nervous energy was on display early for the Hitmen. Following a couple penalty kills, Calgary managed to turn nerves into intensity as the Hitmen outshot the Tigers 9-3 in the first period.
“I felt we were a little bit frozen at the start of the game, it took us a while to get going. We generated a lot of shots and chances, I don’t think we were hungry enough around the net and that’s what ended up making a big difference in the game,” said Head Coach, Mike Williamson.
Just when it looked like the Tigers would add to their lead at the beginning of the second, Driedger came up big in net. The Hitmen backstop cemented his pad to the ice early in the second frame to foil Tigers’ Emerson Etem’s attempted deke on the breakaway.
Anticipation for the Teddy Bear Toss built up in the second period and was finally unleashed over 18 minutes in, thanks to Calder Brooks. Coming off four minutes of unsuccessful powerplays, Brooks barreled down the right side of the boards, cut across the net through Tigers defenceman Dylan Busenius and snuck it around Bunz.
However, the Teddy Bear goal would be the only Bunz would surrender as he demonstrated why he is one of four goalies invited to Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp.
“He is a good goalie and if you are not getting in front of his eyes and paying the price to get those second and third chance rebounds and make it tough on him, then he could have a night like he did tonight,” added Williamson.
The pair of Etem and Valk would team up once again in the third to put away the game for the Tigers. Following a Hitmen powerplay, the Tigers quickly swung the momentum as Etem picked up the puck along the boards and backhanded it to Valk who speedily maneuvered around Driedger to pot the game winner.