Hitmen off to 1-0 start

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:19 PM ET

It was sneak-a-peek night at the 'Dome.

Karl Alzner gave the scouts a taste of what to expect this season and the Hitmen followed in his footsteps as Calgary beat the visiting Red Deer Rebels 3-2 in WHL action.

Alzner, expected to be a high first-round draft pick in next summer's NHL Entry Draft, was everything he needed to be: Physical, poised and a threat in the offensive zone.

The 6-ft. 2-in., 210-lb. d-man had a pair of assists while Matt Isbister, Steve Covington and Brodie Dupont lit the lamp in Calgary's season-opening victory.

"It felt like I played about 50 minutes," the exhausted blueliner said. "I have to do my best to fill in for (Brett) Carson and (Jeff) Schultz because they are a big loss," he said of the graduated twin towers.

Dupont broke a 2-2 tie on the powerplay 4:38 into the third period when he shovelled a rebound past Rebels starter James Reimer.

Daniel Spence made 28 saves for the win, surrendering goals to Ted Vandermeer and Kirill Starkov.

The Hitmen killed off 13 of 14 shorthanded situations while connecting on two of 10 powerplays.

Hitmen GM/head coach Kelly Kisio said his squad needs to learn how to stay out of the box.

"I don't think we played a real smart hockey game," Kisio said.

"We looked real tired but when you're killing penalties all night, you use a lot of the same guys."

The same teams hook up again tonight at the Red Deer Centrium (7:30 p.m.).

Hitmen fans looking forward to watching a more potent offence in '06-07 didn't see much during a scoreless opening period the club was famous for last season.

Starkov came the closest to hitting the scoreboard, ringing a shot off the inside of the post on one of Red Deer's seven first-period powerplays.

Devon LeBlanc, younger brother of Hitmen winger Derek, threw a blind backhand pass out front and Vandermeer buried it fronm the top of the crease early in the middle frame.

Isbister, whose older brother Brad plays for the Carolina Hurricanes, brought Calgary even when his deflection went over Reimer's shoulder.

But the Rebels were back just over a minute later and scores nearly a carbon copy of their first goal. Martin Hanzal centred to Starkov and the Russian import picked up his first WHL goal.

Keegan Dansereau orchestrated the equalizer on a delayed call against the Rebels. He held onto the puck and made a fantastic cross-ice pass to a streaking Covington who gobbled up the rebound after hitting the post on his first attempt.

HIT PARADE: The three stars were Hitmen D Karl Alzner, Hitmen RW Keegan Dansereau and Rebels LW Kirill Starkov ... Not dressed for the Hitmen were D Dylan Yeo (wrist, 1 month), LW Freddie Pettersson (knee, 1 month), LW Brendan Rowinski (shoulder, 8-10 weeks), LW Robin Figren (New York Islanders camp), D Marc Defoe and LW Devon Kalinski ... The CHL rankings have the Hitmen pegged No. 8 after the pre-season. The Everett Silvertips, led by Calgary Flames first-rounder Leland Irving, are No. 1 while the Memorial Cup host Vancouver Giants come in at No. 4 ... The Hitmen acquired d-man Michael Hengen, 19, from the Chilliwack Bruins for a seventh-round pick.


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