Hitmen powerplay still needs work

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

On the surface, a pair of late powerplay goals in a blowout victory wouldn’t seem to add up to much.

The Calgary Hitmen are hoping it means momentum going into the WHL championship series.

There weren’t many warts on the Hitmen’s five-game victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings to claim the Eastern Conference championship, but the flickering powerplay was definitely one of them.

Thanks to a pair of man-advantage markers to round out Friday night’s clinching

6-1 victory, the Hitmen finished the series 5-for-23.

Sure, it adds up to a respectable 21.7% over the five-game set, but this is a team which led the WHL with a sparkling 29% success rate during the regular season.

The powerplay struggled through most of the Brandon series. In fact, the Wheaties scored as many shorthanded goals as Calgary scored with the man-advantage until that late barrage.

“You have to give credit to Brandon, as well. I think for the most part we were generating chances, but they were shutting things down,” Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson said.

Calgary will likely need to be better when it faces either the Tri-City Americans or the Vancouver Giants in the WHL final, which begins Friday at the Saddledome.

Tri-City leads the best-of-seven Western Conference final 3-2.

“I don’t know if the goals at the end necessarily change anything, but we can look at what we did well and (what) led to them,” William said. “It’s like our whole game in the series. The more we kept things simple and found a way to get the puck to the net, we got the opportunities to score.”

Both the Americans and Giants have struggled killing penalties this post-season.

Tri-City has 78.9% success rate — marginally better than what it posted in the regular season — while the Giants are at a 67.2% rate.

The Hitmen’s offensive attack hasn’t been questioned throughout the season, but it will be curious to see whether the powerplay has built much needed momentum with the final round on the horizon.

“It’s all about hard work,” said leading scorer Brandon Kozun.

“And I don’t think we were working as hard as we should have been. (Friday night) we did.”


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