Hitmen Find Late Magic To Extend Win Streak

Candice Ward/Photo

All it takes is capitalizing on your chances.

And the Hitmen did just that.

It was a tight defensive battle between the Hitmen and Winnipeg ICE Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome, which saw the home side come out on top with a late goal and hold on for a 3-2 win.

Make it four straight wins and counting.

“There were few ingredients in there that elevated us,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “We weren’t generating a ton tonight offensively but I thought we held the fort defensively, had solid goaltending and good on the penalty kill.

“We were opportunistic and that’s what you need to be some nights. We found one more than they did.”

Mark Kastelic had a goal and an assist, scoring the winner with 44 seconds left to play, while Dakota Krebs and Conrad Mitchell added single markers. In goal, Brayden Peters turned in another solid performance making 24 saves to record his 11th win of the year.

Winnipeg saw goals from Benjamin Zloty and Michal Teply, and goaltender Liam Hughes ended with 16 saves.

This one had all the makings of a playoff matchup.

“It’s always fun playing in those games,” Peters said. “It’s a big opportunity and it’s great to see the coaching staff and teammates have faith in me in these situations. The guys played great in front of me making life easier blocking shots and keeping the lanes open for me to see.

“It’s great playing in front of our fans and having that atmosphere again because we have the best fans in the ‘Dub. It’s always a treat and there’s no better place to play than here.”

The Hitmen jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a minute left in the opening stanza as Krebs scored off of a one-timer in the high slot, scoring for the second consecutive game. Three minutes into the middle frame, the Hitmen added to their lead as Mitchell crashed the net and found a loose puck in the crease to pop home his first goal with the club.

But then the ICE stormed back with two goals ten minutes a part before the period ended, changing the complexion of the game and setting up an interesting final 20 minutes.

Neither team wanted to make a mistake, playing it safe for most of the period but just as time was winding down, Riley Stotts forced a turnover behind the Winnipeg net and centered a pass to Kastelic who made no mistake in finishing the play off.

“I really don’t know what happened up to that point but Stottsy (Riley Stotts) made a great play getting it to me and it all worked out great,” Kastelic said. “They are a good team and don’t give anything easy in their own zone.

“It’s all about the attention in detail going up against them and if you look at the standings there is potential there for a playoff matchup. Playing against good teams like them helps grow our game.”

With four straight wins, the Hitmen will look to continue to roll and go for a season-high five-game win streak Friday night when the Brandon Wheat Kings come to town.

Another tilt that could have similar playoff intensity.

“Every time we face them it’s always a close a game so it’s going to be a good battle and good test for us to use to get better,” Kastelic said. “With 22 to games left it’s going to be important to make a strong push and round out our game getting closer to playoffs.

“The guys are looking forward to it and it’ll be a fun game to play in.”

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