Hitmen opening spurs net war

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:05 PM ET

Playing backup goaltender for the Calgary Hitmen is kind of like being Tiger Woods' caddy.

Nice gig, if you can get it, but there's not a lot attention that comes with it.

And you rarely get to play yourself.

But incumbent backup Michael Snider and challenger Chase Komistek want nothing more than to serve as Martin Jones' understudy.

Snider, who posted a 10-2-0 record (2.64 goals-against average, .887 save percentage) during last season's rookie campaign, said he's capable of shouldering an increased workload.

"I'm ready to take on a few more games this year," he said. "I want to push Jonesy more than I did last year. I learned a lot from him last year, so I'm ready to go."

Snider beat out Komistek at last year's camp and drew first blood yesterday, backstopping Team Red to a 3-2 shootout victory over Komistek's Team Black.

Snider stopped all five shooters in the penalty-shot phase. Komistek was beaten just once.

It looks as though it'll be quite a battle.

Komistek suffered through a miserable injury-plagued season in 2008-09.

He suited up in just 16 games for the AJHL's Calgary Canucks and Brooks Bandits, posting a 5-4-2 combined record (3.14 GAA, .882 save percentage).

He went home to Medicine Hat for the Christmas break to rest his surgically repaired hip and decided to call it a season.

"I had surgery in May (of 2008) and I was supposed to take a year off, but I jumped back on the ice in two months," Komistek said.

"It just never recovered, so I figured it was best to take some time off to be ready for this season.

"I thought taking a week off would help a little bit, but it stayed the same, so I thought it would be best for my career to take some major time off."

The 17-year-old returned to the ice in April and insisted he's 100% healthy coming into Hitmen camp.

Snider also put some work in over the summer in preparation for the camp battle he knew was coming.

"I was at Dave's camp," he said of former Hitmen bench boss Dave Lowry. "I wanted to get stronger and do better in the fitness testing.

"I worked hard, and I was one of the top guys in a few of the categories.

"I also wanted to improve my quickness and work on my rebound control, and I think it's come a long way."

The annual Black & White game goes this afternoon (1 p.m., Don Hartman N.E. Sportsplex). Admission is free for the tilt which should feature the next chapter in the Battle for the Backup.

"There's definitely a lot of competition with some good goalies," Snider said. "You just have to come ready to play every day."

"It's a battle, for sure," Komistek agreed.

"Snider was here last year, but I just want to show the coaches I can step up."

Goin' camping

The Hitmen's lone European import Misha Fisenko, 19, and Justin Kirsch, 17, scored during Team Red's shootout win yesterday.

Kris Foucault, 18, and Scott Brkich, 19, replied for Team Black. Soon-to-be pros, defencemen Paul Postma and Alex Plante, are also in camp. They'll leave shortly for pro auditions in Atlanta and Edmonton.

SCOTT.FISHER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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