Hitmen regroup

SCOTT FISHER, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 PM ET

Michael Stone unloaded 11 shots on net Thursday night.

The Calgary Hitmen all-star defenceman’s totals nearly matched that of the entire Moose Jaw Warriors lineup, which managed 16 at the other end.

And while the end result didn’t work out for the Hitmen — the Tribe shocked the Hitmen 4-2 in the playoff opener — don’t expect Stone to change his approach for Game 1 (Saturday, 7 p.m. at the Dome, Fan 960).

“I think you gotta just keep shooting the puck,” Stone said.

Not a surprising strategy from a guy who lives to unleash bombs.

Sure, Moose Jaw goaltender Jeff Bosch kicked out 48 of 50 shots to steal Game 1.

But he won’t get into Stone’s head. The Phoenix Coyotes prospect has never been one for using finesse to hit the smallest of holes.

His approach has been to create a larger hole by simply overpowering goaltenders with what has been voted the hardest shot in the league.

“I can’t say that all my goals have been (corners) picked,” said Stone, who tallied 21 times during the regular season. “For the most part, I look to shoot it as hard as I can. Sometimes, that’s not the best thing to do. But I don’t think I’m going to change a whole lot.

“Maybe I’ll try to pick a side rather than the middle. If I try to start picking corners, I’ll start missing the net.”

Stone might have dented Bosch’s crest a half-dozen times in Game 1. But that’s a problem the forwards need to address as well.

When there’s traffic in front, Stone’s vapour trails often find the back of the cage. At worst, the puck hits the goaltender and there’s a nice, juicy rebound.

But Bosch saw almost everything in the series opener and was able to swallow up Stone’s shots without giving up any second opportunities.

Hitmen coach Mike Williamson said obstructing Bosch’s view will be a priority Sunday as his club looks to even the series.

“(Bosch) saw a lot of pucks,” Williamson said. “We certainly got a lot of rubber at the net but he was able to find the puck.

“We have to do a better job of arriving at the net before the puck gets there. And when we do get there, make sure we’re in front of his eyes and not off to the side.”

The Hitmen have only put 50 shots on the board in regulation time once in the franchise’s playoff history, and that resulted in a 6-1 victory over the Kelowna Rockets in Game 5 of last spring’s WHL final.

But despite Bosch’s heroics, Williamson said he’s never seen a goalie steal a series.

“I don’t think a goaltender steals a game either,” Williamson said. “Certainly, he played very, very well and you have to give him a lot of credit.

“I just think if we had gotten traffic on him and had a lot of guys in front of the net, and the same result had happened, then we could talk about that.”

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca


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