The atmosphere was electric.
In front of over 14,000 Calgary and area students, the Hitmen fed off the energy of the crowd with a 9-3 victory over the Swift Current Broncos for the TELUS BE BRAVE Anti-Bullying Game.
The crowd gave some love and the Hitmen gave it right back with a convincing performance.
“It’s such a unique event and it was special to be a part of it,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “It was important that we were sharp and on point because we can’t afford to give points away.
“I thought the guys buckled down and were efficient from the second period onward. We needed to be on top of our game and we did a good job of that.”
Carson Focht scored four goals while Kaden Elder joined his linemate with a hat-trick of his own. Luke Coleman and James Malm added single markers and Jack McNaughton needed just 11 saves to pick up the win.
Swift Current saw markers come courtesy of Carter Chorney, Connor Horning and Matthew Culling, while Isaac Poulter ended with 23 saves.
With a 3-2 score headed into the second frame, the Hitmen offence exploded for four unanswered goals with three of them powered by the line of Focht, Elder and Josh Prokop, who had four assists.
The trio combined for 11 points, stepping up in a massive way to lead the Hitmen to their 32nd win on the season.
“It was definitely the loudest crowd we’ve played in,” Elder said. “They brought a lot of support and brought high energy that really helped create momentum for us. Everyone was rolling and the crowd deserves a lot of credit for that.
“This game is something I will never forget.”
While the outcome of the contest will provide two much needed points in a tight playoff race, the message shared and the overall theme of the game was much bigger.
And, the players took pride in being a part in such a special event.
“We’re seen as community leaders and we want to put forward the best message we can,” Focht said. “Raising awareness and something as simple as wearing pink shirts really helps the cause and it’s something that is important that we all play a role in helping.”
“It’s important that we help send positive messages out and I hope that the kids took a lot away from today,” Elder added. “It’s all about being yourself and not letting negative energy come against you.
“There will be struggles in life but if you believe in yourself you will go a long way.”
And, with another successful BE BRAVE Game, the outlook now shifts towards to Friday night which will see the Hitmen welcome the Brandon Wheat Kings in a key tilt.
With a five-point three-point cushion over Medicine Hat, each game from here on out hold high value, as the Hitmen have just eight games left to go in the regular season.
“There isn’t a lot of wiggly room here and we need to set the bar as high as we can,” Hamilton said. “We have important games ahead of us but we need to prioritize each one individually like we have all year.
“They recognize how big of a game it is especially after that sour taste we were given the last time we played against them. We’ll be ready right when the puck drops.”