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Hitmen Play Spoiler In Cranbrook

Candice Ward/Photo

It was one last sweet victory in Cranbrook.

The Hitmen opened up the home-and-home set with the Kootenay ICE with a 5-2 triumph to pick up their fourth straight win.

James Malm continued to roll scoring a hat-trick to extend his point streak to five games (8G, 4A) while Josh Prokop and Mark Kastelic chipped in with a goal apiece. Jack McNaughton was sensational ending with 24 saves to help the Hitmen continue their hot streak.

Kootenay’s markers came off the sticks of Marco Creta and Brad Ginnell while Curtis Meger made 26 saves.

It was a fast frenzy to start off the contest as the two clubs traded goals as Malm got things started off a wrist shot that went bar down eight minutes into the period. Kootenay would respond a minute later but Malm would once again put the visitors up on anther unstoppable wrister. Yet again, the ICE found the equalizer to send the tilt tied up after 20 minutes when they cashed in on a breakaway.

It seemed like the game was in store to be a high-scoring affair but the visitors from the Stampede City had other plans and thoroughly shut down their rivals.

While the defence buckled down in one end, the other saw the offence pick up where they left off as Malm would complete the hat-trick. This time, the snipe struck on the power play as he unloaded a shot from the right circle to send the visitors up headed into the third. The three markers  on the night for the 19-year-old is the first time he has reached the 30-goal plateau in his WHL career.

Holding onto a one-goal lead the Hitmen saved the best for last, outshooting the ICE 12-3 and were rewarded for their dominant play. With only six minutes left to play, the older Prokop brother was stopped on his initial shot but stuck with the play and tucked away the rebound for the insurance marker.

And just for good measure, Kastelic sealed the deal with a hard shot in the high slot for his team-leading 45th of the season and marked goals in back-to-back games for the captain, after missing the previous two tilts.

With the win, the Hitmen continue to hold onto third in the Central Division with a five-point lead over Medicine Hat while keeping pace with Lethbridge remaining six points back for second. Sunday will see the Hitmen return to the Scotiabank Saddledome to wrap up the weekend with the WHL Suits Up Game in the final meeting of the season against the ICE.

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