Hitmen hitting stride

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

LETHBRIDGE -- The Calgary Hitmen finally turned potential into production. The club frustrated their fans during what most considered to be a subpar 83-point regular season.

But all might be forgiven now that the Hitmen are off to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in four years.

Rookie blueliner Karl Alzner, whose crisp breakout pass started the play that led to Andrew Ladd's OT winner, said this team is finally starting to heat up.

"We were warm during the season and never really reached that boiling point," Alzner said after his squad's 2-1 series-clinching victory.

"But we're peaking at the right time now. We knew we were a good team, we just needed to show it."

GM/head coach Kelly Kisio, who gained a large measure of job security with the first-round win, said he was relieved not to be heading back to Calgary for Game 6 tonight.

"I'm glad that series is over with," Kisio said. "They always say the first series is the hardest one to win. That's a very good hockey team over there and I thought we played real well to beat them in five games."

Kisio said he can feel the players' confidence building with each win.

"They're loose and they're coming to the rink and having fun," Kisio said.

"They're excited and I'm happy for them. They deserve it. Now we're out of the first round and we'll worry about who we're playing next."

Calgary's opponent is yet to be decided but it will likely be the Brandon Wheat Kings, who lead Moose Jaw 3-1, unless Red Deer, which trails Medicine Hat 3-2, comes back to win its series and set up another Battle of Alberta.

Rookie Ryan White, who played a big role in shutting down the Hurricanes' potent scorers, said the team is now delivering on the promise it showed when The Hockey News had the Hitmen ranked third in the country during the pre-season.

"We're on a high because we played five real good hockey games," White said.

"We battled in every one of them. That's where our team should have been all year long. It's just we're pulling together now."

Captain Ryan Getzlaf, who escaped the opening round for the first time in his junior career, said the next round is bound to be even tougher than the first.

"There's a lot of good teams coming out of this conference," he said.


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