Calgary, AB. - With two goals and an assist, Misha Fisenko earned accolades as first star following a 7-0 triumph for the Calgary Hitmen over the Tri-City Americans in Game 1 of the Western Hockey League finals.
“I got first star for the first time in playoffs so it’s pretty special for me,” said Fisenko, whose line combined for nine points as Brandon Kozun scored once and set up another while Del Cowan had two helpers. “It doesn’t really matter who I play with. I don’t really care. Cowboy’s a pretty good player and the same as Kozy. We’re doing well right now so that’s good.”
Cody Sylvester scored on a breakaway at 6:08 of the opening frame before defenceman Matt MacKenzie counted power-play goals 49 seconds apart to give the Hitmen a 3-0 lead in front of 10,980 enthusiastic fans at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“Once we got that first goal and got the second one and then we kept rolling, so it was good,” said MacKenzie, who was chosen as second star. “That’s the thing I really wanted is to have a really good start to the series.”
Fisenko then counted his first goal of the contest at 10:52 of the first which prompted Tri-City coach Jim Hiller to replace starting netminder Drew Owsley in between the pipes with backup Alexander Pechurskiy. Owsley stopped five of nine shots he faced, while Pechurskiy finished with 11 saves.
“That wasn’t a great game for our team without question,” Hillers said. “The odd thing is that I thought we started alright, but the breakaway goal got them momentum and got the building into the game. Then of course the two quick power-play goals really set us behind the eight ball.”
Kozun and Fisenko scored in the second period before defenceman Ben Wilson counted his first-ever WHL playoff goal in the final frame to round out the scoring. Goalie Martin Jones made 26 saves to record his second shutout of the post-season.
Calgary Head Coach Mike Williamson said the Hitmen will have to brace for a push-back effort by the Americans in Game 2 of the series on Saturday night (8 p.m.).
“It’s going to be a lot tougher tomorrow, but (we’re) happy to be able to get this one,” said Williamson, who would like to see back-to-back strong starts from his team. “Our team, when we’re alert and we have a sense of urgency and that’s the approach, that’s when we play our best.”
While he was definitely disappointed with the outcome, Tri-City assistant captain Brett Plouffe, who started his WHL career with the Hitmen, vowed that the Ams will be better in Game 2.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s a seven-game series,” Plouffe said. “We’ve just got to bounce back. You can’t get too high or too low in the playoffs. We know what we did wrong. We’ve just got to correct those mistakes and battle harder tomorrow.”
THREE STARS 1. Misha Fisenko, Hitmen 2. Matt MacKenzie, Hitmen 3. Martin Jones, Hitmen
HARDEST WORKING HITMAN Cody Sylvester
AMERICANS 0 at HITMEN 7
First period 1. Calgary, Sylvester 10 (Schultz, Stone) 6:08