After practice yesterday, the Calgary Hitmen were hooting and hollering like they'd just won the lottery.
And it wasn't just because they'd beaten the Medicine Hat Tigers on Wednesday night, their first win of the campaign against the Hat.
That was reason enough to smile but the players found out they were getting a couple of days off on the weekend with no practices, no skating, nothing.
They're going to use the time to do some team bonding before their next game, Tuesday against the Kootenay Ice, said co-coach Dean Evason.
"We're taking Saturday and Sunday off, then Sunday we're going up to Crowsnest Pass," said Evason. "We'll have a nice dinner there, practise Monday morning then do some snowmobiling and other things.
"We'll stay in cabins instead of a hotel and it'll be a real team bonding thing. It's a good time with the break and a good time to get us feeling good about ourselves on and off the ice."
Wednesday's 2-1 triumph over the Tigers should go a long way in terms of the team's on-ice efforts, especially if things hold up in the WHL's Central Division and the Hitmen face off against Medicine Hat in the first round of the post-season later this month.
"Any mental edge going into the playoffs is a positive thing but they're probably looking at like they've only lost one hockey game but I think we match up very well," said Evason, whose Hitmen went 1-4-0-1 against the Hat this season.
"We'd like to improve every game and I think surely in the last four games we've gotten better."
Hitmen blueliner Dustin Kohn, who has 41 points in 63 games, is looking forward to the break.
"Very much so. It's always great to have fun with the guys especially when it's allowed by the coaches," said Kohn with a laugh.
With five days before their next contest, the other teams in the Central Division will get in most of their games in hand on Calgary.
The Hitmen sit in third place with a 33-21-8-4 record, trailing the Gas City gang, who have three games in hand, by two points.
After the Kootenay game in Cranbrook, Calgary travels to Kelowna for a Wednesday tilt against the Rockets before returning to the 'Dome to take on fourth-place Red Deer next Friday.
HIT PARADE: D Darryl Yacboski had his first full skate with the Hitmen yesterday since injuring his shoulder Feb. 20 against Saskatoon. Hitmen coaches anticipate the 6-ft. 3-in., 220-pounder will be able to play Tuesday.