Hitmen hail their chief

SCOTT FISHER

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

The entire country was glued to their TV sets yesterday to watch Team Canada defend it's world junior championship.

The Calgary Hitmen were no different.

But they had a special rooting interest as they watched their captain, Karl Alzner, win a second gold medal.

"Yeah, go Karl," said injured forward Brett Sonne when asked if he kept an eye out for his teammate.

"He scored that big goal (against the U.S.) and won the game. He's a good player and a good leader."

For Sonne's money, Alzner is the best junior-aged defenceman on the planet.

"There's a lot of good junior players out there and everyone has their opinion," he said.

"But mine is that it's Karl, and I'll stick by it."

He won't get an arguement from Hitmen overage defenceman Ryan Gillen.

"I've heard a lot of scouts mention he's one of the most NHL-ready (junior) players," Gillen said of Alzner, who will undoubtedly be wearing a Washington Capitals jersey next season.

"He might not be the flashiest. But if you watch him, he will not make a mistake.

"He's solid all the way through, makes the smart pass, always comes out of the corner with the puck.

"I love watching the way he plays. Everything he does is sharp and deliberate."

Alzner isn't the type of player who makes the highlight reel on a regular basis. But he's rock-solid defensively and that made him an easy choice as Team Canada's captain.

"He might not get them the most points, but he's the guy who's never going to let them down," Gillen said.

"He'll always make that play that needs to be made."

And he's just as valuable to the team away from the ice.

"He's such a hard worker," Gillen said. "In practice and in dryland (training), he'll be the one who is pushing everyone.

"Which is exactly what you want your leader to do."

Gillen said the Hitmen took pride in watching their leader take Canada to the gold medal.

"Being a Canadian hockey player, you have pride in everyone who is playing," he said. "But playing with Karl, and knowing him personally, you get more excited when they announce his name.

"You definitely watch for Karl."

Alzner will arrive in Calgary this afternoon before hopping a plane en route to Burnaby, B.C.

Since he did not get a Christmas break, he'll spend a few days at home prior to rejoing the Hitmen.

HITMEN 4 REBELS 3

Talk about making a good first impression.

Brock Nixon, acquired earlier in the day from the Kamloops Blazers, scored the game-winning goal last night in Red Deer as the Hitmen beat the Rebels 4-3 at the Centrium.

Brandon Kozun, Bostjan Golicic and Michael Stone also scored for the Hitmen (29-12-1-2), who extended their lead atop the Eastern Conference to six points.

Troy Ofukany scored a pair, including one with two seconds to play in regulation time, and Brennan Wray chipped in with a single for the Rebels, who are in last place in the conference at 11-27-4-1.

The Hitmen are in Edmonton today to play the first of three straight games against the Oil Kings.


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