After being embarrassed in their home barn by the Kootenay Ice, the Calgary Hitmen came out on top of a 5-0 decision on Saturday night to even up their playoff series at one game apiece.
Hitmen rookie Landon Welykholowa scored twice, while Alex Roach, Adam Tambellini and Brady Brassart also found the back of the net for Calgary.
Mackenzie Skapski made 27 stops for the Ice, while Chris Driedger turned away 35 shots from Kootenay, which outshot Calgary in the second and third periods.
Though Kootenay had the edge on the shot clock, the team just didn’t quite get the looks they wanted on the Hitmen goaltender.
“Ultimately, we didn’t get as many shots as we would’ve liked. A lot of perimeter plays as well,” said Ice assistant coach Jay Henderson.
“But there times where their goaltender made some good saves for them and frustrated our players a bit, so at the end of the day in playoffs, it doesn’t matter if you lose 1-0 or 5-0—it’s still a loss.”
After Kootenay came away with a decisive 5-2 win in Game One on Thursday, the Ice knew the Hitmen were going to come out with more fire in the subsequent rematch.
“Obviously, we needed to get one win in their building, no matter what. I thought the first game, we played really well, we were disciplined and capitalized on our powerplays,” said Henderson.
“We knew they were going to raise their intensity level yesterday [Saturday] and we didn’t, so that was the outcome.
“At the end of the day, a split in that building is pretty good, though.”
Just like in Game One, the Hitmen started with some jump and took an early lead 6:29 into the game when Welyholowa took a rebound off the end boards and roofed it.
Less than two minutes into the second period, Brassart dropped the puck for Roach in Kootenay territory, and his shot beat Skapski for a 2-0 Calgary lead.
Kootenay looked like they scored, but the play had been whistled dead as Brassart shoved Ice forward Jon Martin into the goal knocking it off the pegs.
Kootenay also had some blue chip scoring chances from Jaedon Descheneau and Zach Franko, but Driedger stood tall to make some big saves for Calgary.
Skapski also had to make a big save on Brassart, who was given a penalty shot—the second in as many games—after being hooked on a breakaway.
However, Calgary capitalized again late in the frame, with Tambellini muscling his way to the net and shovelling the puck across the line.
Brassart scored a powerplay goal in the third period, and was ejected from the game when got into it with Austin Vetterl after chirping the Ice bench during his goal celebration.
“They’re a physical team and we try to match them in the physical play,” said Vetterl. “If they’re going to get undisciplined, we’re going to make them pay on the powerplay.
“We can’t get into that kind of stuff; I don’t think we’re that type of team, but we got to stay disciplined as we have been throughout the whole season.”
Welykholowa got his second of the night, banging in a feed from Chase Lang, who passed the puck from behind the Kootenay net in the final minute of the game.
Landon Peel made a return to the Ice lineup on Saturday, and Zach McPhee didn’t seem to miss a beat after taking a cross-check to the head on Thursday.
Henderson added that the defensive corps was helpful, especially since it’s a little short-staffed with injuries to Tyler King and Landon Cross.
“At the end of the day, playoffs are like that and you have to battle through some stuff, no question,” said Henderson.
Heading into Monday’s game, Vetterl feels like there isn’t much to change in their approach towards their opponents.
“I don’t think we have to change the game plan too much,” Vetterl said. “Obviously, there’s tinkering you make between games. I think we just have to control the puck and we have to string a couple passes together, move the puck up the ice, and get it behind their D-men.”
NOTES: Hitmen players Linden Penner and Joe Mahon both served suspensions following their actions in Game One. Penner was given a TBD for his cross-check to Zach McPhee, which was a five-minute major penalty, while Mahon served one game after a late-game scrum.