HITMEN HEADLINES: Following five days off and a four-game road swing, the Calgary Hitmen (30-11-1-3) return to the Scotiabank Saddledome tonight as they host the Prince George Cougars (13-24-2-4). While away from the ‘Dome, the Hitmen won three-of-four games against East Division clubs. Last in action on Jan. 12 at the Credit Union iplex, Calgary traded leads with the Broncos before Colby Cave netted the game-winning goal as Swift Current edged the Hitmen 4-3. Chase Lang, Jake Virtanen, Brendan Hurley and Zane Jones all had two-point efforts in the contest, while Chris Driedger made 31 saves. The Hitmen sit third in the WHL’s Eastern Conference, just one point behind the Edmonton Oil Kings for top spot and nine points ahead of the fourth place Red Deer Rebels.
VS. PRINCE GEORGE: Tonight is the second and final meeting between the Hitmen and Cougars this regular season. During their last match-up, the Hitmen dominated the shot clock en route to a 5-0 victory at the CN Centre. Chris Driedger picked up his first shutout of the season, while Brooks Macek (4a) and Brady Brassart (1g, 2a) led the offensive charge with four and three points, respectively. In Prince George’s last trip to Calgary in 2011-12, Swedish import Victor Rask netted a pair of the goals to lead the Hitmen to a 5-1 win.
INSIDE THE SERIES
Previous Meeting: 5-0 CAL win on Oct. 16 at P.G.
Shots on Goal: CAL 53 P.G 30
Power Plays: CAL 1-3 (33.3%) P.G 0-3 (0.0%)
B.C. BATTLES: This season, Calgary has a 5-3-0-1 record when playing against the B.C. Division, including a win back in October versus Prince George. In 2011-12, the Hitmen went 10-1-0-0 against the B.C. Division.
PUCK ON NET: When the Hitmen faced the Cougars in October, they set a new team record for most shots in a period at 27, passing the old mark of 26. The Hitmen were also close to setting a new franchise record for most shots in a road contest, but fell short of the 1995 record of 55 shots against Moose Jaw.
DID YOU KNOW?: Cougars’ head coach Dean Clark spent five seasons behind the Hitmen bench from 1996-2001. Clark won WHL Coach of the Year in 1997-98 before leading the Hitmen to the WHL championship the following season.
GETTING NOTICED: Forward Greg Chase and goaltender Mack Shields have both been recognized by NHL Central Scouting in the midterm rankings for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Chase is ranked 94th among North American skaters, while Shields is 28th among North American netminders.
TURNING ON THE RED LIGHT: Calgary has scored an Eastern Conference-leading 162 goals, an average of 3.6 per game. Eight different Hitmen have scored at least 10 goals this season, while both Cody Sylvester (23) and Brooks Macek (23) have over 20.
QUICK STRIKE OFFENSE: On their most recent four-game road trip, the Hitmen scored three times in the opening seconds of a period, all authored by Brooks Macek. Nine seconds into last Tuesday’s game in Brandon, Macek opened the scoring to set a new franchise record for fastest goal to start a game, breaking the old mark of 12 seconds set by Brad Moran in 1999. The following night in Moose Jaw, Macek scored six seconds into the middle stanza and last Friday in Regina he scored 13 seconds into the game.
TRADE WINDS: Prior to the WHL trade deadline, Calgary acquired 19-year-old left wing Colten Mayor from the Regina Pats in exchange for 18-year-old right wing Carson Samoridny and a fourth round pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. In his Hitmen debut last Friday, Mayor recorded an assist against his former club. Last Monday, the Hitmen also acquired 19-year-old defenceman Jesse Zgraggen from the Victoria Royals in exchange for a fourth round pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. In four games with Calgary, Zgraggen has four points (1g, 3a) and a plus-six rating.
RASKY RETURN: Carolina Hurricanes prospect Victor Rask returns to the Hitmen line-up tonight for the first time since Dec. 12. Rask suited up for Team Sweden at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, capturing a silver medal while recording four points (2g, 2a) over six games played at the tournament.
STREAKIN’: Forward Brendan Hurley (1g, 4a) is on a four-game point streak, while rookies Jake Virtanen (3g, 1a) and Chase Lang (1g, 2a) have points in back-to-back contests. Cody Sylvester (3g, 12a) had his career-high eight-game point streak snapped in Calgary’s last game against Swift Current.
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 silver medalist Victor Rask at the Booster Club table located at section 212 after the game.
UPCOMING GAMES: The Hitmen are back in action tomorrow night when they visit the Medicine Hat Tigers (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet 960 The FAN). Calgary travels to Lethbridge next Friday, before returning to the Scotiabank Saddledome to face the Brandon Wheat Kings on Sunday, Jan. 27. Game time is 4 p.m. for Cardel Minor Hockey Night.