Bring on the 'Bridge

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

It's the Stampede City against the Windy City.

When the WHL playoffs begin Friday night, the Calgary Hitmen will open in Lethbridge against the Hurricanes in a best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final.

Lethbridge's 5-1 win over Red Deer yesterday gave Calgary third spot in the tight Central Division, setting up a date between the second-place 'Canes and the Hitmen.

Calgary captain Ryan Getzlaf said his club will be ready when they travel south later this week.

"Lethbridge is a talented team and we're going in playing pretty confident as of late. Our last two games have set the tone for what we want to do in the playoffs," said Getzlaf, who led the Hitmen in scoring with 29 goals and 25 assists.

The Hitmen's final two contests included a 1-0 win over the 'Canes on the road and a 4-3 overtime loss in Red Deer Saturday.

Calgary (34-23-9-6) won the season series 3-1-1-1 over the 'Canes (39-20-12-1). Lethbridge brings a full arsenal to the dance after finishing fourth in league scoring with 222 goals. Getzlaf knows the Hitmen will have to focus on defence to stop Colton Yellow Horn (86 points), Jonathan Filewich (80) and Tyler Redenbach (63).

"That's going to be a big test for our defence and goaltending. We're going to need Justin Pogge to come up big for us in net throughout the playoffs," said Getzlaf.

"Goaltending is one of the biggest things you can take into a series. Look at Cam Ward in Red Deer. Last year he faced 35 or 40 shots a game and only gave up a goal. He gave his team a chance to win every night and that's what we expect out of Pogge."

Ward was the main reason the Hitmen lost 4-3 in the opening round to the Rebels last season. Red Deer also beat Calgary the previous year.

In Lethbridge, the man between the pipes is Aaron Sorochan, a 20-year-old who has the 'Canes in the post-season for the first time since 2001-02.

Lethbridge head coach Lindsay Hofford knows Sorochan must be at his best when the puck drops.

"Goaltending and refereeing are the two biggest factors in playoff hockey," said Hofford. "I hate to say that but they are the two things that can be the determining factors and that's just the way it is. You're not going to win in the playoffs if you don't have good goaltending."

While Sorochan has post-season experience from his time in Vancouver, many of the Hurricanes haven't had a sniff at the playoffs.

But Hofford doesn't think inexperience will be a problem.

"You can look at it as some of our guys have been have been waiting three years to get to the playoffs, so they're not going to let it go by lightly," said Hofford.

"They're going to come out and compete because they know how hard it is to get there and be successful."

Ditto for many of the Hitmen, including Getzlaf, who's been in the playoffs but hasn't advanced past the first round the last three seasons. This is the talented sniper's final shot at a Memorial Cup and Getzlaf is prepared to hoist the Hitmen on his shoulders.

"It's my last chance, so I'd like to take this team as far as we can go," said Getzlaf, 20, who will play pro hockey next season, either with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks or Cincinnati of the AHL.

Getzlaf's line, which includes Carolina Hurricanes prospect Andrew Ladd (45 points) and overager Shaun Landolt (42), will be counted on to score.

"It's the same with any team. Your top guys have to be the top guys every night," Getzlaf said.


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