With Flames done, Hitmen take over the Saddledome
Junior squad’s logo now adorns centre ice instead of the Flaming ‘C’
The Calgary Hitmen had a surprise waiting for them when they arrived home this weekend.
With their friendly neighbours done at the Scotiabank Saddledome for the season, the Calgary Flames logo was removed after Friday’s game against Anaheim.
Now, with their signature black Hitmen mask at centre ice celebrating their 2013 Western Hockey League post-season run, their home rink is now — officially — all theirs.
“Pretty cool,” said Hitmen goalie Chris Driedger on Monday. “It’s kind of a reward for making it this far in playoffs.”
After winning the first two rounds in five games, Driedger and his club are in a best-of-seven Eastern Conference final series dogfight against the Edmonton Oil Kings which opened at Rexall Place on Thursday and Friday last week. The Hitmen, who lost 6-0 in Game 2, now host Games 3 and 4 of the Battle of Alberta on Tuesday and Wednesday. A fifth game goes Friday at Edmonton while Game 6 would be Sunday at the Dome, returning to Rexall for Game 7 next Tuesday.
The last time their logo was featured on centre ice was during Calgary’s 2010 Memorial Cup run. They also changed it when the 2004-05 lockout was made official in February of that year.
And, earlier this year, the Saddledome crew had given the Hitmen a tribute by splitting the Flames logo with theirs during the brief NHL lockout. Of course, it was removed when the puck dropped on the season and the Flames returned.
But now, it’s for real.
“That was nice but they still had the Flames on there,” said Driedger. “It’s not our building, but it kind of is, a little bit. I think it’s pretty cool to have our logo on the ice.”
VIRTANEN GETS SET TO SIT
The verdict is still out on Jake Virtanen’s suspension terms.
But, after analyzing video of the incident which involved the 16-year-old rookie and Edmonton defender Cody Corbett, Calgary Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson felt Virtanen couldn’t have approached the play any differently.
The second period hit featured Virtanen lining up to hit Corbett who appeared to dodge the impact at the last second. Regardless, it resulted in Virtanen being ejected for kneeing and suspended for Tuesday’s Game 3 (and by late Monday, there was still no word if he faced supplemental discipline).
Meanwhile Corbett was taken to the hospital that night and is out for at least two games.
“It’s very unfortunate (Corbett) was hurt, but there’s a fine line there,” Williamson said. “It would have been a different situation if Jake would have stuck out his leg or something. But Jake went to hit the guy and the guy jumped out of the way.
“I don’t think it should be a major penalty or a suspension, but I know it’s going to be with the way our league looks at stuff.”
By nature, Virtanen is a hard-hitting player whose energy and penchant for making huge checks has been amplified in the 2013 post-season.
“It’s unfortunate he got hurt, he’s a good player,” Virtanen said. “It’s my first suspension — hopefully my last . . . I’ve thought about it for the past couple days.
“Especially in the third round. Not being able to play the third game at home is definitely disappointing. You just have to move on from it and it’s learning experience and have to move on from it.”
After the hit, Friday’s game seemed to spiral out of control and resulted in 101 minutes of penalties, including Virtanen’s five-minute major. In the end, Edmonton had 14 power-plays and connected on four.
Martin Gernat’s marker on the man-advantage midway through the third period to go up 2-0 proved to be the back-breaker and led to the 6-0 loss.
Definitely a learning experience for the Hitmen.
“You have to talk to him,” Williamson said. “Everybody has to be aware of different situations. But if it was a blindside hit or Jake got his hands up on the hit, I’d be talking to him a bit — getting him to change the way he goes about it, but he’s going to finish a bodycheck that you probably would have seen a hundred of in the hockey game.
“It’s unfortunate Corbett got hurt on it, but I think it was more of him jumping out of the way . . . from what I saw.”
ICE CHIPS . . . Airdrie’s Ty Rattie was named the WHL player of the week with six points (two goals and four assists) with a plus-three rating in two games as the Portland Winterhawks went up 2-0 on the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL Western Conference championship series . . . Portland goalie Mac Carruth was nominated for the CHL goalie of the week.
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