Ending with a bang

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

The Calgary Hitmen popped the bubbly one night early. Calgary picked a perfect way to drop the ball on 2004 with a big 4-3 victory over the Red Deer Rebels last night at the 'Dome.

Brett Carson, Shaun Landolt and Konstantin Pushkarev scored on the powerplay and Derek Werenka had the eventual game-winner as the Hitmen (17-13-6-1) moved to within a point of third-place Red Deer in the Central Division.

The Hwy. 2 rivalry was lacking for star power, with each team missing six regulars due to international tournaments.

Landolt, the game's first star, energized his club with a massive first-period hit on Red Deer's Shaden Moore and then added a goal and an assist to lead the Hitmen.

"We needed to elavate our game in their absence," Landolt said, referring to the team's top two scorers, Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd, who are at the world junior tourney.

"Guys like me had to score and play a little more physical to make up for what we were missing."

Rebels centre Chris Neiszner brought the visitors to within a goal when he poked in his 10th of the season with 3:18 to play but Hitmen starter Scott Bowles, who made 35 saves, boarded up the net the rest of the way.

The Hitmen jumped on top 3:52 into the opening period on their first powerplay opportunity.

Pushkarev patiently set up shop behind the Rebels net and waited for Carson to pinch in from the point. The big d-man one-timed the perfect feed over former Hitmen Gerry Festa's blocker.

"Pushy came around the net and I slid in there," Carson said. "I knew he was going to hit me because he's a skilled player.

"He likes to play back there. Even in warmup, you see him making plays from behind the net."

The Rebels evened the score early in the middle frame when Ty Morris converted a nice three-on-two feed from Neiszner

But the Hitmen powerplay went back to work a minute later.

Dustin Kohn's 5-on-3 point shot was blocked in front but Landolt scopped it up and slid it under Festa to put the Hitmen back on top.

Twenty-five seconds later, Pushkarev banged home a beautiful cross-ice feed from Lee Zalasky for Calgary's third powerplay marker on the night.

Red Deer outshot the Hitmen 38-25.

- - -

CALGARY HITMEN: 4

RED DEER REBELS: 3


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