Hitmen blank Rebels

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

Too bad the Teddy Bear Toss only comes around once a year.

All it took was a huge crowd and more than 23,000 stuffed animals for the Calgary Hitmen to put together their finest effort of the WHL season.

The Hitmen blanked the Red Deer Rebels, the eighth-ranked team in the nation, in front of 16,844 fans during the Teddy Bear Toss event Sunday night at the Saddledome.

Cody Sylvester brought down the bears with a short-side snapshot into the top corner of the Rebels net 3:49 into the game, and it stood as the game-winner.

"It was unbelievable scoring a goal in front of all those fans and having all those teddy bears coming down on you," Sylvester said of the 16th annual Petro-Canada Teddy Bear Toss that brought in 23,096 stuffed animals for various local charities.

"It was a pretty special moment."

Calgary overager Kris Foucault also had a special night, scoring on his 20th birthday, to give the Hitmen all the breathing room they would need.

Foucault said there was no internal wagering on who would score the Teddy Bear Goal.

"We didn't have anything going," said the former Kootenay Ice forward. "We tried not to jinx it too much.

"I had one in Kootenay, where we got shut out, so I didn't want to say much."

But it was Hitmen goaltender Michael Snider who recorded the goose-egg Sunday night as he kicked out all 27 Rebels shots to help the team record back-to-back wins for the first time since early October.

"I'm trying to earn the starting job," said Snider, who is responsible for the club's only two-game winning 'streaks' on the season.

"There's a lot of competition going on with the three goalies.

"I really want that job, so I'm going to work my hardest, and (Sunday) really helped me."

The Hitmen improved to 9-21-2 and moved to within four points of crawling out of the league's basement.

Sylvester made sure the fans weren't holding onto their bears for long.

The Kelowna product's 10th goal of the season, which matches his output from last season, was the lone goal of a period that saw both penalty boxes filled to the brim.

The opening frame took 75 minutes to play, thanks to the cleanup of bears, a quick scrape of the ice and a total of 67 penalty minutes.

The Hitmen managed just three shots in the middle stanza but again scored the lone goal.

Foucault took a cross-ice pass from Misha Fisenko and wired a wrister off the iron and in. The Minnesota Wild prospect's 12th of the season extended his goal-scoring streak to five games.

Justin Kirsch had a chance to extend the lead on a shorthanded breakaway, but Rebels goalie Darcy Kuemper flashed the leather to keep it a two-goal game.

Snider made a couple of big stops at the other end, as well.

Brett Ferguson stepped out of the penalty box, took a stretch pass and skated in alone. But Snider got a piece of the shot that also went off the post and stayed out.

In the final minute, he slid across the crease to deny Andrej Kudrna's rebound attempt.

The shots were 13-12 Hitmen after 40 minutes.


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