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Hitmen Top Division Rivals

Candice Ward/Photo

It was a perfect weekend.

The Hitmen took care of business and defended home ice with a 4-1 win over the Kootenay ICE Sunday afternoon at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

And, the victory was extra sweet coming against a divisional opponent.

“There’s the long history between the clubs but end of the day it was an important game for us,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “The guys recognized where we are and were prepared to come out and get the job done.

“It’s important to build our momentum and we want to strive to stay consistent. There are a lot of positives to build off of.”

Kaden Elder, Riley Fiddler-Schultz, Tye Carriere and Hunter Campbell found the back of the net with Fiddler-Schultz leading the charge with a two-point performance. It was another day at the office for Jack McNaughton as he turned aside 20 shots to help pick up the win.

Kootenay saw their lone goal come courtesy of Austin Schellenberg with goaltender Curtis Meger ending with 24 saves.

Tensions were high as expected whenever the ICE come to town, but it was the kind of game that the Hitmen have thrived in before and this tilt was no different.

“It was a really intense game but one that is easy to get yourself into and make an impact,” Fiddler-Schultz said. “I like that kind of style of play with a lot of contact and a couple of scrums after the whistles. There’s never a dull moment in those types of games.

“It’s nice to win back-to-back games and get back to winning ways.”

In his 21st straight start, McNaughton continued to ooze with confidence making several key stops including a handful on odd-man rushes.

Simply put, he was in the zone.

“I just love being out there on the ice with the boys,” McNaughton said. “It makes things a lot easier and fun when you know your teammates and coaches have your back and confidence in you to go out there night after night.

“It’s been a blast especially on games like today.”

With the victory, the Hitmen remain in the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference but now sit just eight points back for the first wildcard spot and third in the Central Division.

It’s a tight race with the club right in the thick of things but know that the can only control their own fate.

“You can’t control what other people do and we need to just worry about ourselves,” Hamilton said. “There’s no sense to scoreboard watch and we have our guys invested in how we play to rack up the points.

“We’ve been a consistent team compared to those first 20-games of the season and have grown tremendously.”

With only two games played this past week, things will kick into high gear with a stretch of five games in seven days which started off this afternoon with a couple of key matchups against Brandon and Red Deer later in the week.

But first things first, all the focus is on Regina and Swift Current.

“We’re going to see some hard working teams on this trip that we can’t overlook,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been good on the road and been effective of reloading and resetting when it comes to short rest.

“It’s been our mantra over the year of taking it one game at a time.”

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