Veteran injuries proved costly

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:02 AM ET

The 1,300 km of cold, dark highway last night provided ample time for Calgary Hitmen to reflect.

Twelve hours on the bus is 12 hours too many to look back on how a commanding 3-1 series lead disappeared in a puff of smoke following three straight losses to the Brandon Wheat Kings.

After last night's 3-1 defeat in Brandon, Hitmen co-coach Dean Evason offered some insight as to why his club is now done for the season after losing the WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series 4-3.

When defenceman Brett Carson went down in Game 3 with a concussion after getting drilled by Ryan Stone, it was a huge loss on the blueline, especially with veteran Darryl Yacboski undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this month. They were Calgary's two most seasoned rearguards.

"It was a pretty major blow for us," acknowledged Evason. "If you had one 19-year-old guy go down in Yac, but having two 19-year-old defencemen go down, now we're playing with a 15-year-old in Alex Plante and a couple of 16-year-olds (Karl Alzner and Justin Falk), there's no question his injury hurt us.

"If only one of those guys had gone down, we probably would have been fine."

That said, the young blueline corps did some great work against a high-powered Brandon club that led the WHL in scoring this season.

"Anytime you go through situations like this, you learn from it and your young people coming back will learn from this for sure," said Evason.

On the other side of the equation, when it comes to scoring goals, the Hitmen can reflect on how the Wheat Kings ground the high-octane line of Ryan Getzlaf, Andrew Ladd and Shaun Landolt to a halt by not allowing them a single goal as a unit in the final three contests.

"Those guys had their opportunities to score goals and for whatever reason we just couldn't find a way to get through," said Evason.

"In these last three hockey games, the second and third opportunities, so you have to give their defence credit for limiting us to the outside."

Heading into the series, the talk was how each team's best players had to be their best players and it's fair to say Brandon's key guys were just that much better than Calgary's top guns.

"We were disappointed we couldn't close the series out but they've got a lot of veteran people on their hockey club that stepped forward and they were able to battle back," Evason said.


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