Jake Bean certainly brought his Midas touch to the ‘Dome tonight.
Blueline partner Travis Sanheim and forward Radel Fazleev weren’t too shabby either.
The sophomore defenceman Bean scored twice and added two assists, Sanheim had one goal and three assists, and Fazleev notched one goal and two helpers to lift the Calgary Hitmen to a convincing 4-1 home win over the Red Deer Rebels.
“Those guys are important for our offence,” Hitmen head coach Mark French said. “They have some chemistry. And when given time and space they can be pretty effective.”
With the win, the Hitmen take over sole possession of first place in not only the Central Division but in the entire Eastern Conference.
The scorching hot Hitmen have now won five of six games to start the 2015-16 Western Hockey League campaign, and will look to make it consecutive victories over their divisional foes when they make the short trip to Red Deer on Saturday night.
Even more impressive than Bean’s four-point performance is that it was not the young rearguard’s first time reaching that benchmark. The 6’1” 170-pound Calgary native supplied four assists in an 8-0 thumping of Vancouver last January.
“We have good chemistry and everything seems to be working for us right now,” said Bean, a projected high NHL draft pick in 2016. “(Travis Sanheim) and I communicate well. We talk a lot off the ice, which I think translates on to the ice.”
“We had a lot of chemistry last year, but I think we’re taking it to another level this season,” said Sanheim, whose four-point outing now gives the stalwart defenceman a team-leading 10 this season. “We’re using our skill, our hockey sense, and we’re really finding each other out on the ice right now. We seem to know when which one of us is going to jump up into the play and whose turn it’s going to be to hold back.”
Hitmen rookie goaltender Lasse Petersen received his second straight start after an impressive shutout performance in his WHL debut last Sunday in Regina. The rookie netminder turned aside 22 of 23 shots for the win, while Rebels goaltender Rylan Toth made 21 saves in his first setback in five starts this season.
The Hitmen went 3 for 6 on the power play and held the visiting Rebels scoreless on three opportunities.
“You’re always worried when you start getting some power plays early on that things are going to bounce the other way, but I thought we remained disciplined and kept our feet moving tonight,” French said. “I was extremely happy with the level of commitment shown by our shot blocking and things of that nature as well.”
At the midway point of the first period with the Hitmen on the power play, Sanheim, from Bean and Fazleev, provided Calgary with a 1-0 lead when the big blueliner rifled a low perfectly placed wrist shot from the point that cleanly found its way behind Rebels netminder Toth.
“It wasn’t a high shot, I was just trying to find a lane, but it ended up finding its way in the net,” Sanheim said.
Ivan Nikolishin, who the Rebels acquired from the Everett Silvertips during the off-season, evened the affair only 1:36 later when he accepted a pass from winger Brandon Hagel before neatly feinting left to right and backhanding it around an outstretched left pad of Petersen. It was the first-ever WHL goal surrendered by the Hitmen goaltender.
Calgary would regain the lead, though, after a point shot from Bean found its way through a screened Toth at 15:25 of the opening period. Sanheim and a stationed-in-front Beck Malenstyn provided the assists.
Fazleev, from who else but Sanheim and Bean, buried his fourth marker of the season while on a Calgary man advantage 2:34 into the second frame.
And the Hitmen weren’t done there.
Just over two minutes later, while enjoying yet another power play opportunity, Bean blasted a point shot top shelf over the blocker of a left stunned netminder Toth. Sanheim and Fazleev chipped in with the helpers.
French hopes his squad has learned from its failures and mistakes from last weekend when it earned a hard-fought win in Brandon against a mighty Wheat Kings side only to be no shows the following evening in Moose Jaw.
“We made a mistake by not putting that win aside in time for Moose Jaw,” he said. “We have an opportunity tonight to enjoy this one but to also park it and know that we’ll be facing a motivated team tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow is going to be another big battle,” Sanheim said. “Tonight was great, but tomorrow is going to be even bigger.”