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WHL: Hitmen roll to WHL regular-season title

The Canadian Press

3/15/2009 3:14:52 AM

For the Calgary Hitmen, having the Eastern Conference locked up wasn't enough - they wanted to be the best team in the Western Hockey League.

On Saturday, the Hitmen achieved that goal by defeating the Medicine Hat Tigers 4-1 to win their first WHL regular season title since 2000.

"For us, it feels really good," said Calgary head coach Dave Lowry. "For a team that's supposed to be a middle-of-the-pack team maybe in a rebuilding mode, we've had a lot of big contributions from a lot of players.

"We've had balance. We've had depth. We've had a commitment from everybody. That is what makes it really good."

That depth and commitment was evident on Saturday, when the Hitmen (58-9-3-1) received goals from Alex Plante and Chase Schaber, both scoring for only the eighth time this season.

Carson McMillan and Joel Broda, with his league-leading 52nd goal of the year, also scored for Calgary, which clinched home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs and will host either the Prince Albert Raiders or the Edmonton Oil Kings to start the first round.

Elsewhere in the WHL, it was: Saskatoon 5, Prince Albert 4; Vancouver 6, Prince George 0; Brandon 6, Moose Jaw 3; Kelowna 7, Kamloops 1; Red Deer 3, Edmonton 2; Seattle 4, Portland 3 (OT); Kootenay 4, Lethbridge 1; Swift Current 4, Regina 2; Chilliwack 3, Everett 2; and Spokane at Tri-City (ppd., illness).

At Medicine Hat, Alta., Tyler Ennis had the lone goal for the Tigers (36-29-4-3), who clinched fifth place in the conference despite the loss and will travel to Swift Current to face the fourth-place Broncos in the opening round.

"It is nice that we are playing (Swift Current)," said Medicine Hat captain Brennan Bosch. "It is a lot closer travel (than the third-place Brandon Wheat Kings)."

Martin Jones made 19 saves for Calgary, while Tigers netminder Ryan Holfeld stopped 29 shots.

Blades 5, Raiders 4

At Saskatoon, Milan Kytnar scored with under four minutes remaining to lift the Blades over Prince Albert.

Curtis Hamilton scored twice and added an assist, Chris Langkow and Burke Callimore had a goal and an assist each, and Derek Hulak had two helpers for Saskatoon (49-18-3-2), which clinched the East Division title with its final win of the season.

Jordan Kochan, Jordan Hickmott, Ryan McDonald and Brandon Herrod replied for the Raiders (31-36-4-1), who are tied with the Edmonton Oil Kings for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Giants 6, Cougars 0

At Vancouver, Jamie Tucker made 23 saves to record his sixth shutout as the Giants closed out their season with a rout of Prince George.

James Wright and Garry Nunn each had a goal and an assist, while Evander Kane, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, James Henry, and Nick Ross also scored for Vancouver (57-10-2-3).

Kevin Armstrong stopped 42 shots for the Cougars (25-43-0-3), who have one game remaining.

Wheat Kings 6, Warriors 3

At Brandon, Man., Brayden Schenn scored a goal and two assists as the Wheat Kings surpassed the 100-point barrier for the first time since 1995-96 by doubling up on Moose Jaw.

Brodie Melnychuk, Aaron Lewadniuk, Nathan Green, Matt Calvert and Chad Erb also scored for Brandon (48-19-3-2), which finished second in the East Division and third in the Eastern Conference with 101 points. Scott Glennie picked up three assists.

Jason Bast, Brian Sommers and Travis Hamonic replied for the Warriors (19-50-1-2), who finished last in the Eastern Conference.

Rockets 7, Blazers 1

At Kelowna, B.C., Jamie Benn scored two goals - his 45th and 46th of the season - as the Rockets defeated Kamloops.

Ian Duval also scored twice, including a shorthanded effort for Kelowna (46-21-1-3), which swept its season series with the Blazers, winning all nine games. Evan Bloodoff, Ryley Grantham and Stepan Novotny also scored for the Rockets, who led 3-0 and 4-0 at the period breaks.

C.J. Stretch replied for Kamloops (33-33-2-4), which also lost 6-4 to the Rockets on Friday.

Rebels 3, Oil Kings 2

At Red Deer, Alta., Landon Ferraro's 37th goal of the season late in the second period proved to be the winner as the Rebels slipped past Edmonton.

Brennen Wray and Alex Petrovic, with his first of the season, also scored for Red Deer (24-37-1-9).

Jeff Lee and T.J. Foster replied for the Oil Kings (29-33-4-5), whose 67 points tie them with Prince Albert for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. Edmonton hosts the Rebels in the final game for both teams on Sunday, and the Oil Kings will earn a playoff berth with a single point.

Thunderbirds 4, Winter Hawks 3 (OT)

At Portland, Ore., Jim O'Brien notched two goals and an assist as Seattle edged the Winter Hawks.

Jeremy Boyer scored at 0:44 of overtime, on a power-play goal, to finish the comeback victory. Thomas Hickey got the other goal, shorthanded, for the Thunderbirds (34-32-1-4).

Portland (19-47-3-2), which scored twice in the first 1:20 of the game, got goals from Riley Boychuk, Killian Hutt and Oliver Gabriel.

Ice 4, Hurricanes 1

At Cranbrook, B.C., Hayden Rintoul broke a 1-1 tie 12:04 into the third period as the Ice scored four goals in the final 17 minutes to push past Lethbridge.

Ian Barteaux scored twice, Andrew Bailey finished with a goal and two assists, and Brayden McNabb added two helpers for Kootenay (35-29-2-6).

Zach Boychuk had the lone marker for the Hurricanes (35-31-3-2).

Broncos 4, Pats 2

At Regina, Mike Brown scored the game-winner to help Swift Current beat the Pats.

Justin Dowling, Cody Eakin and Michael Stickland added goals for the Broncos (42-28-1-1), who are set to face the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first round of the playoffs.

Jordan Weal and Matt Strueby replied for Regina (27-39-1-5), which managed just 12 shots during their season finale.

Bruins 3, Silvertips 2

At Everett, Wash., Dylen McKinlay snapped a tie midway through the third period as Chilliwack defeated the Silvertips.

David Robinson and Kevin Sundher also scored for the Bruins (18-46-2-5), who managed to avoid finishing with the worst record in the league.

Kellan Tochkin and Taylor Ellington scored for Everett (27-35-7-2).

Chiefs at Americans (ppd., illness)

At Kennewick, Wash., the game between Spokane and the Americans was postponed until Tuesday due to a bout of food poisoning affecting Chiefs players.