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NEXT TRIP ON DECK

Feb 05, 2013 - 11:13 MST
Written By: Forbes, Bryce

Before the Calgary Hitmen ventured off on their season-long nine-game road trip through Saskatchewan and the United States, head coach Mike Williamson said he considered it two separate road trips.

First came the Saskatchewan swing with games in Medicine Hat, Swift Current, Saskatoon and Prince Albert – four games in five nights.

Then there was one day off in Calgary on Monday before they hopped back on the bus and started heading west, this time through Portland, Everett, Seattle, Tri-City and Spokane over eight nights.

In total, it was almost 5,500 kilometers, but Williamson didn’t view it that way.

“It’s two road trips,” he commented. “They are manageable, it is what it is. We don’t want to think about it as one huge trip. We’ve got a four-game trip that most teams have on a regular basis throughout the season.

“We don’t want to look at the whole scope of things, we really want to shorten things up.”
Well, he’s going to want his team to put the first half behind them quick.

In the four games against Eastern Conference rivals, the offence went cold, only finding the back of the net seven times while being shut out twice against the Blades and Raiders to end the trip.

Out of eight possible points, the Hitmen only managed to pick up two.

With 19 games left in the season, Calgary seems entrenched in third place in the Eastern Conference, 11 points behind first place Edmonton Oil Kings but 10 points ahead of the Red Deer Rebels, who are sitting in fourth.

But now comes the tough stretch of games for the Hitmen, starting off with the cream of the WHL crop in the forms of the Portland Winterhawks.

They are the best team in the WHL at 89 points, having encountered only seven regulation losses the entire season.

The combination of Mac Carruth and Brendan Burke are averaging less than two goals allowed a game, and their offense is the most potent in the league.

Nicolas Petan, Brendan Leipsic and Ty Rattie make up three of the top four scorers in the WHL and have combined for 256 points this year.

As a team, they’ve scored 242 goals this year, which equates to over 4.5 goals a game.

It’ll be a reunion of sorts for Williamson, who spent 16 years in the Rose City as a player, assistant coach and eventual head coach.

In his four seasons in Calgary, he’s picked up wins two out of three games against the Winterhawks.

Game time is 8 p.m. MT and fans can listen live on Sportsnet 960 The Fan.