HITMEN HEADLINES: The Calgary Hitmen (31-12-1-3) will look to get back in the win column tonight as they hit the ice at the Enmax Centre, home of the Lethbridge Hurricanes (22-21-1-6). The Hitmen last saw action on Saturday, Jan. 19, in Medicine Hat for the second half of back-to-back games. After beating the Prince George Cougars the previous night, the Hitmen were unable to tame the Tigers as they fell 4-0. Calgary, who is 7-3-0-0 in their last 10, sits third in the Eastern Conference, five points behind the conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings and 15 points ahead of the ‘Canes.
VS. LETHBRIDGE: Tonight is the fifth of six meetings between the Hitmen and Hurricanes. Calgary holds a 3-1-0-0 advantage in the season series after splitting a home-and-home against Lethbridge in late December. Defenceman Jaynen Rissling (2g, 3a) is Calgary’s leading scorer in the series against Lethbridge with five points, while fellow defender Alex Roach (2g, 2a) has four points. Russell Maxwell (2a), Brady Ramsay (1g, 1a), Sam Mckechnie (1g, 1a) and Graham Hood (1g, 1a) all are tied for the Hurricanes’ scoring lead against the Hitmen with two points each. Over the last five seasons, Calgary is 18-8-2-0 against Lethbridge, including a 9-3-2-0 road record.
Nov.20/12 at LET: Hitmen 3 Hurricanes 2 … Chris Driedger made a season-high 42 saves in the Hitmen net.
Nov.21/12 at CAL: Hitmen 3 Hurricanes 2 … Jake Virtanen tallied the game-winning goal with 27 seconds remaining in regulation.
Dec.28/12 at CAL: Hurricanes 2 Hitmen 1 … Brooks Macek scored Calgary’s lone marker as the Hitmen outshot the ‘Canes 35-27.
Dec.29/12 at LET: Hitmen 4 Hurricanes 1 … Zane Jones, Jaynen Rissling and Brooks Macek had two-point efforts on the road.
INSIDE THE SERIES
Shots on Goal: CAL 145 LET 114
Power Plays: CAL 1-15 (6.7%) LET 2-25 (8.0%)
Next Meeting: Sat., Mar. 9 at Calgary, 7PM
HITMEN TEAM LEADERS:
Goals (23) Cody Sylvester, Brooks Macek
Assists (32) Brooks Macek, Brady Brassart
Points (55) Brooks Macek
Power Play Goals (9) Cody Sylvester
PIM (87) Kenton Helgesen
Plus-Minus (+34) Alex Roach
Wins (25) Chris Driedger
ROAD WARRIORS: The Hitmen are among the top teams in the WHL when playing away from the Scotiabank Saddledome this season. In 21 road contests, Calgary has recorded 33 points (16-4-0-1), sitting one point behind Portland for the league lead when on the road. One of the reasons for the club’s road success has been their goaltending, which has a 2.24 goals-against average in enemy territory. The Hitmen also have an 88.5% penalty kill away from the ‘Dome. Calgary is one of two teams that hold the WHL record for most road wins in a single season at 28 set in the 1999-00. Saskatoon recorded 28 road victories in 2008-09.
GETTING AHEAD: Calgary has netted the first goal of the game in 29 of their 47 games played. Of those matches, the Hitmen have claimed 23 wins and a 0.828 winning percentage to rank fourth (tie) and fifth in the WHL, respectively. Brooks Macek leads Calgary in first goals with five this season.
GETTING NOTICED: Forward Greg Chase and goaltender Mack Shields have both been recognized by NHL Central Scouting in the midterm rankings for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Chase is ranked 94th among North American skaters, while Shields is 28th among North American netminders. Chase is sixth in team scoring with 30 points (13g, 17a) over 45 games. In his first season in the WHL, Shields has appeared in 12 games and has a 6-3-0-1 record along with a 3.16 goals-against average and 0.891 save percentage. Shields recorded his first career WHL shutout on Dec. 15 versus Regina in a 2-0 victory.
GAME WINNERS: Forward Brady Brassart has scored 18 goals this season, including seven game-winning tallies. Brassart is tied for the league lead in game-winning markers with Tri-City’s Malte Strömwall. The Hitmen record for most game-winning goals in a season is held by Pavel Brendl, who netted 14 in 1999-00.
CLIMBING THE RANKS: Now in his fifth season with Calgary, Cody Sylvester is moving up the lists of all-time scorers in club history. Sylvester has played 291 games with the Hitmen and has 79 goals, 110 assists for 189 points. The Vernon, British Columbia product now ranks seventh all-time in games played, 13th in goals, 10th in assists and 12th in points.
FIRST OF MANY: A Hitmen rearguard from 2007-09, Paul Postma, now of the Winnipeg Jets, recorded his first NHL point on Monday. Postma assisted on Chris Thorburn’s first period tally in a 2-1 shootout loss against the Boston Bruins. In 136 games with the Hitmen, Postma managed 126 points, including 37 goals, over two seasons.
NHL PROSPECTS: Chris Driedger (Ottawa 2012); Kenton Helgesen (Anaheim 2012); Jaynen Rissling (Washington 2012); Alex Roach (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Los Angeles 2011); Victor Rask (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Carolina 2011).
UPCOMING GAMES: The Hitmen return to Calgary on Sunday, Jan. 27 as they tangle with the Brandon Wheat Kings for Cardel Minor Hockey Night. Game time is 4 p.m. at the ‘Dome. Minor hockey teams attending Sunday’s game have an opportunity to win great prizes including fundraising dollars and a chance to meet the Hitmen at a future Cardel Hang with the Hitmen event. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations and the Scotiabank Saddledome box office. Order online at www.ticketmaster.ca or by phone at 1-855-985-5000.
Sun., Jan. 27 vs. Brandon Wheat Kings, 4 p.m., SN960 The FAN
Tues., Jan. 29 at Medicine Hat Tigers, 7 p.m., SN960 The FAN