Hobbled Hitmen sniper little help

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:26 AM ET

BRANDON — Brandon Kozun almost had to be tied to the bench.

The injured Calgary Hitmen star tried to will his way onto the ice for Sunday’s opening game.

But after a half-dozen shifts in the first period, and one on a powerplay in the second, it was clear the sniper’s ankle just wasn’t good enough.

“I was almost trying to jump out there,” Kozun said after watching his teammates battle back for a 5-4 win over the Moncton Wildcats.

“Anyone who knows me knows that was killing me.

“I wanted to get out there so bad. I probably could have, but there were a lot of guys playing well. It was a smart choice by Mike (Williamson, head coach) to keep playing them.”

Kozun clearly didn’t have any strength in his right ankle and was stapled to the pine by Williamson when it became obvious the CHL’s top scorer would not be useful.

“He wasn’t able to do as much as he had hoped,” Williamson said. “We have to be careful not to push him back too quick.

“It was a tough decision whether to play him or not.

“In hindsight, we probably should have waited.”

Kozun said his brief appearance gave him hope that he can be more effective as the week goes on.

“It’s only going to get better,” said Kozun, who will continue to receive treatment throughout the week.

“It’s not going to get any worse.

“A lot of times, it felt really good. So that’s a positive to build on.

Kozun wasn’t getting any special treatment from the opposition. Wildcats centre Daniel Pettersson took a chop at Kozun’s ankle after a whistle in the first period.

“They definitely tried to (go after it), but you have to expect that,” Kozun said. “That’s hockey.”

Kozun wasn’t the only player missing from the Hitmen lineup as the game wore on.

Rookie defenceman Jaynen Rissling absorbed a hard hit into the end boards in the opening frame and appeared to injure a leg. He did not return.

Fellow blueliner Zak Stebner was also on the receiving end of a thunderous hit early in the game and had to be helped off the ice, although he did come back.

The decimated D-corps forced sophomore centre Cody Sylvester to fill in on the back end.

“It was a tremendous job by him to go back and fill in there like he did,” Williamson said.

“We haven’t had to use him there all year. But we had a couple of guys go down early in the game and we were shorthanded back there.

“And with the amount of time we were spending in our own zone in the first half of the game, our guys were getting worn down.”

Williamson said Sylvester is the kind of player who will do anything that’s asked of him.

“He did a marvelous job,” Williamson said. “He’s a guy who has stepped up for us in the playoffs and did a lot of different things.

“He’s found the scoresheet and has killed penalties. And today, he jumped back there and filled in without a problem.”


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