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Hitmen Rise Up Over Wheat Kings

Candice Ward/Photo

There’s no quit in the comeback kids.

The Hitmen found their hard work rewarded with a big 3-2 overtime win over the Brandon Wheat Kings Friday night to extend the win streak to three games.

With two points on the line they rose to the occasion in entertaining fashion.

“It’s nerve wracking to play overtime but when you win you love it and we love it tonight,” head coach Steve Hamilton. “There wasn’t an element of doubt and we knew that we would find a way to get the job done. We showed how resilient we can be.

“To start an important weekend the way we did is huge for our group.”

James Malm and Mark Kastelic scored in regulation while Riley Stotts scored the overtime winner just over two minutes into the extra session for the 33rd win of the season for the Hitmen. Jack McNaughton ended with 19 saves, including a game-saving stop in overtime to set up the winner at the other end.

Brandon saw markers come courtesy of Connor Gutenberg and Caiden Daley with Jiri Patera being the busier goaltender making 39 saves in the loss.

After Malm opened the scoring in the second frame when he took advantage of a bounce off the end boards and onto his stick, the Wheat Kings would quickly strike twice to take a two-goal lead into the third period.

Down by a goal, no problem. Just call on the captain, and he delivered.

“We gained a lot of momentum and took advantage on the power play when we needed it most,” Kastelic said. “Even earlier on throughout the game it seemed like we kept building up momentum  and that’s something that’ll be key for us going forward.

“It was fun to be back after missing the last two games and just being here with the boys is a great feeling.”

Sixty minutes solved nothing and it was only fitting that two clubs desperately wanting the two points had to decide it in overtime. With a two-on-one, Luke Coleman was stopped on the initial shot but Stotts was there to find the loose puck and send the home crowd home happy.

“Throughout the whole game we stayed steady because we know what we are capable of,” Stotts said. “Last game against them it didn’t turn out the way we wanted but it was a huge bounce back game with huge points in the end for us.

“We know we need to take it one game at a time and just stay confident in ourselves.”

The Hitmen will now hit the road for a home-and-home set against the Kootenay ICE starting Saturday in Cranbrook, looking to get closer to clinching a playoff spot.

Starting the weekend off with a win is huge, but that’s only step one.

“It’s a rival team and there are lots of factors but we need to prioritize on our game,” Hamilton said. “It’s almost irrelevant who you play this time of year because it’ll be competitive whether they are in a playoff spot or not.

“It’s a highly competitive league.”

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