Faced with the task of a long road trip ahead, the Calgary Hitmen (32-13-1-3) start off against a well-known opponent in the form of the Medicine Hat Tigers (25-23-2-1) Tuesday night.
In less than three weeks, the Hitmen will travel almost 5,500 kilometers through Saskatchewan and then over to the United States with only a one-day break back home in Cowtown.
Just as the old saying goes, a long journey starts with a single step, and it starts against a Tigers team the Hitmen have had troubles with so far this year.
In three matchups so far this season, the Tigers have outscored Calgary 15-5 including a 10-1 near the beginning of the year. During their last matchup on Jan. 19th, Marek Langhamer turned away all 30 shots to earn the shutout in a 4-0 Tigers victory. The Tigers brought a balanced attack with goals from Elgin Pearce, Blake Penner, Chad Labelle and Jacob Doty.
Head coach Mike Williamson said his team did not play well that time, with his team’s best players not having great games.
That loss marked one of five blemishes so far for the Hitmen on the road, who are 16-5-0-1 this season, good enough for second in the entire WHL.
Another one of those losses came against the Swift Current Broncos, who the Hitmen will take on the following night.
The Hitmen are fighting to get back into first place in the Eastern Conference, current sitting third behind the Edmonton Oil Kings, while the Tigers are fighting to stay in the playoffs, only two points up on eighth place Saskatoon Blades.
Calgary is coming off a strong performance in their last matchup on Sunday. Mack Shields posted only his second career shutout, and five seperate players found the back of the net on way to a 5-0 victory.
“For the most part this year, our team has responded pretty well after losses,” said Williamson about the game. “We cleaned a few things up and jumped on a team that was a bit tired. The guys had a killer instinct from start to finish.”
Forward Calder Brooks made his season debut after shoulder surgery sidelined him for the entire season, while defenceman Alex Roach returned to the lineup after recovering for a scary throat injury.
Game time is 7 p.m. tonight at Medicine Hat. Fans can listen live at the Sportsnet 960 The Fan.