Win one and they're in

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

Just one win.

That's all the upstart Calgary Hitmen need to erase three seasons worth of playoff futility, three consecutive years of first-round losses.

A triumph in Game 5 tonight at Lethbridge's Enmax Centre against the Hurricanes (7 p.m., FAN 960) would give the Calgary kids a 4-1 win in their WHL Eastern Conference quarter-final series and a berth into the conference semis for the first time since 2001.

And the Hitmen players know they can't get complacent.

Andrew Ladd, who ended Wednesday night's Game 4 marathon with the winner in double overtime, knows they need to deliver a knockout punch.

"I think if anything we've got to get better than we were last night," said Ladd of the Hitmen's 3-2 win. "Our guys are aware that we've still got to win one more game and we've got to expect them to come out with their best effort."

Through the first four games, the Hurricanes' best outing came in Game 1, when they emerged with a 2-1 win at the Enmax Centre.

Even so, Lethbridge benefitted from a few good bounces in that game and many of the Hitmen players felt they should have won.

The Hurricanes also played well on Wednesday but by the time overtime rolled around, they looked exhausted from the relentless pounding of a bigger Hitmen squad.

Calgary's Shaun Landolt, who centres Ryan Getzlaf and Ladd on the Hitmen's dominant top line, isn't sure if the 'Canes have put their best foot forward in the series.

"I can't say for sure if we've seen their best or even their worst yet. We're just concentrating on our game and whatever they come out and give us, we're going to weather the storm and play our game," said Landolt, 20, who has a goal and an assist in the series.

Which is just what the Hitmen have done so far by throwing their bodies around, killing penalties and doing a masterful job of keeping the high-powered Hurricanes offence in check.

They've also kept their composure, said co-coach Dean Evason.

"We've really talked about staying in control in all different areas. It's staying in control and not taking retaliatory penalties but it's also staying in control of your emotions off the ice as well with your mental preparation," noted Evason. "And we've been able to do that so far and we expect the group to do that in preparing for Game 5."

So far, Calgary's stars have dominated, while the 'Canes' top guns have been silenced.

Getzlaf, the Hitmen captain, is tied for the league lead in playoff scoring with six points (1g, 5a), while Ladd has four goals, including two game-winners, and a helper.

Conversely, the Hurricanes don't have a single player in the top 15. Defenceman Brent Seabrook leads them with three points. High-powered 'Canes stars Colton Yellow Horn and Jonathan Filewich only have one goal apiece.

As for the Hitmen, Evason said they were counting on their best players, especially Getzlaf, to rise to the occasion.

"We anticipated exactly what we're seeing. We know he's the leader of our hockey club and we expected him to step up and lead the group," said Evason.

"In order for us to continue to be successful, he has to lead us in all areas and that's not just in point production but leading us off the ice and preparing mentally to play the games."

Getzlaf assisted on all three Hitmen goals Wednesday night and also exhibited some top-flight penalty killing.

Ladd, who has also found a higher gear this post-season, has benefitted from Getzlaf's play.

"He's playing really well in all aspects of the game and last night he was also huge on the penalty kill, so he's doing everything right now," he said.

Landolt agrees.

"He's definitely stepped it up a notch and the team's following it," said Landolt.

Now it's up to Getzlaf and co. to get it done one more time -- in this series anyway.


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