Hitmen tripped up by hype

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

The Calgary Hitmen were pegged as one of the top teams in the country.

Until they stepped on the ice.

The club stumbled out of the gate and the ranking has long since disappeared.

Heading into tomorrow night's divisional matchup in Lethbridge, the Hitmen are looking to turn the corner and leave their mediocre 5-4-1-1 record behind.

Overage forward Brett O'Malley hasn't lost any sleep over the ranking.

"It wouldn't bother me none if they didn't even have it," he said. "Personally, I don't really care about the rankings.

"I guess it's nice to know you're in the top 10 in the country but I'd rather have our record above everyone else and not be ranked.

"I don't pay attention to the rankings. All it does is give you a false sense of security because guys will think 'we're ranked, we don't have to play hard because we're a good team.' "

O'Malley has witnessed firsthand how quickly a national ranking can evaporate.

Three years ago, as a member of the Hurricanes, he saw the honour come and go in less than a month.

"In my 17-year-old year, we weren't ranked before the season started but we came out and won eight of our first 10 games.

"We were ranked fifth or sixth in the country and then it just dropped right off.

"It can come and go really fast. One week were ranked and a couple of weeks later, we were out of it."

Captain Ryan Getzlaf agrees with O'Malley's assessment the club was more interested in reading its own headlines than earning the top seed in the WHL.

But a few quick losses brought the Hitmen back to earth in a hurry.

"It was more of a reality check than anything," Getzlaf said.

"We came out of the gates a little cocky because of (the ranking).

"Obviously, we believe we have the team in the dressing room that's good enough to be at that ranking. We just need to earn it now."

The WHL -- and especially the Central Division -- is too tough to rely on skill and potential.

"We came up short in some games because I think we just expected to win," Getzlaf said. "In this league, that's not going to happen."

Head coach Kelly Kisio has juggled his lines in an attempt to spark an offence that hasn't lived up to expectations.

It takes time, Getzlaf said, to get used to new linemates.

"It's tough at the start of the year because you have to find the chemistry within the team. We've struggled with that and have been switching lines around.

"When you're playing with different guys all the time, it's tough to adapt."

After being separated from Andrew Ladd for a pair of games, the dynamic duo has been reunited. Ladd's cousin, Steve Covington slid in on the right side for the first time yesterday.

"I've got a family affair going on now," said Getzlaf, who, ironically, injured both players (Ladd with a hit, Covington with a puck to the face) before the season even started.

Getzlaf, the only Hitmen player to average at least a point a game, is looking forward to adding the speed and grit Covington brings to the plate.

"Covie's a hard-working kid and he's not afraid to go into the corners. Maybe that's what we need on our line, a little more grit," he said.

RABBIT IS WEEK'S BEST: Saskatoon Blades forward Wacey Rabbit of Calgary was named the Western Hockey League's player of the week after he scored three goals and added five assists in four games.


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