The Comeback Kids
Adversity brings the best out of you.
Back in November with their backs against the wall with a 5-12-2 record and a season-high seven game road trip on the horizon, the Hitmen knew something had to give.
They were counted out, but they never stopped believing in themselves.
“We knew we had a good team and knew we had to grind our way back,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “That trip is when we finally said enough is enough, we were tired of having a good effort but not getting the results we needed.
“The guys have clawed their way back and give them credit, they have fought like crazy and I’m proud of them.”
Facing off against an always tough U.S. Division, the Hitmen looked right at home with a 4-1-0-1 mark against the American opponents before dropping the final game of the trip in Red Deer but still came out with nine out of a possible 14 points.
Looking back it appears it was season-defining moment, as they have since come alive.
Stringing together a season-high five game win streak to start December, the Hitmen headed into the Christmas break with a 5-1-1 mark and since coming back from the break, have gone 4-1.
It’s been an impressive turnaround.
“We’ve battled back and it shows what we are capable of,” Jake Kryski said. “We have so much depth and having four lines that can go out there and do damage is a game changer.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and we know that we can’t look back and change the start we had, but we’ve taken matters into our own hands and been rolling.”
With a 14-4-1-1 mark since Nov. 11, the Hitmen have been one of the hottest teams in the league and their play has them back in the playoff race and only eight points back of first in a tight Central Division.
It’s been a full-team effort to get where they are. The depth scoring, the defensive play, goaltending and the special teams, it’s all been there.
“Everyone has contributed and really have grown since the beginning of the year which is what you want to see,” Hamilton said. “I think our defensive game has taken the most strides, guys have become more diligent and aware of what is expected in our own end.
“It’s an area of the game that isn’t super sexy and nothing shows up in the stats about defensive play but everyone knows how valuable it is. Every successful team prides themselves on having an element of defensive prowess.”
With another road trip getting started Wednesday night in Moose Jaw, the Hitmen will look to replicate their past road success.
After all, it was on the road when everything started to click.
“It’s nice that we were able to get the job done at home and now we need to take care of business out on the road,” Jack McNaughton said. “It’s a good time for us to build our chemistry even more with all the time we have out on the bus.
“We’re hungry for more and want to continue to climb up the standings.”