Photo: MacKenzie Gerry
The Calgary Hitmen remain perfect this season.
And they can thank their special teams for that.
The Hitmen scored twice with the man advantage, and buried another while on the penalty kill, to upend the formidable Brandon Wheat Kings 3-2 on the road tonight at Westman Communications Group Place.
In what was being billed as a battle between two Western Hockey League powerhouses did anything but disappoint.
The Canadian Hockey League’s top-ranked Wheat Kings and fourth-ranked Hitmen came out soaring in a swift, hard-hitting back-and-forth opening 20 minutes.
Only due to the heroics of Hitmen goaltender Brendan Burke and his Brandon counterpart Jordan Papirny were the teams entering the second frame in a scoreless encounter.
Ironically, in a penalty-filled second period, it was a Radel Fazleev shorthanded marker at 9:36 that snapped a scoreless draw.
The Russian Fazleev received a pass from fellow Philadelphia Flyers prospect Travis Sanheim that sent him in alone on a breakaway, where he made no mistake by beating a left-to-fend-for-himself Papirny.
“We worked so hard and skated really well tonight,” Fazleev said. “And we seemed to get more and more confident as the game wore on.”
The stingy Hitmen penalty kill continued its streak of perfection this season by holding Brandon scoreless on six power play opportunities, including three consecutive chances with the man advantage in the first period.
In the third period, a Jake Bean one-timer from the point on the power play provided the Hitmen with a 2-0 advantage at 1:42. Travis Sanheim, with his second assist of the night, and Fazleev, who has found the scoresheet in all three games this season, chipped in with the helpers.
“It’s great to get off to a good start, but I’ll take six points for the team over my points any day,” Fazleev said.
Terrell Draude, with his first goal of the season, would bury the eventual game-winning goal when he banged home a rebound from the slot to make it 3-0 Hitmen on the power play at 11:34 of the third period. Chase Lang and Pavel Karnauhkov contributed the assists.
The never-say-die Wheat Kings would then make things interesting in the late stages of the contest when defencemen Macoy Erkamps and Colton Waltz notched goals within a 3:43 span.
Though, that’s as close as the Wheaties would come on this night.
“I thought we kept up the pace tonight, at least until the last few minutes which were really nerve-wracking,” Fazleev said. “But the most important thing is that we got the two points and now we move on looking for more.”
The Hitmen take on the Moose Jaw Warriors on Saturday at 7 p.m., before wrapping up their three-game-in-three-day road trip against the Regina Pats on Sunday at 4 p.m.
They return home to the welcoming confines of the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday, Oct. 9 to host the MasterCard Memorial Cup-host Red Deer Rebels. Game time is 7 p.m.
Calgary Hitmen season tickets for the 2015-16 WHL campaign are still available. For more information on ticket packagesand the exclusive privileges offered to Hitmen season seat members, such as the flexible ticket exchange program, visit HitmenHockey.com or contact customer service at 403-777-4646.
• Hitmen netminder Brendan Burke turned aside all 24 shots he faced before exiting the game with an apparent injury in the third period. In relief, backup Kyle Dumba surrendered two goals on eight shots.
• Hitmen rookie forwards Lucas Cullen and Dawson Martin experienced their first taste of WHL action on a line with Taylor Sanheim. The veteran Sanheim also played alongside both Mark Kastelic and Andrew Fyten in their respective WHL debuts last weekend in Kootenay.
• High-scoring Brandon centre Tim McGauley, who led all Wheat Kings last season with 42 goals and 105 points, was not in the lineup due to an upper body injury he sustained in the late stages of his team’s season-opening game last weekend. He has been listed as week-to-week.
• Brandon winger Rihards Bukarts received a five-minute major and a game misconduct late in the second period for a check-from-behind on Calgary’s Carsen Twarynski.