There was no denying them this one.
The Hitmen extended their win streak to three games with a 5-3 victory over the Red Rebels Friday night, picking up their first win against their rivals this season.
And, without question the fourth line was the biggest reason for the win.
“They were unbelievable tonight,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “They were impactful every shift and they went out there and negated the lines they were matched up against on top of the offence they created for us.
“You couldn’t ask for any more from them, that’s how outstanding they were tonight.”
Cael Zimmerman scored a pair of goals and had an assist to lead the Hitmen with a three-point night, while Bryce Bader, Luke Coleman and Kaden Elder also found the back of the net. Jack McNaughton was solid all night, ending with 20 saves and helped preserve the win making key saves when needed.
The Rebels meanwhile saw goals from Brett Davis, Dawson Barteaux and Reese Johnson in the loss with Ethan Anders making 23 saves.
It was the perfect way to start the weekend.
“The fourth line should be an energy line and I think we did a great job of that tonight,” Bader said. “We hadn’t beat them all season so it feels really good to win this one.
“It feels like after Christmas we all came in with a different mentality after getting back to .500 after the start of the season we had. We want to make the playoffs and know that we need to keep working hard every night.”
With a 2-1 lead headed into the final 20 minutes, the Hitmen put their foot on the gas and didn’t look back jumping out to a 4-2 lead with just over ten minutes left to play. Red Deer was able to get one back with four minutes to play but then Zimmerman played the role of hero as he roofed a back hand shot into the top corner to ensure the win.
The three-point night is a career high for number eleven and one he won’t forget anytime soon.
“I have more of a defensive role on the team but it definitely feels good to help the team out on the scoreboard,” Zimmerman said. “It was a full team effort tonight and our cycle was what elevated us tonight. We worked hard at it all week during practice and we were able to translate it over to the game.
“We know it’s crunch time and we know that each game from here on out is huge.”
The Hitmen will have a quick turnaround as they are right back in action tomorrow afternoon to take on the Medicine Hat Tigers in another key divisional matchup.
“As a group we reclaimed our identity in the second period and showed that we deserved the two points tonight.” Hamilton said. “It’ll be a quick turnaround but the guys have always responded well and come out strong and we expect the same for tomorrow.”