Bad nightmare for Hitmen

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

BRANDON — The Calgary Hitmen didn’t expect to be sleeping in their own beds Saturday night.

They were supposed to be in their Brandon hotel, trying to get some shut-eye before the biggest game of their lives.

The party wasn’t supposed to end early.

Whether or not they would have toppled the powerful Windsor Spitfires in Sunday’s final is now a moot point.

But everyone in the dressing room believed they had a legitimate shot.

And in a one-game showdown, who knows?

Anything can happen.

And that’s why the Hitmen are home watching Sunday’s finale.

They came out flat at a time when there was no room for error.

Time after time, they had beaten the Brandon Wheat Kings — taking 13 of the past 14 post-season meetings, including the last five.

The Hitmen proved they were the better team.

But they still had to come out and earn their spot in the final.

They didn’t.

It’s hard to imagine how a team could be so lethargic with so much at stake.

It was even harder to explain.

“I’m surprised,” head coach Mike Williamson said. “I think we seized up at times (Friday). It wasn’t a matter of not wanting to work hard or do the right things.

“We had a lot of guys standing around and watching.

“We did a good job on a lot of things all year — the defensive game and the penalty kill — and some of those things weren’t very sharp.”

As strange as it may sound, goaltender Martin Jones was probably part of the reason why the Hitmen weren’t as sharp as they needed to be.

The WHL goaltender of the year has been brilliant in the post-season.

And he had another beauty going in the semifinal.

The Hitmen took a fortunate 2-0 lead to the dressing room after the first period — thanks to Jones, who was standing on his head at the other end.

They had a lead on a team they’ve routinely beaten, and their goaltender was working his usual miracles.

And they took their foot off the gas.

“Maybe they had a false sense of security with where the score was,” Williamson said.

“We had a lot of guys who didn’t play the way we needed them to or, for whatever reason, do what they needed to get done.

“But I don’t want to take anything away from Brandon because they were the better hockey team (Friday).”

Unfortunately for the Hitmen, that’s why they’re at home today.


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