Hitmen win rough one to lead series 2-0
Series now heads to Red Deer for Games 3 and 4
Calgary Hitmen goaltender Chris Driedger stops a Red Deer Rebels shot during the second period of Game 2 of the WHL Eastern Conference semifinals at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday.
Photograph by: Gavin Young, Calgary Herald
Maybe it was the national television audience, carrying the game across the country on Sportsnet’s Friday Night Hockey.
Or maybe it was the bad blood that had spilled over from the night before.
But, whatever it was, the Calgary Hitmen and the Red Deer Rebels made Friday’s Game 2 — a 2-1 Hitmen win which put them ahead 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Hockey League second round playoff series — worth watching for many reasons.
“That’s probably more of a typical game you’re going to see,” said head coach Mike Williamson on the fireworks of Game 2. “The emotion and the intensity. I thought we had some good opportunities, good looks, good scoring chances, and opportunities to extend our lead.
“But it’s a one-goal game. The last two or three minutes, our guys did a fantastic job of keeping things to the outside and taking care of our end first.”
Calgary, having produced a 4-2 win to open the series on Thursday, got down to business early. Forty-seven seconds in, Elliott Peterson capitalized on a loose puck and went stick-side on Rebels netminder Patrik Bartosak.
The hits started early and often, too, as Zane Jones got the crowd into it shortly after — slamming Brandon Underwood into the boards with an elbow after the blueliner had tried to skate through the neutral zone with the puck.
At one point in the first period, shots were 13-3 but the hard-working Rebels refused to back down.
Building off a huge five-on-three penalty kill and starting to push back with 2:30 remaining, Jordan DePape stormed Hitmen netminder Chris Driedger’s net and connected on a rebound after a brief scramble in front.
Frustrations spilled over into the second as Jaynen Rissling gave it to Wyatt Johnson coming into Calgary’s zone while a back-checking Victor Rask gave it to Rhyse Dieno behind Calgary’s net.
“It was actually pretty fun,” Rissling said. “I took a couple too many penalties, personally … but the team did a pretty good job of killing them off so I’m thankful for that. As a team, we really stepped up our game tonight.
“We proved that if they want to get dirty with us, we’re going to come out on top.”
The game winner was netted by Rask — a ridiculously gifted play-maker — who wound up with a loose puck in the second period and, burning Red Deer defenceman Mathew Dumba in the process, roofed one on Bartosak.
But, really, the story of the game was special teams. And neither team could connect on their power-play as Red Deer went zero-for-six while the Hitmen went zero-for-five.
The home team had a glorious five-on-three advantage in the opening frame when Rebels Brady Gaudet and Brooks Maxwell were serving. Nothing.
Then, in the second, when Red Deer’s Matt Bellerive was thrown from the game and cost Red Deer a five-minute major for kneeing on Hitmen forward Pavlo Padakin. That didn’t go over well either as Brady Brassart was tagged for interference (a makeup call?) and cut into their man-advantage.
They also had a four-on-three later in the middle frame when Gaudet took a holding penalty on Peterson. He joined Cody Thiel in the visitor’s box while Greg Chase was sitting off for Calgary (he and Thiel were chirping before a faceoff whistle and were eventually thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct).
Rebels head coach Brent Sutter wasn’t happy with his power-play — or the call on Bellerive (after, Sutter was shown on the jumbotron smashing a nearby stick and screaming at referee Matt Kirk).
“I’ll let the league deal with their own officials on that,” Sutter said. “That’s not a five-minute major. He skates like three feet to him and it’s a bodycheck.
“It’s not a major penalty. This is playoffs and you get called on something like that…I’ll let the league deal with their officials.
“You saw what I saw on the screen and that was no major penalty … it’s playoff time. You can’t make a suspect call like that.
“We had a better effort tonight but it’s still not enough. We have to do more.”
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