For the only home pre-season game, fans weren’t left disappointed.
The Hitmen defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings 3-2 Friday night at Winsport Arena to pick up their first win of the pre-season, improving their record to 1-2, while the Oil Kings dropped to 0-3.
Tristen Nielsen scored twice, including the game winning goal with over three minutes left in the third, and Andrei Grishakov found the back of the net for the Hitmen, while Connor Dochuk was solid in net making 27 saves for the win.
“At the end of the day we won the game,” head coach Dallas Ferguson said. “They’ll always be things we look back at and say we should’ve done differently.
“The first two periods we were more organized than last weekend and I thought the tempo of the game was great.”
The Hitmen found themselves up 2-0 headed into the final frame, but the Oil Kings were able to battle back to tie the game up thanks to goals from Brett Kemp and Wyatt McLeod, before Nielsen put the game to rest with a wrister glove side to ensure a win for the hometown boys.
Ferguson views the third period as a learning experience for the players, going through the process of playing with a two-goal lead and then tied late in the final frame, and just what it takes to come away with the win in that situation.
“In the third period going into it with the lead you’re either thinking the next one is going to make it 3-0 or 2-1 and you should be thinking about how the other team will be preparing for that,” Ferguson said. “The lesson was there, we got good pushback when in a situation like that.”
The outlook now shifts to Sunday, when the team travels to Edmonton for a rematch at 4 p.m. in a game that will be the fourth game of their pre-season schedule.
With just two games left until the puck officially drops for the 2017/18 WHL regular season, the time is now for players to make their case for being on the roster for the Sept 22 game against the Kootenay Ice, and Ferguson along with the rest of management will be keeping a close eye to evaluate and determine which players earn a spot.
“We want to see how they’re progressing within the small time frame so we can try and forecast what it’ll look like moving forward and the overall performances,” Ferguson said. “There’s a lot of moving pieces and guys will get the opportunity.
“Tonight it was all about seeing a better performance than we had last weekend.”