Despite a strong game, the Hitmen fell short against the Brandon Wheat Kings with a score of 6-2.
In game one of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals the Hitmen started strong and even killed off their first penalty, keeping the Wheat Kings to only three shots on net.
Unfortunately the Wheat Kings were ready for the Hitmen and used their aggressive play to earn their first goal at 8:41, scored by Swyripa who was credited with his 1st goal since Dec.13th. 46 seconds later Dziurzynski put another point on the board to put the score to 2-1.
The Hitmen managed to rally back against the Wheat Kings starting with a goal from Brooks Macek at 19:01 in the first. It was this goal assisted by Collin Bowman that seemed to give the Hitmen a lift. Gogolev’s early goal in the second, at 1:16 on the power play, tied the game and it seemed as though the Hitmen may be able to fight back.
This momentum was short lived. Wheat Kings top scorer Mark Stone began the downward slide for the Hitmen when he scored at 16:13 in the second.
“I think they generated some chances and got pucks behind our defence,” said forward Jimmy Bubnick.
“Ultimately they just took it to us and that second period was rough on us.”
Issues with momentum were what head coach Mike Williamson felt were the issues with the team’s play tonight.
“I think we didn’t get a lot of momentum in the game,” said Williamson.
“We’d have one or two good shifts in the game and really not follow it up; we were having a tough time gaining some traction through the game.”
This lack of momentum was seen as the Wheat Kings dominated play after this point. The difficulty could be seen as Hitmen goalie Chris Driedger, in his first playoff start, was forced to turn away numerous odd man attempts.
“We kind of lost home ice advantage with that loss, but we have a lot of guy who were playing in their first playoff game,” said forward Brooks Macek.
“Now they’ve learned and we’ll come back for game two and hopefully get the win.”
The Wheat Kings continued their domination in the third and managed to score three unanswered goals. Flames Prospect Michael Ferland started the scoring in the third at 16:13 with an assist from Stone.
“Its playoffs and they want to make their presence felt just like we do, each team wants to set their own tone,” said Macek.
“You got to react to it or try to set your own tone and tonight we didn’t do that, hopefully tomorrow night we’ll be able to do that.”
The Ferland goal was followed up 28 seconds later by Dziurynski’s second goal of the night putting the score to an uneven 5-2 for the Wheat Kings.
It was a dual penalty that seemed to give the Hitmen a bit of a reprieve from goals and it almost seemed as though they might turn the game around. Unfortunately this was not the case as they lose momentum again and Bertaggia scored the final goal of the night to cement the Wheat King’s victory over the Hitmen.
“We expected this to be a long series, I think we’re capable of playing better and a lot of guys can get their game to a different level” said Williamson.
“I thought we generated some chances so if we do a little bit better of our positioning and not turn pucks over I think we’ll get more chances and we’ll have to bear down.”
The Hitmen and Wheat Kings play each other again tomorrow night (Mar. 23) at the Saddledome. The game begins at 7:00 p.m.
Playoff tickets are available now at all Ticketmaster locations and online at ticketmaster. For information on playoff packages and group tickets, call Customer Service at 403-777-4646.
A buffet will be served in the Avison Young Club Dining Room before each playoff game, open two hours prior to puck drop. For buffet reservations, call 403-571-9733. The reservation line is open Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The first round of playoffs will be a 2-3-2 series. Calgary will travel to Winnipeg for Game 3 on Sunday, March 25 at the MTS Centre. Game 4 of the series will take place on Tuesday, March 27 followed by Game 5, if necessary, on Thursday. If necessary, Games 6 and 7 will be played at the Scotiabank Saddledome on April 1 and 3.