Physical pounding could tame Tigers

SCOTT FISHER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

Red Deer Rebels boss Brent Sutter came up with a pretty good game plan against the heavily favoured Medicine Hat Tigers in Round 1.

The Rebels pounded Medicine Hat's world junior stars -- Kris Russell and Darren Helm -- at every opportunity.

It nearly worked as the Rebels pushed Medicine Hat to seven games before bowing out. Perhaps it's time to take a page out of the Rebels' playbook then?

Calgary Hitmen assistant coach Dave Lowry insists he doesn't know what page that would be.

"Oh? What did they do?" Lowry inquired, not quite so innocently.

The Rebels were accused of taking liberties with the Tigers' stars.

And when the Rebels' ruffians weren't severly penalized, Medicine Hat team psychologist Dr. Saul Miller touched off a war of words by calling Sutter a "loudmouth bully" who intimidates officials.

Rest assured, Helm and Russell won't be allowed free to roam when the Hitmen and Tigers hook up for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final Friday in Medicine Hat (7:30 p.m., The Fan 960).

"You have to look at their lineup and see what makes them successful and what makes them go," Lowry said.

"Those are two very key players. We will have awareness and we'll have to pay attention to them.

"Obviously, you have to know when they're on the ice and be smart when they are."

The Hitmen, who finished 22 points in arears of the Central Division-champion Bengals, are comfortable with the underdog tag.

They've already beat two favourites in Kootenay and Brandon thanks in part by WHL player of the week Derek LeBlanc.

"Kootenay and Medicine Hat are two strong teams and they're similar in a lot of aspects," Lowry said.

"Medicine Hat brings a lot of speed and they bring great skill and goaltending. We have to bring our A-game."

Calgary was 3-4-0-1 in the regular season against Medicine Hat, a team that won 80% of its games on home ice.

"The good thing about it now is that it's playoffs and you can put away all those stats and everything that happened during the regular season," Lowry said.

Regular-season numbers may not mean much based on how the Hitmen have played the past month. Home ice will be a factor. The Arena isn't kind to opposition clubs.

"For us to be successful, we have to win in their building and they play extremely well there," Lowry said. "It's a tough place to play.

"Having said that, Brandon only lost four games in regulation time all year. And Kootenay has been a tough place for us to play."

Touche.


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