Hitmen draw first blood

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

LETHBRIDGE -- Steve Covington killed the Hurricanes all night.

It was only fitting he was the one to drive the final nail in the coffin.

The speedy Calgary Hitmen forward, one of the best penalty killers in the league, played a huge role in keeping the Lethbridge scorers at bay, killing nine of the home side's 10 powerplay opportunities.

Then he scored the game-winner -- shorthanded -- with 3:09 left in regulation as the Hitmen took Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final by a 3-2 final.

Brodie Dupont and Jeff Schultz scored powerplay goals and a shaky Justin Pogge turned aside 30 pucks in the victory.

Game 2 of the Central-Division clash goes tonight in Lethbridge (7 p.m., The Fan 960).

Calgary head coach Kelly Kisio applauded the work of his 20-year-old buzzsaw.

"Our penalty killing was very good tonight," Kisio said. "They did a heck of a job and obviously won us the game.

"Covie played a lot of minutes and gave us a lot of energy."

With the teams appeared headed for overtime, rookie winger Brett Sonne picked up the puck in his own zone, skated over the Lethbridge line and sent a perfect pass to Covington, who chipped it past Hurricanes starter Justin Leclerc.

Covington, who, like most of his teammates, is sporting a playoff mohawk haircut, credited Sonne for making the play happen.

"Me and Sonne have been trying to get our first shorthanded goal of the year and we finally got it tonight," Covington said. "He made a great play over to me and I just slid it in the net.

"It was good to get that first win."

Sonne, playing in his first WHL post-season affair, said he felt a few butterflies before the puck dropped.

"It was nice to get that first shift out of the way and get back to focusing on the game," the 16-year-old said. "Special teams are a huge part of the game but we still made some mistakes we can learn from for the next game."

Tied at one early in the final frame, the Hitmen grabbed the lead thanks to Schultz' blast from the point that found the top corner.

But the 'Canes responded a minute later when rookie Ben Wright dumped the puck in from the blueline and it somehow made its way past Pogge.

The Hitmen established their physical play early as Derek LeBlanc hammered Wright 10 seconds in. Mike Reich, on Mark Olafson, and Ryan Letts, on Wright again, dished out some more punishment minutes later.

Calgary took advantage of a 5-on-3 advantage five minutes in to open the scoring.

Dupont redirected a Schultz point shot past Leclerc.

The Hurricanes evened things up in the middle frame on a powerplay of their own.

Olafson brought the puck along the goal-line and wristed a shot far side on Pogge, who rarely gets beat from such a bad angle.

- - -

CALGARY HITMEN: 3

LETHBRIDGE HURRICANES: 2

HITMEN LEAD SERIES, 1-0.

GAME 2 TONIGHT 7 P.M., LETHBRIDGE


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