Special teams proved to be the difference.
The Hitmen opened up the 2018/19 WHL regular season with a 5-3 loss to the Kootenay ICE Saturday night in Cranbrook.
Kootenay finished 2/6 on the powerplay but the two markers were at key times that decided the contest. The Hitmen meanwhile finished 1/5 with the man-advantage.
Jake Kryski led the charge offensively for the Hitmen with two goals while Luke Coleman added a single marker. Jackson van Leest chipped in with a pair of assists and goaltender Carl Stankwoski finished the night with 29 saves.
For the ICE, Connor McClennon had a pair of goals, with Brett Davis, Peyton Krebs and Cole Muir rounding out the scoring. Goaltender Duncan McGovern turned aside 34 shots.
Kryski would open up the scoring at 11:07 of the first period on the powerplay, as he took a van de Leest feed into the high slot and fired it in the top corner to give the Hitmen the lead.
Kootenay would respond on a powerplay of their own as Davis was able to take advantage of a screened Stankowski five minutes after Kryski’s snipe. Just 50 seconds later, McClennon would give the home side the lead headed into the middle frame by getting free in front of the net and redirecting a Davis Murray pass into the back of the cage.
The second period saw the action sky rocket as the clubs traded goals back and forth, starting with Krebs beating Stankowski in the top corner just 1:39 into the stanza to give the home side a two-goal lead. McClennon would then score his second of the night on the powerplay, using a screened Stankwoski to his advantage just four minutes later.
Just when things seemed to be getting away from the Hitmen when the ICE were giving another man advantage, Coleman chipped the puck past Krebs at the blueline and raced down, fighting off an ICE defender to beat McGovern on the partial breakaway.
Kryski would then cut the deficit down three minutes later, again beating McGovern with a wrister into the top corner. Muir would restore the two goal lead headed into the final frame two minutes after on a tic-tac-toe play as he was left alone in front for the tap in.
The Hitmen will look to regroup as they have almost a full week off until their next clash against the Red Deer Rebels Friday night. The contest will mark the first game of a three-in-three weekend for the Hitmen, returning to the Scotiabank Saddledome for the home opener Saturday against the Edmonton Oil Kings.