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Game Day: Hitmen look to snap skid in The Hat

Jason Pirie/hitmenhockey.com

Central division opponents Calgary and Medicine Hat are set to renew acquaintances since the Hitmen eliminated the Tigers in a five-game second round playoff series last spring.

Puck drop at Medicine Hat’s Canalta Centre is slated for 7:30 p.m.

The Hitmen (5-2-0-1) will look to put an end to a two-game slide which includes falling 5-4 in a shootout in Red Deer and suffering a 10-2 loss to the Moose Jaw Warriors at the Saddledome Thursday night.

“We have to regroup and set (the Moose Jaw loss) aside,” Hitmen defenceman and team leading scorer Travis Sanheim said. “The biggest thing for us is learning from it. We need to be better this weekend.”

With veteran netminder Brendan Burke still listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury, it’s been tough-sledding for the Hitmen rookie goaltending duo of Kyle Dumba and Lasse Petersen. Both first-year netminders have had to relieve each other in the last two games.

Petersen was pulled during the loss in Red Deer, while Dumba’s night versus Moose Jaw ended before the second period had concluded.

If any team can relate to having a difficult time keeping the puck out of the net it’s the Tigers.

Medicine Hat (3-4-1-0) snapped a four-game losing streak last night with a 6-3 win over the Kootenay ICE, however they have now allowed 27 goals against in their last five games.

The Tigers, who went 0 for 7 with the man advantage in last night’s win over Kootenay, own the third worst power play in the Western Hockey League (15.0 %) while the Hitmen boast the second best penalty killing units (84.4 %).

This n’ That: The last time the Hitmen surrendered 10 goals in a game was a 10-1 loss to Medicine Hat on Oct. 26, 2012. Calgary went on to win seven of its next 10 games, and later that spring advanced to the Eastern Conference Final.

2014-15 Season Series: Tied 3-3

Game Broadcasts: Sportsnet 960 The Fan (Alt Stream), WHL Live

Hitmen to Watch:

Player Headshot

D Ben Thomas – Having to deal with a nagging lower body injury that forced him to miss a large chunk of camp, the 19-year-old  defenceman has had to battle his way through a slower than usual start to this season. He appears, however, to be back playing like the player the Tampa Bay Lightning admired when they drafted him in the fourth round (119th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. In fact, the 6’2” 180-pound Calgary native was not only the top Hitmen blueliner on the ice Thursday night against Moose Jaw but was by far Calgary’s best skater. His confidence was evident while carrying the puck up ice and he was solid defensively throughout all three periods.

Player Headshot

D Travis Sanheim – No Hitmen player appeared to take the 10-2 loss to Moose Jaw harder than the veteran defenceman Sanheim. He not only had a season-worst minus-three rating (had not been on the minus side all season), but had his five-game point streak, where had piled up two goals and nine assists in that span, come to an end. Despite all this, he admirably faced a media horde following what he called an “unacceptable” loss and, like a true leader, guaranteed his team would be ready to work this weekend. The 6’4” 199-pound rearguard has not gone two consecutive games without finding the scoresheet this season and, if the Elkhorn, Manitoba native has his way, it likely won’t happen tonight.

Tigers to Watch:

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RW Cole Sanford – After enjoying a 50-goal, 95-point 2014-15 campaign, the now 20-year-old is back at it again, leading his team in scoring with four goals and 12 points this season. A diminutive winger (listed at 5’9” 165-pounds), the Vernon, B.C. native is only nine points shy of the 200-point plateau and nine goals short of the century mark for his WHL career, which also has him sporting an impressive plus-65 rating. He had four goals and three helpers in six regular season meetings with Calgary last season.

Player Headshot

G Nick Schneider – The Calgary Flames were so impressed by the undrafted 18-year-old goaltender, who attended the NHL team’s camp as an invite, they signed him to an entry-level contract. A 6’2” 176-pound right-catching netminder, Schneider should carry a majority of the workload between the pipes this season in The Gas City. The Leduc, AB native has started five of eight games this season, backstopping two of his team’s three wins.

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