HITMEN HEADLINES: The Calgary Hitmen (3-0-1-1) attempt to turn their fortunes around as they host the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings (4-2-0-0). Calgary and Edmonton sit atop the Central Division coming into today’s meeting with the Hitmen holding a game in hand. Despite losing their past two games, Calgary has yet to fall in regulation, notching eight out of a possibly 10 points so far this season. The Hitmen have been led by their overage forwards as Brooks Macek (2g, 5a) tops the team in points at seven, while Cody Sylvester is the club’s top goal scorer with four markers. Brady Brassart (3g, 3a) and Zane Jones (2g, 4a) have also started the 2012-13 campaign off strong with six points each.
VS. EDMONTON: Today the Hitmen and Oil Kings meet for the second time this year and for the first time at the Scotiabank Saddledome. In their first match-up on Sept. 28, Calgary stunned the defending champs in a 4-1 victory. This afternoon is the second time in Calgary’s last five contests that they have faced their provincial rivals. The two teams will meet again on Friday, October 12 at Rexall Place. Last year, the Hitmen were defeated in all but one of their six games against the Oil Kings.
Sept. 28 in EDM Hitmen 4 Oil Kings 1 Four different Hitmen scored goals, while Chris Driedger recorded 34 saves.
INSIDE THE SERIES
Shots on Goal: CAL 34 EDM 35 Power Plays: CAL 1-5 (20.0%) EDM 0-5 (0%) Next Meeting: Fri., Oct. 12 at Edmonton
BETWEEN THE PIPES: On Friday night, rookie goaltender Mack Shields made his WHL debut. A Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native, Shields was impressive as he made 30 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss against Prince Albert. The last netminder to make his WHL debut in Hitmen silks was Juraj Holly on Sept. 25, 2010 when he made 30 stops in a 4-0 loss versus Kootenay.
SUDDEN DEATH: In their last out, the Hitmen recorded a 4-3 shootout loss against Prince Albert. It was Calgary’s first shootout of the season and second straight game to go past regulation. The last time Calgary played back-to-back three-point games was over Nov. 6-8, 2012, when they lost in overtime to the Moose Jaw Warriors, before knocking off the Swift Current Broncos in a shootout. Last season, Calgary held a 2-1 shootout record.
STILL CAMPING: On Thursday, 19-year-old forward Victor Rask survived the first five-player cut at the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers training camp. Rask, selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round, 42nd overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, is the youngest of 31 players remaining at camp which continues until Oct. 11.
STREAKIN’: Several Hitmen take point streaks into today’s game. Brooks Macek (2g, 5a) has seven points in five straight contests. Brady Brassart (3g, 3a) has six points over the same span. Zane Jones (2g, 2a) has points in three-straight games. Chris Driedger has yet to lose in regulation this year.
THE SUNDAY SPECIAL: In 2011-12, Calgary was one of the top teams in the league when playing a Sunday matinee at home, boasting a 10-3-1-0 record. On Sunday, Jan.15, the Hitmen also picked up the lone win of their six-game series against Edmonton edging the Oil Kings 4-3 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
FIRST ROUNDERS: The Oil Kings had two players taken in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Griffin Reinhart was chosen fourth overall by the New York Islanders, while the Phoenix Coyotes selected Henrik Samuelsson with their 27th pick. In their franchise history, Calgary has had a total of nine players selected in the first round. The last time a Hitmen player went in round one was in 2007 when Karl Alzner went fifth overall (WSH) and Alex Plante was selected 15th overall (EDM). The most Hitmen players ever drafted in the first round was in 2004 when Andrew Ladd, Jeff Schultz and Andy Rogers were all selected.
NHL PROSPECTS: Chris Driedger (Third Round, Ottawa 2012); Kenton Helgesen (Seventh Round, Anaheim 2012); Jaynen Rissling (Seventh Round, Washington 2012); Alex Roach (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Los Angeles 2011); Victor Rask (Three-year, Entry-level Contract, Carolina 2011).
MILESTONE WATCH: Forward Brady Brassart is seven games away from his 200th career WHL contest, while captain Cody Sylvester is five points shy of his 150th career WHL point.
DID YOU KNOW?: For the past three seasons, the receipent of the Ed Chynoweth Cup has come from the Central Division. Edmonton claimed the crown last year, following the Kootenay Ice who were the 2011 WHL champions. In 2010, the Hitmen won the WHL title over the Tri-City Americans, after falling in the league final against Kelowna in the previous year.
POST-GAME AUTOGRAPHS: Meet defenceman Darian Henry at the Booster Club table located by section 212 after the game.
UPCOMING GAMES: The Hitmen will play three straight games over Oct. 12-14, starting in Edmonton on Friday, before returning to the Scotiabank Saddledome for matches against Red Deer and Kamloops.
Fri., Oct. 12 at Edmonton, 7:30 p.m., Sportsnet ONE, SN 960 The FAN Sun., Oct. 14 vs. Kamloops, 4 p.m., SN 960 The FAN
Sat., Oct. 13 vs. Red Deer, 7 p.m., SN 960 The FAN Tue., Oct. 16 at Prince George, 8 p.m., SN 960 The FAN