May 9, 2009
Early rest from sweeps pays off
By SCOTT FISHER
Through the first three rounds of the WHL playoffs, the Calgary Hitmen spent more time waiting than playing.
All those series sweeps meant nothing to the Kelowna Rockets, who quickly forged a 3-0 advantage in the WHL Championship.
But that added rest may pay big dividends the deeper this series goes, said Hitmen blueliner Keith Seabrook.
"I think it will," Seabrook said. "We had a lot of rest. We worked hard in practice, but after a week off, you're not as sharp going into the first couple of games.
"That might have showed in the first game or two.
"Going into Saturday, I'm sure it'll be a physical battle. We have to keep doing what we've been doing, taking guys physically and moving our feet."
It was Seabrook, arguably the Hitmen's best player in the final, who knocked Kelowna Rockets superstar Jamie Benn out of the series with a pair of monster hits in the first two games.
Benn, who likely suffered a concussion and hasn't played since Game 2, is the WHL playoffs scoring leader.
The Hitmen continued to pound the Rockets in Game 5.
Winger Ian Schultz caught Rockets defenceman Tyson Barrie studying his skatelaces in the neutral zone and lowered the boom.
Barrie remained on the ice for several minutes but did return to the game.
Schultz said the physical punishment will take its toll the further the series goes.
"That's what the playoffs are all about," Schultz said. "It's the team that's willing to battle in the trenches and do everything they can to get the win. It's starting to take its toll.
"There's guys with ice bags all over their bodies here, and I'm sure there is on the other side as well. But's all worth it in the end."
The Hitmen appeared to have more energy than the Rockets in Game 5, as they dominated from start to finish.
And they've finally been rewarded for going to the difficult areas, said sniper Joel Broda, who has five points in the last two games.
"I think it's just persistence," Broda said. "Going there time after time. You may not get rewarded at first, but those are the areas you gotta go to in order to score."