Penalty killing proved to be the downfall for the Calgary Hitmen as they fell 5-2 to the Kamloops Blazers on Sunday evening.
“We know they have a good power play, but we made a lot of mental errors on our kill, a lot of passes around our net that we needed to get sticks on,” said head coach, Mike Williamson. “We knew going in that they would look for those plays but we didn’t execute very well and obviously I have to prepare the guys better next time.”
With first place in the WHL up for grabs, a strong Kamloops powerplay unit made the difference as they netted all five of their goals over 10 man advantage opportunities.
“I thought there was a lot more in the tank for us. I think last year we were in this situation a lot, where it was three games in three days and we came out and pushed as a team,” explained assistant captain, Spencer Humphries. “Tonight we were a little dry out there, not much jump, and there isn’t much to say. A loss is a loss and we have to get back to the drawing board.”
A textbook tic-tac-toe marker opened scoring on a four-on-three Calgary powerplay in the first period. Crisp passing from Brooks Macek and Greg Chase ended up on the stick of Brady Brassart who smoothly backhanded it across the stripe. With a hand in the play, Macek managed to extend his WHL leading point streak to nine games.
Blazers’ Colin Smith would not be outdone, matching Macek’s feat only four minutes later by solidifying his own nine game streak and getting the visitor’s on the board.
Powerplay scoring erupted in the second frame as the teams initially exchanged goals on the man advantage.
“We knew coming in that they had a strong power play and we needed to be disciplined,” commented Greg Chase. “We just took too many bad penalties, myself included, and you can’t be taking those penalties especially when a team is going to score five goals on the power play.”
Kamloops would take over from there, as they added two more powerplay markers before the close of the second. The Blazers hit it into cruise control in the third, securing a final tally en route to the win.
Cody Sylvester scored his eighth of the year for Calgary, while four different Hitmen chipped in a helper in the loss.
Chris Driedger recorded 26 saves in the Hitmen net as Kamloops outshot Calgary 31-15.
Calgary, now 6-1-1-1, head out on a three-game B.C. road swing, starting Tuesday, October 16 in Prince George, followed by stops in Victoria and Vancouver. The Hitmen return to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday, October 26 when the Medicine Hat Tigers visit Calgary for the first time this season.