Their playoff ticket was punched.
The year-end hardware was handed out.
All that was left for the Hitmen to do was finish the regular season off on a high note in front of the 11,410 fans in attendance at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Although the win was meaningless, the Hitmen capped off their regular season with a 4-1 victory over the Kootenay ICE.
“We owe it to the fans and to each other, the coaches, management, to end the season off the right way,” said recently crowned Player of the Year for the Hitmen, Matteo Gennaro. “Yeah we clinched a playoff spot but at the end of the day, you want to get some momentum for playoffs.”
Jake Bean, Andrei Grishakov, Matt Dorsey and Brady Reagan all scored for the Hitmen with Mark Kastelic and Gennaro recording two assists each.
Kyle Dumba stopped 16 shots and made timely saves for the win.
Vince Loschiavo scored the lone goal for the ICE while Payton Lee turned away 30 shots.
With the playoff matchups already locked, Saturday’s game meant nothing in the standings.
Through a scoreless opening frame, the Hitmen outshot the ICE 11-2.
Bean opened the scoring at 3:57 in the 2nd period from Gennaro.
Loschiavo answered with his 29th goal of the year at 12:11 to tie the game at one apiece.
The game was as exciting as it was meaningful up until the middle of the third period when the Hitmen found their game again.
Grishakov scored his 11th from Gennaro and Jameson Murray at 11:45 in the final frame to retake the Hitmen’s lead.
Dorsey added to the lead after netting his third of the season at 14:20 from Kastelic and Coleman.
Although he only faced seven shots in the closing stanza, Dumba made some huge saves to keep the Hitmen in the game.
Reagan added insult to injury with an empty net goal with twenty-six seconds left in the game for a final score of 4-1.
The Hitmen now prepare for the post season against the CHL top-ranked Regina Pats.
When facing the WHL’s number one team, confidence is key.
“I think confidence is an important thing and we were up and down a lot all year,” said coach Mark French. “We lost a lot of tight games and we were in a lot of battles. I think the guys here built some confidence off of some big wins and you can certainly see it in their play.”
“We’ve got to play a really good team and we’ve got to play and bring our A game but I think there’s some confidence that we’ve played them fairly tough and it’s all about that game one.”
“We’ve kind of discovered the way we have to play and we have an identity built and we’re finding success when we stick to it,” added Gennaro. “The plan going into playoffs is to execute that game plan and hopefully find success.”