Calgary Herald article (Hitmen set to battle mirror image Wheaties)April 14 2009 at 7:33 AM
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|N. W. Bruin (Login NW_Bruin_GM)|
Hitmen set to battle mirror image Wheaties
By John Down, Calgary Herald
April 14, 2009 8:01 AM
CALGARY - How's this for a weird thought: The Calgary Hitmen will be playing themselves in the Eastern Conference final.
Don't buy it?
"It's pretty out there," grinned Hitmen co-captain Carson McMillan, who'll lead his troops against his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday in the third round of the Western Hockey League playoffs. "They're a pretty strong team, really offensive . . . a very dangerous team."
All of which can be said about the Hitmen, who will have home ice advantage in the best-of-seven affair.
Two unbeaten teams through two rounds of playoffs, both possessing explosive offences, both with stand up defences. Not much to choose between the two even though the Hitmen won the regular season series 3-0-1-0 while posting a 16-12 edge in goals scored.
Brandon, which will play host to the 2010 Memorial Cup, is a budding team of young stars with a nice mix of hard-nosed veterans and character players. The Hitmen, a more veteran lineup, put forth a similar lineup with a touch more experience.
But the Wheaties have been lighting it up big time in the post season. In this last sweep of the Medicine Hat Tigers, they banged home 26 goals while allowing 12. Seven of their players, including leading plus-minus blueliner Colby Robak, are among the top 20 scorers in the post season. The Hitmen have two in Brandon Kozun and Joel Broda with 12 points each.
"They have so many guys who can put the puck in the net,"continued McMillan, a 20-year-old power forward. "We had close games with them and maybe just had a couple more bounces.
"They have a great team and we're going to have to bring our A game every night because I'm sure they're going to bring their A game every night."
It would seem that the defence and goaltenders are going to have their hands full in this set-to given the number of quality forwards each side can put on the ice. The first three lines on both sides are all capable of winning a game. Even the fourth lines can't be ignored.
Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie, two projected first round picks for this summer's NHL draft, loom as the most dangerous Brandon snipers. Each have 15 points in the first eight playoff games. Then there's Matt Calvert (seven goals, 12 points), hard-nosed Jay Fehr (12 assists), veteran Andrew Clark (7-11), Robak (5-11) and Matt Lowry (3-11).
If there's one glaring statistic, for whatever it's worth, it's in goals-against where Calgary's Martin Jones is packing a 0.86 GAA and .957 save percentage against Andrew Hayes' 2.61 GAA and .904 save percentage.
"They get contributions from all four lines," said Calgary head coach Dave Lowry. "That, for us, presents a great challenge. We had one game where it was run and gun in the regular season and didn't come out on the right end so that is something we will make sure we pay close attention to."
That run-and-gun ended in a 7-6, overtime victory by the Wheaties at the Pengrowth Saddledome. The Hitmen won the other three by a 2-1 count and a couple of 4-2 scores, including the last bash between the two when it got really physical.
"I think that's because it's two teams that play a similar style," said Lowry. "If we had anything carry over from the last game, then I don't think it's going to help us. We know it's going to be an emotional series. We've played these guys in the playoffs before and had some great games and we expect that to be the same."
It'll be the fourth time in league history these two franchises have bunted heads, the Wheat Kings winning the first two sets in 1998 and 2005 and the Hitmen getting the job done in 2007.
Eastern Conference Final - Game 1--Brandon at Calgary; Friday, April 17 (7 p. m. mt) - Game 2--Brandon at Calgary; Sunday, April 19 (2 p. m. mt) - Game 3--Calgary at Brandon; Tuesday, April 21 (7 p. m. Ct) - Game 4--Calgary at Brandon; Wednesday, April 22 (7 p. m. Ct) - Game 5--Brandon at Calgary; Friday, April 24 (7 p. m. mt)* - Game 6--Calgary at Brandon; Sunday, April 26 (6 p. m. Ct)* - Game 7--Brandon at Calgary; Tuesday, April 28 (7 p. m. mt)*
- if necessary
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