Calgary and Brandon square off

By Aaron Vickers

It was the curse of Dave Thomas, and the Brandon Wheat Kings would rather not have it biggie-sized the rest of the season.

For the fourth time in the 2003-04 Western Hockey League season, the Hitmen have left the Calgary faithful full of cheers, and full stomachs.

The Wendy’s promotion that sees every fan at the Saddledome leave with a Wendy’s hamburger each time was in full force, as the Calgary Hitmen break for the Christmas season.

It was Wednesday when the Hitmen entertained the Brandon Wheat Kings, for their third and final game of the season, a series Calgary was able to sweep. It was the game Hitmen head coach Blaine Forsythe envisioned, and the one Wheat King bench boss Kelly McCrimmon feared.

With the Christmas season around the corner, Brandon was guilty of giving too generously, at the cost of a 7-1 trouncing of their Alberta neighbors.

Giving was the theme of the night, as Calgary gave Brandon more then they could handle, while Brandon returned the favor by giving their opponents too many chances to convert on their No. 3 ranked powerplay.

With seven different goal scorers, the Calgary Hitmen were able to bury goaltender Geoff McIntosh, who himself didn’t get much support from the skaters in front of him.

In his debut, it was Darryl Moscaluk who put the Hitmen on the board early in the first period. Moscaluk snapped a shot between the legs of Wheat King starting goaltender Geoff McIntosh, a powerplay marker. Following up Moscaluk’s goal was Hitmen forward Lee Zalasky, who created a turnover behind Brandon’s goal, forcing defenseman Jonathon Webb to cough up the puck. Zalasky was denied on the first wrap around attempt, but managed to gather his own rebound to slide it into the cage.

It was Brandon’s turn to respond, as their number four ranked powerplay went to work. With a two-man advantage, Eric Fehr of the Wheat Kings found Reagan Leslie streaking hard towards the net. Leslie managed to chip the puck over Hitmen goaltender Gerry Festa to get Brandon back into the game.

By the time the third period had hit, Hitmen Mark Rooneem, Paul Gentile, and Jeff Schultz converted three consecutive one man advantages, the Wheat Kings could only help but whimper during the nationally televised event on Sportsnet.

Rooneem, who had 26 points heading into the affair on the strength of 14 goals, upped his total with a powerplay tally after Wheat King Mark Shefchyk was guilty of a hooking minor to start off the third period. Jeff Schultz, whose hard shot from the point found the back of the net on the Hitmen’s third powerplay opportunity, with Derek LeBlanc sitting two minutes for charging.

Gentile, in addition to his powerplay tally, also added a pair of assists on the night, concluding the game with three points. Matching that point total was relative newcomer Darryl Moscaluk, who was dealt from Swift Current in exchange for forward Kyle Annesley. Forward Andrew Ladd also potted a three point night, which propelled him into a tie with Vancouver Giant forward Gilbert Brule for second in rookie scoring. Ladd’s fellow linemate Brandon Segal added a goal. It was the line of Ladd, Segal and Moscaluk that instantly clicked, registering seven points on the night. Defenseman Mike Egener, fresh off his try-out for the Canadian World Junior Club, added two assists.

Another player coming off the Canadian World Junior camp was Brandon Wheat King Eric Fehr, who managed an assist on Reagan Leslie’s powerplay goal in the first stanza. Fehr, who leads the Western Hockey League in short handed goals, almost added to his total as he broke in all alone on Hitmen goalie Gerry Festa, only to be turned aside. Festa, who improves his record to 16-8-4, stopped 24 of 25 shots for the victory, as well as upping his save percentage to .917, ranking him fifth among backstoppers in the Western Hockey League.

Off The Boards

The Calgary Hitmen were without Anaheim’s first Round Selection in the 2003 Entry Draft, Ryan Getzlaf. Getzlaf is off to Finland, representing Canada in the 2004 IIHF World Junior Championships…Also missing from the Hitmen line-up was forward Tomas Troliga, who will participate for Team Slovakia in the same tournament…The Wheat Kings had seven scratches in the game. Among them were Tim Konsorada (shoulder), Ryan Stone (eye), Richard Jasovsky (shoulder), and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, who’s captaining his native Norway in the World ‘B’ Junior Championships…Andrew Ladd, Darryl Moscaluk and Gerry Festa were named the games three stars.