The Calgary Hitmen continue to find ways to win as their 49th shot of the contest in the final minute produced the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
The two points helps the Hitmen remain atop the Eastern Conference standings, one point ahead of the Prince Albert Raiders. Calgary improves their record to 16-5-1-2 with their eighth win in nine games.
“I thought we played hard tonight, last night even though we won the game we weren’t very positive after about the approach we had as a team,” discussed head coach Mike Williamson. “Tonight it could have gone either way, it was close again, their goaltender played well, but I thought our guys played hard.”
A night after Lethbridge peppered Chris Driedger with 17 first period shots, the Hitmen came out better prepared in the second game of the home-and-home. Calgary was able to contain the speed of the Hurricanes and held Lethbridge to only seven attempts. By the end of opening frame, the Hitmen had turned the tables and sent 16 shots on the Hurricanes’ net.
The game’s first goal was scored at the 7:18 mark of the middle stanza as Calgary lit the lamp. A shot from the blue line by Jaynen Rissling banked off the leg of a Lethbridge player and past Ty Rimmer. The tally on the power play was the defenceman’s third of the season.
At the 11:09 mark of the second the visitors knotted the score. With the Calgary defence racing back, Reid Duke delivered a perfect backhand pass to Axel Blomqvist who was skating in down the middle. Blomqvist finished the play as he potted a shot through the legs of Driedger for his second of the year.
With just over three minutes until the intermission, Calgary re-established the lead as Alex Roach added to his career-high goal total. After Roach blasted a shot from the point, Rimmer couldn’t handle the puck as it continued to slide and eventually crossed the goal line. Roach’s sixth of the campaign gave the Hitmen a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Calgary controlled the majority of the play in the third period only to see Lethbridge tie the game with 4:55 left. With a Hitmen player in the sin bin, Tyler Wong was sprung through two defenceman, using his speed to score his first Western Hockey League marker.
With the game appearing destined for an extra session, Calgary scored the go-ahead goal with 27 seconds left. Rookie Jake Virtanen came out from behind the cage and let a shot go from the goal line, beating Rimmer under the arm.
“It was pretty exciting. Cody Sylvester and Brooks Macek were on the ice with me and we got it deep,” explained Virtanen. “I thought I might as well get it on net so we could maybe get a face-off and it just slipped in.”
As the clock winded down and the horn blew, Virtanen’s fifth of the year stood as the game winner, giving the Hitmen a sweep of the home-and-home set versus the Hurricanes.
Driedger made 14 stops on the night while facing limited action to record his seventh victory in as many starts.
The Hitmen will remain at home for their next three contests with the Medicine Hat Tigers being the next team to visit on Friday, Nov. 23. Tickets for upcoming Hitmen games are available at all Ticketmaster locations as well as the Scotiabank Saddledome box office. Order online at www.ticketmaster.ca or by phone at 1-855-985-5000. For more information on tickets, including the Sunday Ticket Pack and Name Your Game Flex Package, contact customer service at 403-777-4646.