When the Calgary Hitmen needed offence against the Kootenay Ice, they counted on their veterans.
Their first three goals were all scored by players well known to the Hitmen faithful, and when they needed the OT winner – they went to captain Jaynen Rissling.
“I don’t know it was drawn up (to get me the puck),” Rissling quipped. “It was shoot for the rebound.”
With an Ice player sitting in the sin bin, Greg Chase and Rissling switched spots at the top of slot, opening up a shooting lane for Rissling to pocket his second of the night and give the Hitmen their third straight win in the season.
“(The coaches) drew it up and Greg made a very smart and patient play to me,” Rissling continued. “(Brady) Brassart was doing a good job of screening in front, I put my head down, shot it and hoped for the best.”
For the 20-year-old veteran of five WHL seasons, it’s the first time Rissling’s ever scored two goals in a game. As well, after knotting five tallies in each of the previous three seasons, Rissling has already scored three times in this year’s young campaign.
“He knows the league, he knows our team and he’s maybe playing in a few different situations but I think that he’s playing very smart. He’s getting pucks through and he was the benefit of a little bit of traffic in front tonight,” said Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson.
It was the third win in a row for the Calgary Hitmen as they improve to 3-1-0-0 in the season.
Questionable calls arose early in the first period for the Hitmen.
Just 30 seconds in, Brassart checked an Ice defenceman on the forecheck, but was sent away for two minutes for a hit to the head.
The Hitmen killed off that penalty, but a few minutes later, Pavel Padakin was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding.
The Ice took advantage, with Jaedon Descheneau opening the scoring a minute later.
Things got worse for the Hitmen a few shifts later when Greg Chase spent four minutes in the penalty box for a pair of minor penalties.
The Hitmen shut down shop in their own end, and successfully killed off almost three minutes of five-on-three play.
“I thought our guys showed a lot of resolve,” Williamson said. “We got a little bit distracted in the first period but were able to draw it in. Rissling and Brassart rallied the guys and got our focus in the right direction.”
Ice defenceman Jagger Dirk added to the Kootenay lead near the 15 minute mark of the first, wristing a shot bar down over the glove hand of netminder Mack Shields.
A late surge gave the Hitmen a 9-8 advantage in the shot department but they were down 2-0 on the scoreboard.
“Going into the second, Mike did a good job of calming us down and just knowing that we can’t keep doing what we were doing or else we would be in the box all night,” Rissling said.
Brassart, seeing action in his first game on the ‘Dome ice since returning from the AHL, sniped his first of the season just 21 seconds into the second frame.
And exactly three minutes later, a slapshot from Rissling found its way by a screened Mackenzie Skapski to tie it up.
The Hitmen believe they earned their first lead of the night minutes later after Jake Virtanen pots one in the back of the net. But the referee was quick to wave it off, citing a player in the crease.
Kootenay regained their lead later on in the second period, after Descheneau scored his second of the night – a lead they held into the third period.
After taking a costly penalty earlier in the night, Chase more than made up for it.
With his team on the PP, Chase unleashed a wrist shot from the top of the circle, banking the puck off the post and in with less than five minutes remaining.
It tied the game up at 3-3, and the teams needed overtime.
In the milestone department, Hitmen rookie import Radel Fazleev scored his first career WHL point on an assist, and followed it up with one more in the game. Fellow rookie Matt Foster also saw action in his first WHL contest.
In the Hitmen net, Shields had a slow night in his first start of the year, turning away 14 of 17 shots. Skapski was the busier of the two, facing 32 shots on the other goal.
There is no break between these two teams, as they’ll face each other Saturday night in the backend of a home-and-home series in Kootenay. Puck drop is 7 p.m.