Equipped for the task

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Justin Pogge looks like a new man. As long as he doesn't play like a new man, the Calgary Hitmen should be just fine.

The old Pogge put up some pretty solid numbers.

Pogge, his head freshly-shaved from a recent cancer-fighting fundraiser, unveiled his new equipment -- black pads, glove and blocker -- during the final weekend of the regular season.

Curious timing, one might think. Especially with the kind of record-setting season he's enjoyed. If it's not broke, why fix it?

"I just wanted a change," says Pogge, who yesterday was named to the Eastern Conference first all-star team and as a finalist for the WHL's goaltender of the year award (against Vancouver's Dustin Slade).

"I've had the white pads for three years and I wanted something different. These ones go nicer with our jerseys."

Goaltender coach Darcy Wakaluk said he understands Pogge's decision.

"He's been talking about it for the past six weeks," Wakaluk says. "Sometimes, going into the playoffs, goalies need a little change. It makes them feel a little bit bigger.

"But Pogge knows what he has to do out there so there's no concern on our part."

What he has to do is what he's done all season long: Be brilliant. The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect went 5-1 this season against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who will host Game 1 of the opening-round series Friday. He has a 1.78 GAA and .920 save percentage against the 'Canes.

The world junior gold medallist represents Calgary's biggest advantage over any team they'll face in the post-season, although he'll have some help from a solid defence corps.

Hitmen captain Brett Carson was also named to the Eastern Conference first all-star team while Jeff Schultz picked up second-team honours.

"We have no concerns with our back end," Wakaluk says. "But he certainly is one of the best goaltenders in the WHL, if not all of Canada."

The Hitmen, famous for getting in one-goal games, need Pogge to be sharp, says Wakaluk.

"Justin can't score goals, so all he has to worry about is stopping the puck," he says.


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