Hitmen in double trouble

Rockets defenceman Collin Bowman clears the puck as goalie Mark Guggenberger, Hitmen captain Kyle...

Rockets defenceman Collin Bowman clears the puck as goalie Mark Guggenberger, Hitmen captain Kyle Bortis and Rockets blueliner Tyson Barrie look on last night at the Saddledome. Guggenberger stymied the Hitmen often in a 5-2 Rockets win. (Brendan Miller/Special to Sun Media)

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:33 PM ET

The Calgary Hitmen should be shocked.

They've lost back-to-back games in regulation time -- on home ice, no less -- for the first time all season.

Last night's 5-2 loss to the Rockets at the Saddledome leaves the Hitmen in a massive 2-0 hole as the WHL Championship switches to Kelowna for the next two games.

No one, save for perhaps a few optimistic souls in the Okanagan, could have foreseen this.

But Hitmen blueliner Keith Seabrook, who knocked Rockets star Jamie Benn out of the game with a huge hit in the opening period, said his squad isn't stunned at all.

"Obviously, we were a little down after the game," said Seabrook, who scored one of his team's goals. "But I think we're more mad than we are down. And that's only going to heighten our work ethic for the next game."

The Hitmen will need their best effort of the season tomorrow night in Kelowna (8 p.m., Shaw TV, Fan 960) if they hope to get back in this series.

But it can be done. Two years ago, the Hitmen overcame a 2-0 series deficit to beat the Brandon Wheat Kings in six games -- although the first two losses were on the road.

The Hitmen held a large territorial advantage through two periods, but thanks to the stellar goaltending of Rockets starter Mark Guggenberger, the game was knotted at one.

And then the roof caved in.

Kelowna speedster Evan Bloodoff, who scored in the second period, used his wheels to set up a pair of goals just 1:44 apart, and the Rockets were off to the races.

Former Hitmen centre Ian Duval cleaned up Bloodoff's garbage for the go-ahead goal before Calgary Flames prospect Mikael Backlund scored a pair to put the game out of reach.

Czech import Tomas Karpov scored in the second period for the home side, while Colin Long put the game on ice with an empty-netter in the dying seconds.

Hitmen head coach Dave Lowry said his club couldn't match the Rockets in the final frame.

"Going into the third period, I thought we were in a fairly good position," Lowry said. "Unfortunately, they took the play to us. They elevated (their game), got some momentum and they capitalized on their chances."

Guggenberger stole the show in the second period when he made 15 of his 27 saves. Calgary starter Martin Jones kicked out 21 shots and absorbed his second straight loss.

There wasn't much in the way of offence in the scoreless opening period. But there were plenty of bone-crunching hits.

Hitmen defenceman Michael Stone laid out a pair of Rockets on the same shift.

First, he blasted Kelowna enforcer Ryley Grantham to the ice, popping the helmet off the 6-foot-4 forward. Then, he blasted Lucas Bloodoff with a big open-ice hit.

A minute later, Seabrook rocked Benn behind the Calgary net. The world junior star stayed on the ice for several minutes, left for the locker-room and did not return.

It was the second night in a row Seabrook had Benn seeing stars from a massive hit.

The Hitmen outshot the visitors 16-6 in the middle frame and had a half-dozen glorious opportunities but were held at bay by Guggenberger.

Karpov one-timed an Ian Schultz feed into the back of the net 2:45 into the period to give the Hitmen their first lead of the series.

But Guggenberger stood on his head for the rest of the stanza, robbing Brandon Kozun (twice), Kyle Bortis, Brett Sonne and Joel Broda, the last one on a partial breakaway.

SCOTT.FISHER@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos