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  April 14, 2001



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Hitmen playing proudly


By BRET HART -- Calgary Sun
 What was it they said? The Hitmen wouldn't get this far. Brent Krahn was injured and they had a hard time late in the season ... oh ye of little faith!

 I guess they showed you -- again.

 To be tied in the second-round playoff series with the No. 1 team in the country, well, as far as I'm concerned, that's a pretty big accomplishment unto itself.

 I'm not surprised, though. Like I've always said, there's something about this team when they're the underdog.

 Make no mistake about it, Red Deer has earned its No. 1 spot. It's a joy watching the Rebels play, especially after the slugfest that Regina brought to Round 1.

 Red Deer is impressive, relentless and the coaching is disciplined. It makes the way the Hitmen are holding their own even sweeter.

 The unsung heroes are doing their part while still getting a lot of leadership from the wiley ol' Hitmen veterans. Matt Kinch is originally from Red Deer, so I can imagine this must be tough, yet thrilling at the same time. In a rare moment on Thursday night, Pavel Brendl had one go off the post.

 Most goalies aren't that lucky! Brendl has the best shot in junior hockey, period.

 I met Robin Gomez's father in the stands, proudly wearing a jersey with his son's name on it.

 He went crazy when Robin scored and I don't blame him for smiling from ear to ear with the way Gomez has stepped up his play throughout the entire post-season.

 Owen Fussey is like an immovable object, with big strong legs like a Bradley tank on skates. I call him "The Tree."

 Rod Sarich is usually such a quiet, modest guy and now, under pressure, look what a barracuda he's turned into.

 With everyone hanging all over guys like Kris Beech, Jordan Krestanovich and Brendl, Sean McAslan, the aggressive, feisty banger from Okotoks, has caused more headaches for this Red Deer team than anybody out there. The Iron men, Brandon Segal, Jared Carli and Michael Bubnick have been meting out a lot of punishment, throwing Red Deer off its game -- and it shows!

 Brady Block, with the weight of the whole team on his shoulders, is shining like a star.

 He's risen to the occasion, making all kinds of unbelievable saves at the most critical times.

 Before the playoffs started, I saw Wade Davis' big, smiling face in the dressing room. Thursday night, it was like, "Hey handsome, what happened to you!" He had a big shiner, fat lip and a few stitches. "Don't worry," he modestly said, "the other guy looks worse."

 I guess Red Deer is getting tired of the stand up job he'd doing on defence.

 I'll be driving up to Red Deer for the game tonight but all you have to do is tune in to 66CFR.

 Mark Stiles does such a great job on play-by-play you'll feel like you're right there.

 And on Monday night, you can be at the game when the series comes home to the 'Dome.

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