Tiger jaws of strife

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Like a callous cat pawing its wounded prey, the Medicine Hat Tigers have toyed with the Hitmen this season.

The Gas City gang has won all five games between the Central Division rivals by a combined score of 20-6.

The Tigers, who will be looking for a season sweep tonight at the 'Dome (7 p.m., The Fan 960), have mercilessly clawed the Hitmen for years, winning the 2003-04 season series 3-2-1. The last time the Hitmen came away with a winning record against the Tigers was in 2002-03 when, thanks to a pair of overtime victories, Calgary managed a 4-3-0 advantage.

Hitmen rookie Brodie Dupont is too young to care about history. He's ready to write a new chapter.

"It might be an advantage for the younger guys with the mental aspect," said Dupont, who has points in four of his last five games.

"But I don't think it bothers the older guys too much. They're stepping up a lot lately and I don't think tomorrow night will be any different."

Unlike most of the league's elite clubs, which rely on stifling defence, the Tigers get the job done with the division's most potent offence.

"They've got small, quick guys and they like to get in your face," Dupont said. "They've beaten us five times but I think they've got some bounces. They're beatable and I think we'll solve them tomorrow night."

Fellow rookie Ryan White said the Bengals deserve full marks for their perfect record against Calgary.

"Medicine Hat is an elite team in the league and they have been the last two years," White said. "I didn't play in the league last year but they were the top team in the WHL.

"You have to give them the respect they deserve and be ready to compete every game. And I don't think we've done that yet against them this season.

"This will be the perfect test for us. They're a hard-working team and they have skill to back it up."

A Calgary win tonight would bring the Hitmen to within two points of Medicine Hat in the battle for home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. But the Tigers have three games in hand.

"A win would be a confidence booster going into the playoffs because they're a possible first-round matchup," White said. "We have to show them if they're going to play us, it's going to be a battle. But we also want home-ice advantage, that's what we're striving for. Especially in this barn, with no NHL this year.

"Hopefully, there'd be a lot of fans and that would be a huge boost for us if we had to go to a Game 7 at home.

"Either way, a win would be great. We need the two points."

NEW BLOOD: The Hitmen blueline is getting a youth injection. Justin Falk, a 6-ft. 4-in., 205-lb. rearguard who nearly stuck with the Hitmen coming out of training camp, has joined the club for the stretch run.

GM/head coach Kelly Kisio said he plans to dress the 16-year-old, whose Swan Lake Stampeders of the MJHL are done for the season, for some of the team's remaining seven tilts.

"I don't see why not," Kisio said. "We think he can contribute. He's developed a lot quicker than we expected. He was a lucky pick by us."

Falk was selected 189th overall in the 2003 bantam draft.

HOT PROSPECT: For the second straight year, Prospects magazine has pegged Flames first-rounder Dion Phaneuf as the No. 1 prospect in Canadian junior hockey. Sidney Crosby was ranked No. 2. Calgarian Jeff Glass was ranked fifth.


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