Kozun motivated to push for title

ROD KELLY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

Brandon Kozun wants nothing more than this to be the year.

As the Calgary Hitmen open their 15th season tonight in Red Deer against the Rebels, the club begins its quest for redemption just four months after last season's heart-breaking loss to the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL final.

Kozun, a speedy Los Angeles Kings prospect, calls the thought of a potential trip to the Memorial Cup this campaign his No.-1 motivator.

"We've been coming close a few years now," the right-winger said of a Hitmen team that's topped the competitive Central Division the past two campaigns and won the 2009 regular-season title with a franchise-record 122 points before bowing out to the Rockets in Game 6 last May.

"We certainly have some very big expectations this season," Kozun added.

"We have some good young guys coming in. We also have guys who've been around a while and really believe in what we have in our room.

"It's early, of course, but I think this is definitely the year we want to go out and win one."

The club opens under the direction of new bench boss Mike Williamson, a former Portland Winterhawks head coach.

Goalie Martin Jones, also a returnee from Kings camp and a winner of 45 games last season with the Hitmen, will suit up tonight against the Rebels.

As well, left-winger Kris Foucault returns from the Minnesota Wild rookie camp and defenceman Michael Stone is back in the Dub after taking part in the Phoenix Coyotes camp.

Kozun, selected in the 6th round, 179th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, is coming off a team-leading 108-point season.

He expects his NHL camp experience to help him big time this year.

"It was an eye-opener. There was a lot of stuff that I can take out of it -- mostly habits," he said. "There are things that you can and can't do in the pros. It was a great learning experience to be around pros and to see how they handle themselves. I learned a lot about some of the smaller aspects of the game ... about simplifying my game, in particular."

The Hitmen face the Rebels in their home-opener 2 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Saddledome.

ROD.KELLY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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