After the Vancouver Giants lost for just the fourth time in regulation this season, coach Don Hay gave full credit to the Calgary Hitmen for a well-played game.
"They pushed us hard in the third period and forced us to turn over the puck under pressure and they took advantage of their opportunities," Hay said after the Hitmen doubled his Giants 6-3 in front of 14,244 fans at the Pengrowth Saddledome. "They worked hard for the win and they deserved it."
In turn, Hitmen coach Dave Lowry said the game between the top two squads in the Western Hockey League lived up to its advance billing.
"This game here had all the hype and all the build-up and people have been talking about for a long time now," said Lowry. "Yes, this is a big win for our hockey club. Obviously, Vancouver is one of the top teams and it's a team we use a measuring stick of where we are."
Paul Postma and Bostjan Golicic each scored twice to lead the Hitmen (39-6-2-1) to their franchise-record 18th straight win at the Saddledome.
"That was a heck of a game," Postma said. "I've got to give them a lot of credit. They are an awesome team, they come real hard and they are definitely up there."
Joel Broda notched his WHL-leading 38th goal of the season for the top ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League and added an assist, Michael Stone also scored, while Carson McMillan had a pair of assists.
Elsewhere in the WHL, it was: Brandon 7, Prince Albert 2; Everett 7, Seattle 5; Lethbridge 4, Swift Current 2; Prince George 5, Kelowna 2; Red Deer 4, Chilliwack 1; Regina 4, Moose Jaw 1; Saskatoon 5, Medicine Hat 0; Spokane 7, Portland 1; and Tri-City 6, Kamloops 3.
At Calgary, Mikhail Fisenko had a goal and an assist for the Giants (36-4-0-3), whose four-game winning streak came to an end. Brendan Gallagher and Brent Regner also scored for Vancouver, which is ranked fourth in the CHL rankings.
Hitmen goalie Martin Jones made 27 saves to record his league-leading 28th win of the season, while Tyson Sexsmith stopped 27 shots at the other end.
Wheat Kings 7, Raiders 2
At Brandon, Man., Mark Stone scored two goals and set up another as the Wheat Kings pounded Prince Albert.
Jay Fehr, Andrew Clark, Mark Schneider, Nathan Green and Matt Lowry scored single goals while Brayden Schenn dished out four assists for Brandon (27-13-3-1).
Dustin Cameron and Justin Bernhardt replied for the Raiders (22-24-2-1).
Silvertips 7, Thunderbirds 5
At Everett, Wash., the Silvertips scored four goals in a six-minute span of the third period to defeat Seattle.
In their first game since the tragic death of former teammate Jordan Mistelbacher, the Silvertips received two goals from Markus McCrea scored twice, while Taylor Ellington, Byron Froese, Zack Dailey, Shane Harper and Kellan Tochkin also scored for Everett (21-17-5-0).
Thomas Hickey scored twice, and Chris Cloud, Lindsay Nielsen and Jim O'Brien added goals for the Thunderbirds (18-22-1-3).
Hurricanes 4, Broncos 2
At Lethbridge, Alta., Austin Fyten and Dwight King had a goal and an assist each to lead the Hurricanes past Swift Current.
Drew Hoff and Carter Ashton also scored for Lethbridge (23-21-1-2).
Justin Dowling and Michael Strickland replied for the Broncos (25-21-0-1).
Cougars 5, Rockets 2
At Prince George, B.C., Tyler Halliday had a goal and an assist and goaltender Kevin Armstrong made 40 saves to help the Cougars defeat Kelowna.
Greg Fraser, with two including an empty-netter, Brett Connolly and Dallas Jackson had the other goals for Prince George (17-27-0-2).
Cody Almond and Brandon McMillan replied for the Rockets (26-18-0-0).
Rebels 4, Bruins 1
At Red Deer, Alta., Landon Ferraro had a goal and an assist as the Rebels rolled past Chilliwack.
Willie Coetzee, Jordie Deagle and Connor Redmond also scored for Red Deer (16-22-1-6). Cass Mappin and Cullen Morin added two assists each.
Brett Ward had the lone marker for the Bruins (12-29-2-3).
Pats 4, Warriors 1
At Regina, Colten Teubert had a goal and an assist to help the Pats beat Moose Jaw.
Brett Leffler, Jesse Dudas and Matt Robertson also scored for Regina (21-22-1-4).
Brendan Rowinski found the net for the Warriors (14-29-1-1).
Blades 5, Tigers 0
At Medicine Hat, Alta., Braden Holtby made 26 saves to record his fourth shutout of the season as Saskatoon blanked the Tigers.
Derek Hulak and Milan Kytnar each had three points (a goal and two assists) for the Blades (30-11-3-1). Burke Gallimore added a goal and an assist, while Teigan Zahn and Travis Toomey also scored.
Medicine Hat (24-16-3-3) netminder Ryan Holfeld allowed all five goals on 33 shots before being replaced by Tyler Bunz, who stopped the one shot he faced.
Chiefs 7, Winter Hawks 1
At Portland, Ore., Tyler Johnson scored twice and added an assist to pace Spokane to a rout of the Winter Hawks.
The Chiefs (26-14-0-3) got multiple point games from Ondrej Roman (goal and two assists), Mitch Wahl (goal and an assist), and Levko Koper (two assists). Kenton Miller, Ryan Letts and Drayson Bowman also scored for Spokane.
Travis Ehrhardt scored the only goal for Portland (12-29-1-2) on the power play.
Americans 6, Blazers 3
At Kamloops, B.C., Mitch Fadden scored one goal and set up three others as Tri-City doubled up on the Blazers.
Justin Feser scored twice, while Mitch McColm, Jordan Messier and Tyler Schmidt also scored for the Americans (31-12-0-2), who counted the game's first four goals.
Jake Trask, Shayne Wiebe and Tyler Shattock replied for Kamloops (20-22-1-4).