Fine time for a split

SCOTT FISHER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Saturday's Game 2 loss may have stung.

But, truth be told, the Calgary Hitmen had already accomplished their mission before the puck dropped.

With a 2-1 victory in Game 1, the Hitmen grabbed home-ice advantage. Hitmen sniper Ryan White said the Saddledome faithful could push his club over the top.

"That's what we came in here for, to get home-ice advantage," White said. "We had some pretty big crowds towards the end of the year."

Massive crowds, in fact.

The Hitmen averaged 16,541 -- including a franchise-record 19,017 March 11 against Saskatoon, for their final two home games of the regular season.

The attendance numbers won't likely be that high for Games 3 and 4 Wednesday and Thursday (7 p.m., Shaw).

But surely the crowds will be better than they were in Cranbrook, which averaged 3,193 for the first two games.

"There's a lot of empty seats out there," White said. "They like their teams and they're still pretty loud. It's just too bad they don't get more people in here.

"I'm sure (the 'Dome) will be a rockin' place Wednesday night. We have faith that our fans will be behind us."

Ice players were quick to defend their fans but admitted they'd like to see a full house.

Game 2 hero Ryan Russell said the Cranbrook Rec Plex may not be bursting at the seams but the fans do their best to encourage the home team.

"When you look at the last couple of years, we had some pretty good crowds here for the first two games of this series," Russel said of last year's first-round average of 3,095.

"It's spring break, so that may tend to keep some fans away.

"But I thought they were pretty loud and that helps a team out."

Kootenay goaltender Taylor Dakers, who rebounded in a big way after surrendering a couple of softies in Game 1, said he was hoping for sellout crowds in the post-season.

"It's a little disappointing," he said. "The last (regular season) game was a sellout against these guys. It was a great game. I expected to have a few more people out to watch these last two games.

"But the fans here are strong and they love their hockey. We can't complain. They've been great the last few nights.

"We're getting a little used to it now. The last two or three seasons, we haven't really been getting the draw we wanted. As players, we can't worry about that. We just try to play hard."

Calgary averaged 10,049 fans for last year's first-round victory over Lethbridge.


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