Hitmen bounced in Game 7 by Oil Kings

 

Edmonton shuts out Calgary 2-0 to move on to WHL final

 
 
 
 
Calgary Hitmen’s Greg Chase (middle) is checked by Edmonton Oil Kings’ Edgars Kulda (left) and Martin Gernat (right) during first period WHL action in the seventh and final game of the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Final in Edmonton on Tuesday.
 

Calgary Hitmen’s Greg Chase (middle) is checked by Edmonton Oil Kings’ Edgars Kulda (left) and Martin Gernat (right) during first period WHL action in the seventh and final game of the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Final in Edmonton on Tuesday.

Cody Sylvester, eyes red and voice soft, stared into the uncomfortable camera lights and faced the media in full gear at Rexall Place.
Having just experienced a heart-breaking end to his Western Hockey League career --- a 2-0 Game 7 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference finals --- the 21-year-old was gently asked to reflect on his time with the Calgary Hitmen.
Five of the best years of his life. Three hundred and fifteen regular season games and 54 playoff games, including these seven --- many of which where he’s been easily the hardest working player. Two years of being the team’s heart-and-soul leader.
So, yes, you can see why he had trouble parting with his black No. 16 sweater on this night.
“I almost had it off and had to put it back on,” Sylvester said outside of a quiet visitors’ quarters. “I don’t want to take it off. It’s going to be a sad moment not wearing a Calgary Hitmen jersey ever again. But I have to thank the organization. They’ve taught me so many things … they’ve improved me as a hockey player.
“I wouldn’t change that for anything.”
Along with Sylvester, it was also the last WHL game for defenceman Spencer Humphries and Game 6 overtime hero Brooks Macek. And absolutely no one can question how badly they wanted it to end differently.
Motivated after losing to the Brandon Wheat Kings in the opening bout of playoffs last year (their first post-season appearance following a dead-last finish in the WHL in 2010-11), they stormed past the Swift Current Broncos and Red Deer Rebels in the first and second rounds.
Then, against Edmonton, they went on a rollercoaster ride.
A 3-2 Game 1 overtime win. A crushing 6-0 loss which featured 101 minutes of penalties in Game 2. A confident 5-2 Game 3 victory. They also bounced back from two Edmonton offensive shows in Game 4 and 5 with Sunday’s 4-3 overtime victory.
Unfortunately, they had no heroics left in Game 7. They simply did not have an answer on this night, not against a team with nine NHL-signed players and 10 that were involved in last year’s Game 7 final victory against the Winterhawks.
“I’m really happy with the way we battled all series,” said defenceman Jaynen Rissling. Most people wrote us off after the 6-0 loss in Game 2 here. In Game 6, being down two goals going into the third showed a lot of character in our team.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the bounces tonight but I’m really proud of the effort we gave.”
Of course their goalie, Chris Driedger, was brilliant as he had been all post-season turning aside 36 of 38 quality Oil Kings attempts.
However, series MVP Michael St. Croix had the deal-breaker --- his second marker of the game --- only four minutes and 33 seconds into the middle period. A solid shot from the slot as the Hitmen defencemen scrambled.
And that seemed to put a seed of doubt in their minds.

They continued pressing --- rookie Jake Virtanen had a beauty short-handed chance on Oil Kings netminder Laurent Brossoit with just over five minutes left in the third, beating defenceman Cody Corbett up the wall. Another bad bounce when Greg Chase ripped a shot off Henrik Samuelsson’s shins.
Then, when Driedger was yanked in the final minutes, an Alex Roach point shot was blocked by Curtis Lazar. Another one-timer from Humphries off Travis Ewanyk. And another heart-breaker when they had a goal waved off with 58.6 seconds remaining.
“Too little, too late,” said Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson. “Overall, (Edmonton) did a very good job of pressuring the puck in the third period, hemming us in a few times, and our guys looked to run out of gas there toward the end of the third.”
In the beginning, the Calgarians looked like they wanted it --- badly.
Leading 7-2 on the shot-clock at one point early on, they held the momentum until the Oil Kings found their legs.
And after a handful of chances from Curtis Lazar and Stephane Legault early on, Legault teamed up with St. Croix on, basically, a two-on-0 and it was 1-0 with 5:55 left in the opening frame.

No, not the way any of the Hitmen wanted their story to end.
“It’s a sad time right now,” said Sylvester who captured a 2010 WHL championship with Rissling and defenceman Peter Kosterman. “As an overager, it sucks. But I had the honour and privelidge to play in Calgary my whole career. I wouldn’t change that for the world. The group of guys in the room, they’re an unbelievable group of guys.
“It was an honour and privledge to play with every one of them.”

ICE CHIPS:
Calgary scratches were D Kenton Helgesen (hand), RW/C Chase Lang, LW Colten Mayor, LW Austin Calladine, and D Ben Thomas … Oil Kings scratches: D Reinhart (foot), D Ben Carroll, D Aaron Irving, RW Brandon Ralph, and C Trevor Cheek (lower body).

kodland@calgaryherald.com
Follow on Twitter/Kristen Odland
 
 
 
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Calgary Hitmen’s Greg Chase (middle) is checked by Edmonton Oil Kings’ Edgars Kulda (left) and Martin Gernat (right) during first period WHL action in the seventh and final game of the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Final in Edmonton on Tuesday.
 

Calgary Hitmen’s Greg Chase (middle) is checked by Edmonton Oil Kings’ Edgars Kulda (left) and Martin Gernat (right) during first period WHL action in the seventh and final game of the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Final in Edmonton on Tuesday.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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