It was too little too late.
Friday night saw the Hitmen fall 7-3 to the Edmonton Oil Kings for the first game back from the Christmas break.
Mark Kastelic scored a pair of goals for the 12th time this season while Carson Focht added a powerplay marker. Egor Zamula also had a solid night offensively as he chipped in with two assists and goaltender Jack McNaughton ended the contest with 31 saves.
The Oil Kings meanwhile saw goals from Vladimir Alistrov, Zach Russell, Andrei Pavlenko, Andrew Fyten, Wyatt McLeod, Aidan Lawson and Ethan Cap. Goaltender Dylan Myskiw continued to cause problems for the Hitmen this season, making 29 stops for his third win this season against them.
Despite holding the Oil Kings powerplay in check with a perfect 4/4 on the penalty kill and also finishing the contest 2/4 with the man-advantage, the Hitmen did surrender a shorthanded goal at a key moment that seemed to decide the game.
The first 20 minutes saw no goals scored despite both clubs seeing chances as the tilt appeared to have the makings of a tightly contested defensive battle.
The second period proved that wasn’t going to be the case.
Edmonton scored four unanswered goals, all under 10 minutes until the Hitmen were finally able to solve Myskiw when Focht unloaded a one-timer on a 5-on-3 opportunity to cut the deficit to three.
Five minutes later Edmonton would respond with a pair of goals 1:34 apart before Kastelic would score his first of the night off a slap shot in the high slot that saw the visitors trail 6-2 headed into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
The captain would strike again when he batted the puck out of mid-air to make things interesting, only down by a trio of goals with nine minutes left to play before the Oil Kings would add another late in the game.
The team-leading 25 goals is a new career high for Kastelic, as he has surpassed his previous total of 23 markers from a season ago.
Sunday night will see the Hitmen return to the Scotiabank Saddledome to kick off a four-game home stand when they welcome the Vancouver Giants for the lone meeting of the season. The tilt will see James Malm play against his former club for the first time since being acquired by the Hitmen.