Few thought that this would be an easy challenge for the Oil Kings, but most thought that the Hitmen would have been knocked out by now. Instead, it’s a game 7 showdown, winner takes all in Edmonton Tuesday night. To the victor, the opportunity to limp into the WHL finals against the Portland Winterhawks. And the loser, an early summer. Somehow neither opportunity sounds all that pleasant.
The NHL season is not yet over, but it is for the Calgary Flames. If you needed any confirmation of that fact, you need only take a look at centre ice in the Calgary Saddledome. The Flames logo has already been replaced by the Calgary Hitmen’s dark mask icon. And why not? These are important games, especially since the games played are against the Edmonton Oil Kings, last year’s WHL champions. Still the ice is certainly a statement about NHL hockey in Alberta, both teams are in need of some serious changes and improvement to match up to the success of the WHL franchises.
Making the jump from Bantam to Junior hockey is never easy and becomes especially more difficult when it means leaving your home, your friends and your family to live with billets and play in a new town or city. For some like Calgary Hitmen rookie centreman Greg Chase selected in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2010 Bantam Draft, the move was a fairly easy adjustment just moving three hours down the highway from Edmonton to Calgary. Well, easy for the most part.
Red Deer Rebels fall 5-3 to Calgary Hitmen
After watching the Edmonton Oilers suffer through injury riddle season after injury riddled season, it’s easy to see similarities and have sympathy for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. The team has been playing with their depleted roster for months now. Some games they were only short a couple of players, but other games they were down to 12 forwards and 4 defencemen. The worst part of the situation for the Rebels, who can they call up? The team does have affiliated players, but the teams they are currently playing for have the right to choose whether or not to release the players. It the affiliated player is required for games, the Rebels go without.
Following their run to the Memorial Cup last season, the Kootenay Ice have been trying to prove that their success was no accident. They’re succeeding. As the calendar moves closer to the end of the WHL regular season, the Kootenay Ice are one of the teams who have pulled out as a force to be reckoned with. Their defencive play can frustrate and irritate the strongest of teams, and of course they can score.
The Kootenay Ice opened the scoring with a power play goal in the first period from Jagger Dirk with assists from Jesse Ismond and Sam Reinhart. Sam is the youngest of the three Reinhart brothers and not draft eligible until 2014. Already with the attention he is garnering it is becoming clear that he will likely be drafted the highest.
The Oil Kings have taken all three games against the Hitmen at home, and after falling behind the Hitmen early in the first period, it looked as though the Hitmen may take all of their home games. But, hockey is a funny sport, and you often need to see the full sixty minutes.
Matt Mackenzie was the captain of the Calgary Hitmen when he was traded last January to the Tri-City Americans. It was a move to add depth to their blueline as the Americans prepared for what they hoped would be a long WHL playoff run. The Americans’ playoff run was not as long as they had hoped, but the experience gave the third round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres playoff experience he would not have had with the Hitmen.
The competition of the WHL’s Central Division has been heating up as of late. The Edmonton Oil Kings continue to put up record numbers and separate themselves from the rest of the pack and at the same time, the interdivisional games become even more valuable as teams gear up to win home ice advantage.
Sunday afternoon was another Central Division matchup when the Calgary Hitmen Hosted the Red Deer Rebels. The Rebels for a second year in a row are of particular interest to Oilers fans due to a young defenceman from Calgary by the name of Mathew Dumba.
All good things have to come to an end, including winning streaks. Wednesday night, The Calgary Hitmen’s winning streak had to end at 8 after an emotional 5-1 loss to central division rivals the Medicine Hat Tigers. With a total of 8 fighting majors, 114 penalty minutes and 33 infractions, both penalty boxes could have used revolving doors.
The Eastern Conference leaders, the Edmonton Oil Kings, came into Calgary to challenge a team riding a six game winning streak. You must also remember that despite the fact that this is WHL hockey, this is still very much a battle of Alberta. It doesn’t matter how long a player has been with their team, they know that the rivalry is very real. And as such, this was anyone’s game.
About Oil Patch
Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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