Hitmen Offensive Woes Continue

Candice Ward/Photo

The search for answers continues.

The Hitmen dropped their sixth straight game to open the 2018/19 WHL regular season after a 4-0 loss to the Prince Albert Raiders Monday afternoon at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

After a strong showing in the first 20 minutes, the contest got away from in the second period that ended up being costly.

“There’s not a lot of room for error,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “They capitalized on our mistakes in the defensive zone and when you don’t score a lot and give up leads it’s a bad combination.

“We need more. We need more from the guys who are supposed to be driving us offensively and they have to be contributors’ night in and night out in all facets of the game.”

Parker Kelly led the Raiders offence with a pair of goals, while Aiaksei Protas and Brett Leason added single markers. Ian Scott finished with 23 saves to earn the shutout.

For the Hitmen, Carl Stankowski made 15 saves before being replaced by rookie Jack McNaughton in the second period. McNaughton stopped all 12 shots in his first taste of WHL action including a pair of stops on breakaways.

“McNaughton played awesome. That was my biggest take away from today,” Hamilton said. “He did a great job in his first action in the WHL.

“He rose to the action and brought some good energy that got the guys going at the end. It’s always tough coming in cold off the bench but he handled it very well.”

Special teams continued to be an area of struggle, as the Hitmen powerplay failed to capitalize on four chances. Although they did kill off all four penalties, the amount of time on the penalty kill continued to stall the rotation of lines.

It was an uphill climb trying to claw back from a 4-0 deficit after 40 minutes, which saw the Hitmen only fire 13 shots on goal. The contest marked the second straight game that they failed to muster a single goal.

“We’re fragile right now offensively,” Hamilton said. “We aren’t creating a lot and when that happens you squeeze the stick a little more tight and that can lead to a little bit of frustration.

“Our powerplay has been extremely flat and not very dynamic. We need to get both of our special teams rolling because they’ve both have played rolls in this stretch.”

The Hitmen will now have a few days to clean things up as they will welcome the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Regina Pats on the weekend starting Friday night when their Central Division rivals come to town.

It’s the last two home games on the six-game homestand before hitting the road for five tilts.

“There are 62 remaining games and that’s important to have that in mind but there are areas of our game we need to clean up so we can to turn it around,” Hamilton said. “It’s critical for us to have three good days of practice and shape our game plan.

“We want to turn the corner and I think getting back to practice is going to be the best thing for us right now.”

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