You couldn’t have drawn up a better ending.
In their last game of 2018, the Hitmen defended home ice to defeat the Vancouver Giants 4-0 Sunday afternoon with a big bounce back performance from Friday night.
The victory may have been extra sweet for former Giant, James Malm.
“We needed a bounce back performance and we got just that today,” he said. “I got a few questions before the game if I was going to score, I said I wouldn’t but that I would get a couple assists and it came true. I was just happy to help get us the two points.
“It was a little weird playing against them at first but it was good to see them and I was really hyped up. I wanted this win bad.”
The 19-year-old forward put on a show with four assists, while Riley Stotts scored a pair of goals as the duo continued to flex their offensive muscles. Mark Kastelic and Jake Kryski also chipped in with markers and Jack McNaughton was superb ending with 25 saves for his second career shutout.
All in all, it was a complete 60 minute effort and they were able to shut down the top team in the B.C. Division.
“We wanted to prioritize the defensive zone and Jack was a huge part of that as well,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “Collectively the message was to get back to our game and get rolling again. Our mindset was in the right place and our start was great.
“That’s a very good Vancouver Giants team. They aren’t where they are in the standings by accident so we knew it would be a test. I think it was good for us to go up against a team of that quality and we had to be all in to be successful and the guys did a great job.”
With Sunday being the second game back from the holiday break, the Hitmen were dialed in from the start and came out with an unmatched drive.
From the play 5-on-5 to the work of the special teams with two powerplay goals and killing off four Giants man-advantages, it was the performance they needed headed into the next stretch of games.
“It was huge to get this win under our belts and set the tone for the new year,” McNaughton said. “We want to keep the pace up and come out strong for our next time out.
“We’ve done this all year where we can bounce back and it feels nice having the game that we did.”
With now being back tied for a wildcard spot, the Hitmen will look forward to a matchup against the Victoria Royals Tuesday afternoon in the second game of a four-game homestand.
“We aren’t in a position where we can take many steps back,” Hamilton said. “We want to grow our confidence and look to build some momentum.
“It was a business-like approach today and we’re going to need that going forward.”