Slumpin' awful

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:37 AM ET

It's bad enough the Calgary Hitmen were shutout for the first time this season.

The 4-0 loss last night at the Saddledome, where many fans booed after the final horn sounded, becomes that much more disappointing for the WHL club because it came at the hands of the hated Red Deer Rebels.

So the Hitmen, who have scored one goal in their last two games, held a players-only meeting following the contest to clear the air and try to get everyone back on the same page.

"It's just about our play right now," said captain Dylan Yeo.

"Some of the guys are not playing as good as they can and it's affecting the team. We're not playing as a team right now. We're playing as individuals and we've got to get away from that and start playing as a team."

The Hitmen (24-16-0-3), who hadn't been shutout since Feb. 4, 2006, barely generated any scoring chances last night, even with the powerplay.

They've now gone 2-5 since the Christmas break and find themselves two points behind the Rebels for third place in the Central Division, although Calgary does have two games in hand.

"We're in a little bit of a slump ... and we've got to start getting things going right now, especially after the trade deadline. This is our team now," said Yeo.

The 23-15-3-4 Rebels played a solid game and tallied three times on the powerplay while netminder James Reimer earned his first shutout of the season and barely worked up a sweat in making 21 saves.

Ryan Gillen, a 6-ft. 7-in., 230-lb. blueliner who was acquired from Tri-City at the trade deadline Wednesday, played for the Hitmen and made his presence felt in the opening period with a crushing hit on Dustin Moore in the Calgary corner. Moore had to be helped off the ice and didn't return.

The Rebels got it going early on Martin Hanzal's powerplay goal at 4:07 of the opening frame as he beat Dan Spence with a top-shelf wrist shot from the circle.

Red Deer came out fired up and didn't allow a Hitmen shot until Ryan White hit the net at 9:30. It was one of only four shots the sluggish Hitmen got on Reimer.

The second period turned out to be a scoreless but penalty-filled frame as both teams got more physical, which suited the Hitmen who played a better period than they did in the opener.

But the visitors broke it open in the final frame as Poulter redirected a Cullen Morin point shot at 1:31 with Ryan White in the box for a four-minute high sticking penalty. Then Russian sniper Kirill Starkov roofed a short-side shot three minutes later.

Poulter tallied his second with 1:53 left to make it 4-0.

Next up for the Hitmen is a tilt in Cranbrook, B.C., tomorrow night against the red-hot Kootenay Ice (28-10-2-2-).

HIT PARADE:

Hitmen F Freddie Pettersson made his WHL return after playing for his native Sweden at the world junior hockey championship. He and D Karl Alzner, who won gold for Canada, were honoured before the game ... D Dan Mercer, who was acquired by the Hitmen at Wednesday's WHL trade deadline, didn't suit up last night as he couldn't make it to Calgary in time.


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