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PREVIEW: HITMEN AT AMERICANS

Feb 12, 2013 - 13:40 GMT
Written By: Curle, Brad

HITMEN HEADLINES: The Calgary Hitmen (36-16-1-3) play game eight of a season-high nine-game road trip tonight in Kennewick against the Tri-City Americans (31-21-1-2).  The Hitmen improved to 4-3 on the trip Saturday night with a 4-3 overtime win in Kent over the Seattle Thunderbirds.  Victor Rask scored the winner on a power play 46 seconds into sudden death.  In his 300th career regular season game, captain Cody Sylvester scored twice, including the tying goal with 3:33 remaining.  Brooks Macek also scored for Calgary.  The Hitmen went 1-2 on the power play, while the Thunderbirds were 1-7.  Calgary is third in the Eastern Conference, 11 points back of the front running Edmonton Oil Kings but with two games in hand.

VS. TRI-CITY: Tonight is the first and only regular season meeting between the two clubs.  Last season, Calgary defeated Tri-City 4-1 on January 29, 2012 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.  Collin Bowman had three assists to lead the Calgary scoring attack.  The Americans actually had a 1-0 lead late in the second period before Calgary scored four unanswered goals.  The last time the Hitmen paid a visit to Kennewick was on October 19, 2010.  Calgary outshot Tri-City 35-29 but could only score once on Drew Owsley in a 3-1 loss.  Brooks Macek led the way offensively for the Americans scoring the game-winning goal while chipping in an assist.  Over the last five seasons, Calgary is 2-2 against the Americans including an 0-2 record in the U-S.

THREE IN A ROW AND COUNTING:  The Hitmen are riding a three-game winning streak dating back to last Wednesday’s 4-3 win in Portland.  During the three game run they have outscored their opponents by a combined 13-7.  Cody Sylvester (4g, 2a), Jake Virtanen (2g, 2a) and Alex Roach (1g, 3a) all have points in each of the three wins, while Victor Rask (1g, 2a) has points in back-to-back games.

TRI-CITY TRIO: The Hitmen roster includes three former Tri-City Americans who were all acquired in 2011.  Brooks Macek, Spencer Humphries and a conditional third round pick in 2012 were traded to Calgary on January 10th, 2011 in exchange for Matt MacKenzie.  Macek played his 16, 17 and half of his 18-year-old season with the Americans appearing in 170 regular season games and collecting 37 goals and 84 assists for 121 points.  Humphries also spent parts of three seasons with the Americans but only played a total of 38 regular season games picking up five points (2g, 3a).  Then in the off-season on July 20, 2011, the Hitmen traded for goaltender Chris Driedger from Tri-City giving up a third round pick in 2012.  Driedger was coming off his rookie 16-year-old season with the Americans where he went 6-6-0-1 with a 3.50 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage.  

800 FOR WILLIAMSON:  Calgary’s 4-3 overtime win Saturday night in Kent over the Thunderbirds was the 800th regular season game as a Western Hockey League head coach for Mike Williamson, becoming only the 12th bench boss in league history to hit that mark.  Williamson ranks third on the Hitmen franchise list for most regular season coaching wins.  Dean Clark leads the way with 183, followed by Kelly Kisio with 163 and Williamson with 152.

HISTORICAL MARK:  Captain Cody Sylvester is climbing the franchise record books.  In his fifth season with the club, he is now sixth all-time in games played (300), 11th in goals (86) and 10th in both assists (117) and points (203).  He need two goals to tie Brett Sonne for 10th in goals at 88 and is three points shy of Brandon Segal for ninth place in points at 206.  

DID YOU KNOW?  The Hitmen have given up the first goal in five straight games and in six their last seven contests....Including tonight Calgary has only three straight games left against teams from the Western Conference.  The Hitmen will then close out the regular season with 13 straight against Eastern Conference rivals, facing Kootenay the most at three times….Alex Roach is the top scoring defenceman in the Eastern Conference with 43 points.  His plus-38 is also number one in the Eastern Conference….Hitmen forward Pavlo Padakin is tied for fifth in goals by a rookie in the WHL with 16….Nine different Hitmen have scored 10 or more goals this season while Cody Sylvester has become the first to hit the 30-goal mark….Calgary has been outshot in two of their last three games but have won all three …The Hitmen have been shutout five times this season and have blanked their opposition three times…. Cody Sylvester (64pts) and Brooks Macek (62pts) are in a battle for the team lead in scoring.  This is the 18th season of Hitmen hockey and only on three previous occasions has there been a tie for top scorer at the end of the season.  In the 2007-08 campaign both Ryan White and Kyle Bortis finished with 72 points.  In the 2005-06 season Ryan White and Brodie Dupont finished with 53 points each, while in the 2003-04 season Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd both had 75 points….NHL Central Scouting has released their mid-term rankings for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with two members of the Calgary Hitmen cracking the list.  Forward Greg Chase, in his second season, is ranked 94th among North American skaters and rookie Mack Shields is ranked 28th among North American goalies.

HOME AND AWAY:  Calgary is 20-8-0-1 on the road while Tri-City is 13-11-0-2 at home.

TURNING ON THE RED LIGHT: Five Hitmen are having career years in the goal scoring department.  Brooks Macek has set a career-high in goals at 26, five more than his previous high of 21 set in 2009-10 with Tri-City. Cody Sylvester has 30 goals this season, seven more than his previous best of 23 set last year.  Alex Roach has 14 goals, topping his previous best of four set in each of the last two seasons.  Greg Chase has 14 goals, eight more than the six he scored in his rookie campaign last season.  Zane Jones has scored 18 times this season, topping the 14 he scored last season in Victoria.

MILESTONE WATCH: By setting up two more goals Brady Brassart will reach 100 career assists.  Chris Driedger is 43 saves shy of 2,500.

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).

UPCOMING GAMES: Calgary wraps up their five-game tour of the U.S. Division tomorrow in Spokane.  The Hitmen are then back on home ice Saturday against the Victoria Royals.  Game time is 7:00 p.m. at Scotiabank Saddledome.