PREVIEW: CALGARY VS. KELOWNA

Dec 16, 2012 - 08:26 MST

HITMEN HEADLINES: The Calgary Hitmen (22-7-1-3) are back on Scotiabank Saddledome ice today when they host the Kelowna Rockets (23-9-1-1) for the Dodge Skate with the Hitmen game.  Calgary is coming off last night's 2-0 home ice win over the Regina Pats, while Kelowna will be playing their third game in as many days following a 5-2 win in Medicine Hat on Friday and a 6-1 victory in Red Deer last night.  Rookie goaltender Mack Shields made 18 saves in the Hitmen net to record his first career WHL shutout in Saturday’s 2-0 win.  Greg Chase, with an early first period tally, and Cody Sylvester, with an empty net marker, provided the scoring for Calgary.  The Hitmen are now 14-3-0-1 in their last 18 contests, while the Rockets are 11-1-0-0 over their last 12.

VS. KELOWNA: Tonight is the second and final meeting between the Hitmen and Rockets, with Kelowna leading the season series following a 4-1 win at the ‘Dome in October.  Brendan Hurley scored Calgary’s lone goal in the early minutes of the opening frame to record his first marker of the season.  Kelowna answered back with four unanswered goals from Zach Franko (2g), Dylen McKinlay (1g) and Colton Sissons (1g).  Over the last five seasons, Calgary is 6-4-1-0 against Kelowna, including a 3-3-1-0 record when playing at home.

SERIES RECAP
Oct. 28/12 at CAL: Rockets 4 Hitmen 1 ... Zach Franko netted a pair of goals and added a helper for Kelowna in the win.

INSIDE THE SERIES
Shots on Goal: CAL 22  KEL 30      
Power Plays: CAL 0-6 (0%)  KEL 0-3 (0%)  

HITMEN TEAM LEADERS:     
Goals (19) Cody Sylvester                  
Assists (24) Brooks Macek               
Points (37) Brooks Macek    
Power Play Goals (9) Cody Sylvester  
Plus-Minus (+21) Brady Brassart 
PIM (66) Kenton Helgesen        
Wins (17) Chris Driedger

HOME AND AWAY:  Calgary is 10-6-1-2 at home, while Kelowna is 10-7-1-1 on the road.  Both teams enter today’s contest with 48 points.  The Hitmen lead the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Edmonton Oil Kings.  The Rockets sit third in the Western Conference, seven points behind the league-leading Portland Winterhawks and one point ahead of the Spokane Chiefs.  

MACK ATTACK: Mack Shields registered his first career Western Hockey League shutout last night as Calgary blanked the Regina Pats 2-0.  Last season, fellow netminder Chris Driedger recorded his first career WHL shutout against today’s opponents on January 1, 2012.  Driedger made 27 saves in the New Year’s Day contest as the Hitmen held the Rockets to a 2-0 decision at Prospera Place.  

BACK-TO-BACKS: The Hitmen are 8-1-1-1 when playing back-to-back games (excludes contests involved in three games in three nights).  On Oct. 28, Calgary faced Kelowna in the second game of a back-to-back set.  After a 4-3 shootout loss in Red Deer on Oct. 27, the Hitmen were dealt a 4-1 setback at the hands of Rockets the following night at the ‘Dome.  

TRADE WINDS: On Wednesday, the Hitmen acquired a fifth round pick in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft from the Regina Pats in exchange for defenceman Darian Henry.  The Strathmore, Alberta product recorded five points (one goal, four assists) while amassing 77 penalty minutes over 30 games with the Hitmen this season.  Calgary acquired the 18-year-old blueliner from the Everett Silvertips in July 2012 in exchange for forward Luke Gordon.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH:  Goaltender Chris Driedger was named the club’s Ed Williams Player of the Month for November. Driedger, also named the VAUGHN WHL Goaltender of the Month, posted an 8-1-0-0 record through November with a 1.87 goals-against average and 0.935 save percentage.  Last season, the 18-year-old Ottawa Senators prospect was named the Ed Williams Player of the Month for October and the VAUGHN WHL Goaltender of the Month for January.

TEAM PACIFIC:  Rookies Jake Virtanen and Josh Thrower have been named to Team Pacific for the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Dec. 29, 2012 to Jan. 4, 2013 in Victoriaville/Drummondville, Quebec.  Forward Greg Chase represented Team Pacific at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Windsor, Ontario one year ago.

STREAKIN’: Cody Sylvester has one goal and two assists in back-to-back games.

MILESTONE WATCH: Chris Driedger is nine games away from his 100th career WHL contest, while Brendan Hurley is eight games shy of his 200th.

NHL PROSPECTS:  Chris Driedger (Ottawa 2012); Kenton Helgesen (Anaheim 2012); Jaynen Rissling (Washington 2012); Alex Roach (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Los Angeles 2011); Victor Rask (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Carolina 2011).

POST-GAME AUTOGRAPHS: Meet Farley The Fox at the Booster Club table located by section 212 after the game.

UPCOMING GAMES: Calgary will wrap up a three-game homestand on Tuesday, Dec. 18 when they host Edmonton in the sixth and final meeting of the season series.  Game time is 7 p.m. at the Scotiabank Saddledome.  Radio broadcast begins at 6 p.m. on Sportsnet 960 The FAN (960 AM) with a one hour pre-game show.  Following a break over the Christmas holidays, the Hitmen return to action on Friday, Dec. 28 when they face-off against Lethbridge, with a 7 p.m. puck drop at the ‘Dome.