Photo by Steve Hiscock
SASKATOON – Coming into Calgary Hitmen training camp as an undrafted defenceman, all Jake Bean was looking to do was crack the team’s roster.
The 16-year-old Calgary product never imagined that in his rookie campaign, he’d not only have an explosive season offensively, but also etch his name in the franchise’s record book.
On Sunday, Bean tallied an assist on a Terrell Draude marker to break Matt Kinch’s Hitmen record for points by a rookie defenceman in a single season as his squad cruised to a 5-2 victory over the Saskatoon Blades at the SaskTel Centre.
“It’s a huge honour,” the humble Bean said of breaking Kinch’s 1996-1997 season record. “It was on my mind and I’m happy I broke it. We were on the fence in the game and we didn’t want to give them any life. That goal really shut them down and really gave us certainty for the win.”
Bean’s 33rd point of the season was but a small contribution to yet another offensively charged game played by the Hitmen, which was backed by a solid 21-save performance by goaltender Mack Shields to collect an eighth-straight win.
Taking on a Blades squad that’s well out of a playoff spot, Shields said the key to victory for the Hitmen on Sunday was not taking their opponent for granite.
“Anytime I can come into this rink against the team I grew up watching, it’s definitely special,” said Shields, a native of Saskatoon. “In the WHL you can never take any team lightly. Every team has something to lose, whether it’s playoff ground or fighting for spots next year.”
After the Blades struck first on the power play with a Brett Stovin marker, the Hitmen quickly snapped into attack mode as they pumped 37 shots on opposing keeper Nik Armundrud throughout the night.
As the Hitmen outshot the Blades by a wide 11-6 margin in the opening period, Chase Lang banged a rebound off Armundrud’s pads, which Kenton Helgesen buried to take a 1-1 stalemate into the second frame.
The Hitmen offensively-charged play continued to be too much for the budding Blades who iced a trio of 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old for Sunday’s action.
They captured their first lead shorthanded when defenceman Ben Thomas found Adam Tambellini in the neutral zone and the over-age New York Rangers prospect came racing in on Armundrud from the blueline to deposit his 38th of the campaign.
Tambellini’s mid-period marker was quickly followed by a Micheal Zipp tally from the top of the circle to carry 3-1 lead into the third.
Three minutes into the third period, the Blades struck again on the power play as winger Josh Uhrich put his team within one with a snipe from the hash marks before the Hitmen immediately handed the home side an opportunity to tie things up with a five-on-three chance.
Utilizing the open ice, Nick Zajac came storming down on Shields on a breakaway and the 19-year-old goalie threw up his glove to stone one of the Blades most potent forwards.
“Last game we played against them he scored against us on a breakaway,” Shields said of his save on Zajac. “I figured he was going to try the same move. I was lucky enough that I was able to make the save.”
Shields’ save swung the tilt’s momentum squarely in the Hitmen favour.
Midway through the third, Terrell Draude netted his eighth of the season with a feed from Bean to give the Hitmen a healthy 4-2 cushion.
“I gave it to him in the middle and he went through a fair amount of their guys,” Bean recalled of his history-making assist on Draude’s goal to make it 4-2. “It was a really good play by him and I am happy I could get it.”
Outshooting the Blades by a wide 14-8 margin in the third, Keegan Kanzig delivered the final nail in the coffin with his second of the campaign as the Hitmen cruised to victory, improving their record to 31-17-5.
After sweeping their two-game road swing in Saskatchewan, the Hitmen will have some well-earned rest and will be back in action on Wednesday when they take on the Prince George Cougars at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
QUICK HITS: Not dressed for the Hitmen on Sunday were Loch Morrison, Carsen Twarynski and Layne Bensmiller … The Hitmen power play is a combined 12-40 while throughout the team’s win streak while the penalty kill is has stopped 32 of 40 opposing man advantages … Over-age forward Adam Tambellini is trying to become the third Hitmen in as many seasons to hit the 40-goal plateau. During the 2012-2013 WHL campaign, Cody Sylvester scored 41 goals while last season, Jake Virtanen netted 45 … While Shields appeared between the pipes in his hometown on Sunday, the Hitmen tilt with the Blades was also a homecoming for forward Elliott Peterson. Peterson has tallied 11 goals and 21 assists for the Hitmen so far this season as he serves as the team’s assistant captain.