The complexion of a game can change in a blink of an eye.
A lesson learned the hard way tonight.
The Hitmen fell 8-3 to the Edmonton Oil Kings Friday night at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on Tsuut’ina Nation, to drop back to 9-8-2 on the season.
After Sean Tschigerl scored his team-leading 11th goal of the season to make it a 4-3 deficit early in the third, the Oil Kings would strike 21 seconds later to take a two-goal lead before adding three more to put the game out of reach.
“It was a great hockey game through the first 40 minutes,” head coach Steve Hamilton said. “We weren’t as committed as we needed to be in the third and it takes a 60-minute effort as cliché as that sounds.
“It only takes a couple minutes for them to strike and that’s the difference between a one-goal game and a five-goal game.”
Adam Kydd and Riley Stotts provided the other Hitmen markers that came in the first frame, with Tschigerl’s tally extending his career-high point scoring streak to 10 games.
Josh Williams netted a hat-trick and added an assist while Carter Souch notched a goal and three assists for the Central Division leading Oil Kings who improve to 18-1-0-1. Matthew Robertson, Ethan Cap, Jalen Luypen and Caleb Reimer also scored for Edmonton who held leads of 3-2 and 4-2.
The first 40 minutes were tightly contested and an effort that the Hitmen were proud of after having a lackluster night in their eyes Thursday in Red Deer.
“We need to be more ready in between periods,” Josh Prokop said. “The first period was good and we were working hard but we need to carry that over for the full 60 minutes, that’s the key to success.”
“It was a trickle down effect and we didn’t work hard enough for our goalie or ourselves.”
And now, it’s down to two.
The Hitmen will welcome the Red Deer Rebels for a Sunday afternoon home game before wrapping up the WHL season Tuesday night on the road.
It’s all come down to this, one last set to put a bow on a unique season.
“I want to see us continue to compete and understand how valuable your minutes are in the WHL,” Hamilton said. “It’s not an easy league to score and prevent teams to score and it’s hard to play in. With these last games I want to see us reward our 20-year-olds with some success and finish strong.
“It’s important as a whole to build our culture and build it on positive efforts for the years to come.”