Ultimate warrior

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

The carnage starts three quarters of the way up the nose, where two separate scrapes featured traces of blood more than four periods after the incident.

It's topped by a gash at the bridge of his beak that required four stitches to close -- one for every goal he's scored in these playoffs.

Andrew Ladd's mug is, without question, the face of these playoffs for the Calgary Hitmen.

Capped off by a pair of age-old scars barely hidden by the playoff scruff under his chin, Ladd's is the last face Lethbridge goalie Aaron Sorochan saw last night as he tried in vain to prolong a game so tight it took double overtime to solve.

Banging in a Ryan Getzlaf rebound to give the Hitmen a 3-2 win and 3-1 series lead, Ladd's face quickly disappeared in a sea of grey jerseys owned by teammates thankful the ironman contest ended in their favour.

"Oh god," moaned Ryan Getzlaf of Ladd's reconfigured face.

"He's going to be the ugliest guy in the league by the end of this year."

For that he has Brent Seabrook thank.

Late in the first period, with the Hitmen on their heels down 1-0, Ladd fell awkwardly near the boards at mid-ice and jammed his head into the planks just as the Hurricanes defenceman was closing in for the kill.

The result saw Ladd's helmet slam down into his face, taking several minutes for him to come to. This following a rugged first period -- as if he plays any other kind -- that saw him involved in several big hits.

"I think his knee hit my head and it rung my bell pretty good," smiled Ladd, who required an ice pack on his neck while on the bench recovering.

"I slipped and when Seabrook is baring down on you, he's going to make you play. Once I had a few minutes -- the old finger count -- you kind of suck it up, especially at this time of year."

Back out on the ice minutes later, Ladd helped set up the game-tying goal in the second period by Brett Carson.

He then chipped in with two more stellar periods of brilliance with Getzlaf that eventually saw them hook up for the dramatic game winner.

"Now is the time to step up and show the young guys the way to go -- they should follow," said Ladd, anointed leadership status by way of solid year last year and a fourth-selection overall at the draft courtesy of Carolina.

"It was a bit disappointing how many points I got this year but I improved in other parts of my game."

A big part of Canada's gold medal-winning squad at Christmas, Ladd now appears focused on being the star this team needs him to be to succeed.

"The only thing going through my mind was going to the net and getting that rebound," said Ladd.

"It felt great."

As for the price he had to pay in terms of facial rearrangements:

"That's what it's all about -- scrapes, bruises," said Ladd, watched over by Carolina GM Jim Rutherford last night.

Lethbridge coach Lindsay Hofford knows Ladd has been a 'Cane killer.

"He's been solid all series," Hofford said. "He's been pretty sharp, going to the net hard. "We've got to do a better job containing him."

Or else, that face of his will see plenty more action in round two.

No matter how battered it gets.


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