Well, that’s one way to introduce new fans to the game.
On Multicultural Night at the ‘Dome, rookie Tristen Nielsen buried the game-winner in the eighth round of the shootout to lift the Calgary Hitmen to a thrilling 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the visiting Swift Current Broncos.
“I was happy as heck,” said the 16-year-old Nielsen, who made 6,272 Hitmen fans erupt with a backhand deke. “I saw it hit the back of the net, and from there my emotions took over.
“I have used that move a lot in practice, but I usually get it up higher and for some reason it decided to trickle in this time. I was just happy to see it go in.”
Nielsen’s game-winning tally ended the second longest shootout in Hitmen franchise history. Brendan Rowinski scored in the ninth round of a shootout in a 4-3 win against none other than Swift Current during the 2007-08 season.
Jake Kryski also scored in the shootout for Calgary while WHL goal scoring leader Tyler Steenbergen was the lone Bronco to make good.
Netminder Kyle Dumba, who received his first start since Jan. 20, shook off the rust to turn aside seven of eight Broncos shootout attempts and 21 saves in all for his fourth win of the season.
“I was relieved,” said Dumba, on watching Nielsen light the lamp from the opposite end. “I have been hurting to get in the net, because I just want to help the team as much as I can. It’s a good feeling to finally get in there and help steal one with the boys.”
Matteo Gennaro and Brady Reagan scored in regulation for the Hitmen, who snapped a three-game losing skid and, even more importantly, remained three points back of the Saskatoon Blades for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Ryley Lindgren netted both goals for the Broncos, who saw their four-game winning streak come to a halt.
“This was a big one for sure,” said Gennaro, who also had a helper on Reagan’s equalizer in the third period to bring his season totals to a team-leading 34 goals and 63 points.
“We’re just trying to focus on doing our part and winning games on our end. That’s all we can control, so that’s our main focus right now.”
Papirny kicked out 31 shots in a losing cause for the Broncos.
“Props to (Jordan) Papirny,” said his counterpart Dumba. “He took them to eight rounds as well. It’s nice to see a goalie battle every once in awhile. It keeps it fun and entertaining for everyone.”
Calgary went 1 for 4 on the power play while holding Swift Current scoreless on three opportunities.
“(Dumba) made a lot of big stops throughout the game and he was key on our penalty kills,” said Gennaro. “He was a big part of this win.”
The Hitmen conclude this gruelling four-in-five-day stretch by travelling north to face the stumbling Edmonton Oil Kings – losers of 16 straight outings – tomorrow afternoon at Rogers Place.
“This win sets us up nicely for tomorrow,” Dumba said. “A four-in-five makes it tough, so a win like this keeps the confidence going. We’ll have a good sleep in our beds and then off to Edmonton tomorrow morning to fight for another two points.”