Bearing down all night

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

It was only fitting Brandon Kozun scored the goal that brought down the bears.

He wasn't much bigger than some of them.

"I've heard that before," said Kozun, generously listed at 5-foot-8 and 156 lb.

The Calgary Hitmen sniper took a pass from linemate Kyle Bortis and then picked the top corner to start the avalanche of stuffed animals at yesterday's 14th Annual Petro-Canada Teddy Bear Toss.

The crowd of 18,105 tossed more than 22,000 bears onto the Saddledome ice after Kozun, who celebrated the marker by rolling into a ball, opened the scoring 7:47 into the game.

"It was something I had planned," Kozun said after extending his points streak to 10 games.

"It was supposed to emphasize that I was curling into a ball because of all the bears coming down, to protect myself."

Lost in the deluge of bears was the fact the Hitmen (24-4-1-0) won their 11th straight game with a 4-1 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings.

It's the longest streak the club has put together since winning a franchise-best 17 consecutive games in 2000.

Brendan Rowinski, Brett Sonne and Ian Schultz also lit the lamp for the first-place Hitmen.

Wheaties star Brayden Schenn was the only visitor to find the back of the net.

Kozun, who now sits second in the league with 20 goals, said there was a healthy internal competition to be the one to start the avalanche of bears.

"We didn't really have a dressing-room pool, but you could tell everyone wanted to get it," Kozun said.

"Any time you get as many fans out as we did tonight, it helps.

"I was pretty happy, but just as happy to get the first goal and get us off to a good start.

"It's a good memory to have."

The game started with a bang when Wheat Kings winger Del Cowan ran over Hitmen centre Chase Schaber with a massive, but clean, open-ice hit.

That drew an immediate response from Hitmen enforcer Rigby Burgart, who once again was the hands-down winner in the ensuing scrap.

After Kozun's Teddy Bear goal, volunteers needed about a half-hour to clear the stuffed animals.

Shortly after the teams returned to the ice, the Hitmen went back to the attack with a bizarre goal.

Brandon starter Andrew Hayes stopped Carson McMillan on a partial breakaway.

Schultz was pushed into the net and, for some reason, Hayes stood up, leaving the puck in the crease where Rowinski batted it home.

Sonne gave the Hitmen a 3-0 lead when he jammed his own rebound past Hayes on a second-period powerplay.

The visitors hit the board with five minutes to play in the period when Schenn beat Marty Jones to the blocker side.

Schultz, the WHL penalty minute leader, rounded out the scoring in the third period.

McMillan sprung Schultz on a breakaway and the St. Louis Blues' prospect showed his hands can be used for more than just tossing haymakers.

The Calgary product made a great deke to the backhand and put the puck in the roof of the net for his 10th of the campaign.

The Hitmen will now head out on the road for a five-game journey through the tough U.S. Division, beginning Wednesday night in Spokane against the defending Memorial Cup champion Chiefs.


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