Hitmen look to clean up their act as WHL Eastern Conference final shifts to Saddledome
Penalty parade proved to be local junior squad’s spectacular undoing during 6-0 Game 2 loss in Edmonton
For the next two nights, the Calgary Hitmen have an opportunity to do some major damage at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
And, more importantly, they have a clean slate against the Edmonton Oil Kings, the defending league champions who come looking for a lead on the road in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference finals in Games 3 and 4.
They need it desperately, too, considering Friday’s 6-0 gong show featured 101 minutes of black jerseys in and out of the penalty box.
“We kind of let things slip out of our hands,” admitted Hitmen forwar d Greg Chase heading into Tuesday’s clash — their first home game of the third-round series. “We just took this weekend to kind of relax and prepared for (Game 3). I don’t think it was entirely the referees fault. We kind of let our emotions get to us; everyone was frustrated in that situation. We just have to learn from it. We can’t unravel like that. When you give a team that many power-plays, they’re going to score goals.
“I think the biggest thing for us is to stay out of the box.”
Well, no kidding. Their lack of discipline is what led to Calgary’s first loss of the best-of-seven series, a letdown after they kicked things off with a 3-2 overtime win on Thursday.
Only down 1-0 for most of Friday’s game, their momentum was shot when they spent the most of the second period short-handed and continued getting caught for retaliating in the third.
The Hitmen burned off nine straight penalties before Edmonton’s high-flying power-play finally took over and scored four goals.
“We watched video and the coaching staff showed us all the penalties,” pointed out defenceman Spencer Humphries. “At the end of the day, 95 per cent of the penalties are penalties and you can’t be doing that. But during the game, your emotions are running high and you’re angry you’re losing.”
Offensively, the Hitmen had opportunities, sure, and the ones they did have on Calgary Flames prospect Laurent Brossoit were quality, Grade ‘A’ opportunities.
But, Humphries said, penalties killed their momentum. And, whether they were validated or not — good calls or bad calls — the loss was still a loss. That’s not going to cut it if they want to advance in the post-season.
“I don’t think we’ve really faced adversity yet these playoffs,” he said. “We’ve obviously taken the odd penalty, but it’s never gotten out of control like that. But I’m glad it happened so we can learn from it and move on.
“At this stage, we’re so close to going all the way and getting that (Ed Chynoweth WHL champion) Cup. There’s only one team standing between us and getting to that final.”
This type adversity, of course, seems to be the Oil Kings specialty.
Since the playoffs started, the Hitmen have been in close games but have managed to always come out on top, especially in their past two five-game showdowns against the Red Deer Rebels and the Swift Current Broncos.
But against Edmonton — who has a dangerous power-play, confident swagger, and explosive offence — they knew it wouldn’t be easy.
The Oil Kings have pushed the Hitmen to their edge every time they’ve clashed, even during their regular season series which Calgary captured 4-2.
“You can sit here and say we haven’t played our best game,” Humphries said. “But you have to give props to Edmonton. They’re making it hard against us so we can’t play our kind of game.
“We just have to look in our room and make sure we’re ready and try to play our game the best we can.”
Follow on Twitter/Kristen OdlandCH
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald