Hitmen off to Round 2

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

In the end, the slipper didn’t fit.

The Cinderella Moose Jaw Warriors had three cracks at finishing off the Calgary Hitmen.

But the WHL’s top-ranked team was intent on writing their own storybook ending.

The Hitmen reeled off three straight wins, including a

6-2 victory in Game 7 Monday night at the Dome to claim the opening-round series.

Jimmy Bubnick and Cody Sylvester scored a pair of goals apiece for the Hitmen, who will face the Medicine Hat Tigers in the second round. Game 1 goes Friday night at the Dome (7 p.m., Shaw TV).

“We dug a hole for ourselves,” Bubnick said. “But we worked hard and managed to get out of it. We got the momentum in Game 5 and built on it from there.”

Tyler Shattock and Brandon Kozun, who leads all WHL playoff performers with a dozen points, also lit the lamp for the Hitmen.

Jason Bast and Dylan Hood were the only visitors to beat Hitmen starter Martin Jones, who made 25 saves.

No team has overcome a 3-1 series deficit in the WHL playoffs since the Brandon Wheat Kings turned the tables on the Hitmen in 2005. There were 70 WHL playoff series played in between since then.

Shattock said the series turned after a 5-2 win in Game 5 that sparked the three-game, season-saving run.

“When we won that second game, we knew we had them on the ropes a little bit,” Shattock said. “Once we got pucks past (Warriors goaltender Jeff) Bosch — he played a great series — but it was a credit to us for getting guys in front.”

The boisterous Saddledome crowd of 10,557 didn’t have to wait long to explode as Sylvester picked the short-side top corner less than four minutes in.

Bast, who has been a one-man wrecking crew in the series, brought the visitors even with a one-timer on a 4-on-3 advantage. It was the Tribe captain’s seventh goal of the playoffs, moving him into a tie for the overall lead.

Bubnick, who thought he had his first of the post-season in Game 6, only to have it taken away and given to Shattock after the game, cracked his personal goose-egg les sthan two minutes later.

Bubnick’s initial shot was stopped by Bosch, and Warriors defenceman Ryan Stanton tried to sweep the rebound under his goalie, but it trickled through and into the net.

The Hitmen powerplay went to work a few minutes later. Michael Stone put a perfect pass to the side of the net where Shattock redirected it into the top corner for a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Despite being outshot in the first half of the middle frame, the Hitmen had three chances to build on their lead.

But Ian Schultz’s deflection hit the post, Tyler Fiddler was stoned on a shorthanded breakaway and Joel Broda missed a pair of open nets seconds apart.

But Moose Jaw enforcer Dylan McIlrath ran over Jones and was given a blatant goaltender intereference penalty.

And the Hitmen made the visitors pay when Kozun converted a great pass from Shattock.

If it wasn’t over at that point, it was moments later when Bubnick took a short pass from Kozun, split the Warriors defence and deposited his second of the night in the roof of the net with 13.5 seconds left in the period.

The Hitmen left the ice to a loud standing ovation carrying an insurmountable 5-1 lead.

Hood deflected a nice pass from Kevin Smith past Jones with 12:27 to play, but it was too little, too late. Sylvester rounded out the scoring with a slapshot for his fifth of the series with 7:36 to play.

The crowd stood and saluted the Hitmen with a thunderous standing ovation during the final minute.

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca


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