The Calgary Hitmen spent the past weekend travelling through the province of Manitoba, facing off against the Brandon Wheat Kings at Westman Place on Friday, before continuing their three games in a three-day stretch with back-to-back contests against the Winnipeg ICE from Wayne Fleming Arena at the University of Manitoba.
The Wheat Kings handed the Hitmen a 3-1 loss, before the Albertan visitors moved on to Winnipeg Saturday, where they lost the first of two games by a score of 5-2. Calgary then rebounded the following day, narrowly edging the ICE 3-2 in the closest of their three weekend matchups.
Brandon got things going early in the first period Friday, as Duncan Pierce opened scoring just 1:43 into the game on a setup from Oak Park High School alumni Marcus Sekundiak. Jake Chiasson added another with just 22 seconds to play in the first period, on a power play goal assisted by Connor Gutenberg and Cole Reinhardt.
It took until the 57th minute of the game for Calgary to beat Wheaties’ netminder Jiri Patera, as Josh Prokop scored with 3:09 to play, bringing the visitors within one of Brandon. However, Neithan Salame put his third goal of the season into a Hitmen empty net, sealing the deal for the Wheat Kings’ eighth-straight victory.
Patera stopped 30 of 31 shots, while Braydon Peters turned aside 31 of 33 Wheat Kings shots on net. Winnipegger Jett Woo collected an assist on Prokop’s tally, while fellow Manitoban Riley Stotts finished the game as a +1.
Calgary then followed Highway No. 1 East to Winnipeg for a Saturday evening battle with the ICE. The Hitmen outshot the home team 39-32 on the day, but Winnipeg went 3/4 on the power play, essentially taking the game out of Calgary’s hands with their special teams play.
The ICE scored three times in the opening period on tallies from Nolan Orzeck, Michal Teply and Jakin Smallwood, before captain Peyton Krebs added two more before the midway point of the second frame to serve as some potential insurance.
The visitors did score the game’s final goals, as Stotts collected his 18th and 19th tallies of the season, but it was too little, too late for Calgary, who dropped the game 5-2. Liam Hughes stopped 37 of the 39 pucks directed his way, while Calgary’s Jack McNaughton blocked 27 of 32 shots he faced.
Calgary found its first victory in Manitoba in its third game in three days, beating the same Winnipeg ICE team in a low-shooting affair Sunday. Once again, four of the game’s five goals came on special teams Sunday, but those numbers heavily favoured the Albertans.
Vista, MB. product Cole Muir opened the scoring for Winnipeg on his sixth goal of the season just over eight minutes into the game, but it was nearly all Calgary from that point forward. Riley Fiddler-Schultz scored shorthanded 4:05 into the second period, before Carson Focht found his 22nd of the year on a late-period power play, assisted by Winnipegger Jett Woo.
Isaac Johnson responded with a power play goal of his own for the ICE, but a late-period strike from Orca Wiesblatt sealed the deal for Calgary, with just over six minutes to play in the game. Jesse Makaj only made 17 saves on 20 shots, while Braydon Peters also turned aside 17 of the 19 shots he faced for the Hitmen.
The Wheat Kings will look to continue their nine-game winning streak with back-to-back weekend tilts against Victoria and Lethbridge, while Winnipeg will hope to get back to its winning ways on Saturday and Sunday as the Royals and Moose Jaw Warriors make their way to Manitoba for a weekend of hockey.