Hitmen frozen by Ice
By Laurence Heinen
CALGARY, AB. – After two games against the Kootenay Ice this season, the Calgary Hitmen still have nothing to show for their efforts.
Back on Sept. 25 in Cranbrook, the Ice blanked the Hitmen 4-0 behind a 25-save performance by Kootenay goalie Nathan Lieuwen. On Wednesday, Lieuwen once again blanked the Hitmen, this time by stopping all 22 shots he faced during a 3-0 triumph.
“It’s fun playing against this team,” said the hulking 6-foot-5, 191-pound netminder after a first-star performance. “I’ve always enjoyed playing against these guys. My first game was against these guys. It’s been a good rivalry.”
Needless to say, the Hitmen (4-8-0-0) haven’t had much fun playing against Lieuwen and the Ice (10-3-0-1) so far this season.
“There’s a good defensive team,” said Hitmen coach Mike Williamson, who’s perplexed as to why his team sits last in the Western Hockey League with just 28 goals. “There’s enough talent in our lineup top to bottom to create offence. It shouldn’t be an issue for this hockey team … not as big an issue as it is.”
The Hitmen couldn’t get much going in the opening frame and only had one shot – by Hitmen co-captain Matt MacKenzie – while the Ice fired six at Calgary goalie Michael Snider.
With the Ice killing a penalty late in the opening frame, Max Reinhart intercepted a clearing attempt by Michael Snider and quickly fired a shot past the Hitmen goalie. Snider was trying to hit Cody Sylvester with a pass, but the Hitmen forward overskated it and the puck went right to Reinhart.
“It was a little bit of lack of communication between both of us,” admitted Snider, who nonetheless played well in the setback with 26 saves. “We’ve got to work on that. We both know it was our mistake.”
Jesse Ismond added an insurance goal on a Kootenay power play late in the third period before Matt Fraser scored into an empty net.
The Hitmen failed to score on their six chances with the man advantage, while the Ice finished 1-for-7 on the power play.
“We talked about staying out of the penalty box,” Williamson said. “The games we’ve had success this year, we’ve only had three, four, five penalties and not the six, seven, eight we’ve had lately. Discipline is something we wanted to address and lo and behold we ended up in the box most of the first period. That was tough.”
The Hitmen will attempt to end their four-game losing streak on Friday night when the Chilliwack Bruins (7-4) visit the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“Certainly there’s a proud group of players that expects to win and we’re not winning,” Williamson said. “We’ve got the group of players that can do it. We just have to stick together and push through.”
It won’t get any easier for the Hitmen on Sunday afternoon with the Saskatoon Blades (10-3) in town for an afternoon affair (2 p.m.) on Halloween.
“Our team’s got to come out stronger and we’ve got to put in a better effort,” Snider said. “We’ve got to be a harder working team than we have been the last couple games. We definitely have a good enough team in here to be up with the top teams in the league. We just need to start working together.”
Nathan Lieuwen, Ice
Cody Snider, Hitmen
Max Reinhart, Ice
ICE 3 at HITMEN 0
1. Kootenay, Reinhart 7 15:27 (sh)
Penalties – Beach Cal (tripping) 1:52, Sylvester Cal (tripping) 5:23, Rossignol Ktn (high-sticking) 8:17, Cheek Cal (hooking) 11:27, Dirk Ktn (hooking) 14:51.
Penalties – Cal bench (too many men, served by Trzonkowski) 4:40, Beach Cal (boarding) 7:34, Paulsen Ktn (checking from behind) 9:44, Dirk Ktn (hooking) 14:06, McNabb Ktn, Cheek Cal (roughing) 14:57, Royer Cal (roughing) 17:37, McNabb Ktn (high-sticking) 18:43.
2. Kootenay, Ismond 5 (Magnus, Martin) 15:08
3. Kootenay, Fraser 6 (King) 19:00 (en)
Penalties – Roach Cal (delay of game) 13:14, Fraser Ktn (goaltender interference) 16:51, Benoit Ktn, Beach Cal (fighting) 19:57.
Shots on goal by:
Kootenay 6 12 11 – 29
Calgary 1 15 6 – 22
Goal – Medicine Hat: Lieuwen (W, 8-1-0); Calgary: Snider (L, 3-4-0).
Power plays (goals-chances) – Ktn: 1-7; Cal: 0-6.
Referees – Devin Klein, Greg Sarauer. Linesmen – Reid Anderson, Scott Sharon.