Disappearing acts

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

Just 15 seconds into last night's game, Ryan Getzlaf stood alone in front of the Brandon net, the puck on his stick, poised to rip a hole in the Wheat Kings' hearts. That's what leaders do.

And the Calgary Hitmen captain has done plenty of leading during these WHL playoffs, scribbling his name all over the scoresheet with 17 points in 12 games, second-best only to Brandon's Eric Fehr.

But with Wheat Kings goalie Tyler Plante sprawling on the ice, Getzlaf rang a wrist shot off the post that hopped harmlessly into the corner.

Although it isn't fair to hang Calgary's 3-1 loss and series defeat on Getzlaf or his equally ill-fated linemates Andrew Ladd and Shaun Landolt, the Hitmen's best players simply weren't last night, save for goaltender Justin Pogge.

Each sniper on Calgary's top line had his chances to be the hero but each was held pointless. All three failed to find the net in the last two encounters, both losses.

While Brandon's Ryan Stone line deserves plenty of credit for shutting down Calgary's most potent unit, the Hitmen's top guns still held the series in their hands.

Each player faced an opportunity to make the game his, snuffing out Brandon's improbable series comeback from the brink of elimination.

Each player failed, much to Stone's surprise.

"They're an unbelievable line, I've said it all series," Stone modestly suggested afterward.

"It's worn on me. I'm exhausted but it feels unbelievable. Not letting them get any offence really helped our team get the win tonight."

The Hitmen were fortunate, stomping to their dressing room after 40 minutes locked in a scoreless tie, thanks mostly to Pogge's heroics. Calgary was outshot 15-4 in the opening 20 minutes and 24-16 through two periods.

Getzlaf, playing in his third Game 7 in four seasons in Calgary, again fired wide of the Wheat Kings cage late in the second, breezing in from the point with the game still scoreless.

With the contest knotted at 1-1 midway through the third, Landolt had his chance to shine too, fanning on a one-timer in the slot.

Ladd was also denied from close range with the outcome still in doubt in the third period.

But it was Getzlaf, a first-round pick of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks likely playing his final game as a Hitmen, who held the most opportunities to carry his club into the conference final against Prince Albert.

His work ethic and abundant talent put him in position to be Calgary's game-breaker.

Instead, the Hitmen climbed back on the bus for the long and depressing ride through the night, knowing their season is over.

With 59:45 left to play, Getzlaf's gaffe was hardly the game's turning point but who knows how the contest would've changed had he buried the first one before anyone had broken a sweat?


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