Kisio happy with Hitmen progress
GM says rebuild not over
By Kristen Odland, Calgary Herald
April 3, 2012
Aside from the end result, Kelly Kisio was happy with the distance the Calgary Hitmen travelled this Western Hockey League season.
"Obviously, we weren't happy with the playoffs, but in terms of the regular season, I thought our guys came a long ways and did a lot of good things," the general manager was saying the other day as the Hitmen were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs. "They showed there is some promise back in the organization.
"We brought a lot of young guys in this year and they did a lot of good work. The middle of the road-aged guys matured a great deal and played a lot of hockey from last year to this year.
"They showed they are good hockey players and have a chance to be pros."
Junior teams are a constant work in progress and turnover is frequent.
The Hitmen have been fortunate and, partially because of Kisio's keen eye for talent, have only missed the playoffs three times in their 17-year history in the city - including the 2011-12 season.
"The jump from last year to this year was obviously very high," said Kisio, whose club finished third in the Eastern Conference before suffering a first-round exit at the hands of the sixth-seeded Brandon Wheat Kings.
"We have to be careful about how much pressure we put on these guys to make the next step higher. We're still in a bit of a rebuilding mode and making sure our young guys get ice time to get better.
"We're going to have to be very careful about how many demands we put on them . . . but still continue to build our hockey team, slowly, but surely."
Rattie earns top honours
The Portland Winterhawks swept the Kelowna Rockets in four games and Airdrie native Ty Rattie was a big reason.
With 10 markers and three assists, including a four-goal outing to close out the series in a 5-3 victory Thursday, he was named the WHL's player of the week Monday.
A natural goal-scorer who has put up jaw-dropping numbers at every level so far, Rattie is pacing the league in playoffs with 13 points.
Linemate and Calgary Flames prospect Sven Baertschi is not far behind with two goals and nine assists.
First round in the books
There are some intriguing matchups in the second round of the WHL playoffs.
One is the meeting of 2012 Canadian world junior pals Mark Stone and Mark Pysyk, who are the respective captains of the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The upstart Wheat Kings, of course, finished off the Hitmen in five games and shouldn't be judged by their sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. Clearly they are peaking at the right time.
The Oil Kings, backed by stellar goaltender and Calgary Flames draft pick Laurent Brossoit, finished No. 1 in the East and had the WHL's best record this season (50-15-3-4).
Meanwhile, the No. 2-seeded Moose Jaw Warriors and the No. 4-Medicine Hat Tigers square off.
In the Western Conference, the offensively gifted Winterhawks and the Kamloops Blazers clash in what is sure to be an intense series that will likely go seven games.
In preparation, the Winterhawks were put through an intense conditioning skate at Sunday's practice.
"They're a good team," Rattie told the Portland Tribune. "I can tell you that I don't think this will be a four-game sweep.
"I think it's going to go for a little bit. Both teams are good . . . and it's going to be a battle."
In the other series, the top-ranked Tri-City Americans are up against the fifth-seeded Spokane Chiefs.
KODLAND@CALGARYHERALD.COM FOLLOW ON TWITTER/KRISTEN ODLANDCH
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