Merkley's return hits the mark

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Riley Merkley's timing is impeccable.

The Hitmen veteran, who has become a shootout specialist this season, re-turned to the lineup last night after missing 13 games with a knee injury.

It only made sense the Hitmen would to go a shootout with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Merkley, who also scored in regulation time, and Freddie Pettersson scored in the penalty shot frame to give the Hitmen their sixth shootout win in as many games.

Jeff Schultz, Brett Sonne and Brodie Dupont also scored in the opening 60 minutes in Calgary's 5-4 victory.

"We weren't in (a shootout) while I was out," said Merkley, who lit the lamp for the fourth time in six shootout attempts.

"Before the game, somebody said, 'It feels like we haven't been in a shootout forever.'

"But we're confident in shootouts because we have a lot of good shooters."

Merkley just managed to squeeze a backhander under Brandon starter Tyler Plante while Pettersson roofed his shot. Justin Pogge stopped two of three Wheaties to record his 29th win of the campaign.

Calgary improved to 37-11-1-0 and beat Brandon for the third straight time this season.

With the score tied at three in the third period, Dupont's determined individual rush resulted in his 19th of the season.

It looked as though it would hold up as the game-winner but Corey Couchene's second of the night with 2:28 remaining forced extra time. Merkley said he was growing weary of watching his teammates from the sidelines.

"I was getting a little antsy there," Merkley said. "It's tough watching the guys, especially when they're doing so well. I wanted to get back in the lineup and contribute and I think I was able to do that."

The Calgary powerplay was a perfect 2-for-2 in the opening period.

Schultz pounded a Ryan White feed past Plante to put the Hitmen on the board before Merkley redirected a pass into the top corner.

Pogge's latest shutout streak came to a crashing halt midway through the middle frame.

Tyler Dittmer snapped a shot five-hole from a bad angle to snuff the 'tender's goal-less streak at 159:36.

The visitors were back for more just 22 seconds later when Corey Courchene ripped a laser under the crossbar to square the affair at two.

- - -

CALGARY HITMEN: 5

BRANDON WHEAT KINGS: 4


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