Hitmen rookie keeps pace

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

Talk about getting thrown to the lions, or Tigers.

Making your WHL debut against the Medicine Hat Tigers is never easy and the task is that much tougher knowing the Calgary Hitmen hadn't beaten the Hat in five games this season.

But that didn't bug young Hitmen blueliner Justin Falk, a 2003 bantam pick who was called up for the rest of the WHL season after his Swan Valley Stampeders of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League finished.

He said he was relieved the Hitmen broke the streak with last night's 2-1 win at the Saddledome.

"That was a big win there. I heard coming in that we've had some struggles with them this season and there's also a bit of a rivalry," said the 16-year-old who stands 6 ft. 4 in. and weighs 205 lb.

Falk, who hails from Snowflake, Man., played well and, like most WHL rookies from other junior leagues, noticed the pace was a lot quicker.

"This is a little bit of a step up from where I came from. A lot quicker, definitely, and with time I'll adjust to it and I'll be all right," he said. "They told me Medicine Hat was likely the fastest team in the league and I haven't been on skates in a few days."

There was a shift in the second where he and defence partner Karl Alzner, another rookie, struggled to get the puck out of their zone and the Tigers buzzed around for a good two minutes but didn't score.

As for playing in the 'Dome, Falk said he's never experienced anything like it before.

"Coming to a rink like this, it sure beats some of the buildings I've played in over my life. I've never had the opportunity to play in a building like this. It was incredible," he said.

It looks like Falk, who nearly made the club out of training camp, will stick around -- d-man Tyler Harder has disappeared from the Hitmen roster.


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