HITMEN HEADLINES: The Calgary Hitmen (31-11-1-3) return to action tonight for their second game in as many nights as they take on the Medicine Hat Tigers (21-22-2-1). Last night at home, Calgary knocked off the Prince George Cougars as five different players recorded goals in a 5-3 decision. Jake Virtanen (2a), Zane Jones (1g, 1a), Victor Rask (1g, 1a) each had two points against Prince George while Chris Driedger made 19 saves, setting a career-high with 25 wins. Calgary now leads the Eastern Conference standings with 66 points. Trailing the Hitmen are the Edmonton Oil Kings with 65 points and the East Division-leading Prince Albert Raiders with 58 points.
VS. MEDICINE HAT: Tonight is the third of six meetings between the Hitmen and Tigers. The last time these two clubs met, Calgary recorded a 4-1 victory to even the season series. Cody Sylvester (3g, 1a) leads the Hitmen in scoring against the Tigers with four points, followed by Victor Rask (1g, 1a) with two points. Curtis Valk (4g, 1a) and Hunter Shinkaruk (1g, 4a) lead Medicine Hat in scoring against the Hitmen with five points each. Over the last five seasons, the Hitmen are 15-10-0-1 against the Tigers.
Oct.26/12 at Cal:Tigers 10 Hitmen 1 … Curtis Valk (4g, 1a) and Hunter Shinkaruk (1g, 4a) each with five points for the Tigers
Nov.23/12 at Cal:Hitmen 4 Tigers 1 … Cody Sylvester (2g, 1a) recorded three points, while Chris Driedger stopped 24 shots.
INSIDE THE SERIES
Shots on Goal: Cal 53 M.H 58
Power Plays: Cal 2-12 (16.7%) M.H 5-15 (30.0%)
Next Meeting: Tues., Jan. 29 at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.
HITMEN TEAM LEADERS:
Goals (23) Cody Sylvester, Brooks Macek
Power Play Goals (9) Cody Sylvester
PIM (87) Kenton Helgesen
Assists (32) Brooks Macek, Brady Brassart
Plus-Minus (+34) Alex Roach
Points (55) Brooks Macek
Wins (25) Chris Driedger
BACK-TO-BACKS: The Hitmen are 11-2-1-1 when playing back-to-back games (excludes contests involved in three games in three nights). The previous back-to-back set for Calgary came last week when they played games in Regina and Swift Current on Jan. 11-12. The Hitmen notched a 6-1 victory in the first game before the Broncos handed Calgary a 4-3 setback last Saturday.
TRADE WINDS: Prior to the WHL trade deadline, Calgary acquired 19-year-old left wing Colten Mayor from the Regina Pats in exchange for 18-year-old right wing Carson Samoridny and a fourth round pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. In his Hitmen debut last Friday, Mayor recorded an assist against his former club. Last Monday, the Hitmen also acquired 19-year-old defenceman Jesse Zgraggen from the Victoria Royals in exchange for a fourth round pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. In five games with Calgary, Zgraggen has five points (2g, 3a) and a plus-7 rating.
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 44 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 a .891 save percentage. Shields recorded his first career WHL shutout on Dec. 15 versus Regina.
PLAT AT BOTH ENDS: Calgary has scored an Eastern Conference-leading 167 goals, an average of 3.7 per game. Eight different Hitmen have scored at least 10 goals this season while both Cody Sylvester (23) and Brooks Macek (23) have over 20. The Hitmen are fifth overall in scoring in the WHL, trailing Portland (203), Kelowna (200), Spokane (173) and Kamloops (168). At the opposite end of the rink, Calgary is fourth in the league in stopping the puck, with only 120 goals allowed. Only Portland (96), Edmonton (103) and Kelowna (115) can lay claim to better defensive numbers.
SHORTHANDED: With a shorthanded goal by Greg Chase last night, the Hitmen are now tied for the second-most shorthanded tallies in the WHL with eight. Captain Cody Sylvester leads all Calgary skaters with three goals on the penalty kill, which has him tied for second in the league.
STREAKIN’: Victor Rask (3g, 7a) is on a six-game point streak dating back to Dec. 4. Rookies Jake Virtanen (3g, 3a) and Chase Lang (1g, 3a) have points in three straight contests. Zane Jones (2g, 2a) has had multi-point efforts in back-to-back games.
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 will be back on the ice next weekend when they visit Lethbridge for a meeting with the Hurricanes on Friday, Jan. 25. Calgary returns to the ‘Dome on Sunday, Jan. 27 as they tangle with the Brandon Wheat Kings, with a 4 p.m. puck drop. 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.