Welcome to another edition of WHL Classics! We’ve got a doozy of a matchup tonight as the Calgary Hitmen and Tri-City Americans meet in a pivotal Game 5 of the 2010 WHL Championship Series from the Stampede City!
Leading 3-1 in the series, the Hitmen are on the brink of capturing their second WHL Championship in franchise history while the Americans are hoping to stave off elimination and send the series back home for a Game 6 with a chance to tie up the series in pursuit of their first WHL Championship.
Having scored a league-leading 92 goals throughout the 2010 WHL Playoffs, the Hitmen have gradually reduced their time to get through each round to emerge from the Eastern Conference. After outlasting the Moose Jaw Warriors in a seven-game series to open their run, the Hitmen topped the Medicine Hat Tigers in six games and beat the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games to make another appearance in the WHL Championship Series.
Powering them offensively is Los Angeles Kings prospect Brandon Kozun, who holds a comfortable five-point advantage in the 2010 WHL Playoffs scoring race with 30 points (8G-22A) through 22 games. After capturing the Bob Clarke Trophy as the leading scorer for the 2009-10 WHL Regular Season, he’s kept up that production when it matters most.
From the Hitmen’s blue line, Arizona Coyotes prospect Michael Stone has also had a strong performance in the 2010 WHL Playoffs to sit second in scoring on the Hitmen with 18 points (3G-15A) entering their second attempt of the series at clinching the WHL Championship.
For the Tri-City Americans, they enter the game with an uphill battle that may feel improbable but is not impossible.
After beating the Chilliwack Bruins in six games to open their run in the 2010 WHL Playoffs, they took down the defending WHL Champion Kelowna Rockets in five games before dispatching the B.C. Division champion Vancouver Giants in six games to advance to their first WHL Championship Series since 1978 when they were the Billings Bighorns.
Guiding the Americans’ offence is Brendan Shinnimin, who has enjoyed a breakout performance in his second full season in the WHL. Posting 82 points (27G-55A) in the regular season, he’s followed that up with 25 points (8G-17A) in 21 games for the Americans during the 2010 WHL Playoffs.
Also playing a strong role for the Americans has been Kruise Reddick, who has 23 points (11G-12A) entering Friday’s game. Reddick has already developed a knack for scoring big goals in the 2010 WHL Playoffs. He notched the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 5 against the Rockets and delivered the game-winning goal 20 seconds into the third period of Wednesday’s fourth game in the WHL Championship Series.
There is also a strong matchup brewing between the pipes. The backbone of the Hitmen’s defence has been Los Angeles Kings prospect Martin Jones. He’s played every single minute of the 2010 WHL Playoffs for the Hitmen, accumulating a 2.42 goals-against average, 0.912 save percentage, and two shutouts across 1,341 minutes of action entering Friday.
Opposing him, Alexander Pechurskiy and Drew Owsley have shared responsibilities throughout the 2010 WHL Playoffs with Pechurskiy taking the majority of the time between the pipes in the WHL Championship Series. The import goaltender from Russia posted a spectacular 40-save performance in Wednesday’s 4-2 win to get the Americans back in the series and he’ll be motivated to show them they’ve still got a chance to win.
Tune in at 7 p.m. MT/6 p.m. PT to catch all the action on WHL Classics!
Tri-City Americans scoring leaders (As of May 6, 2010)
Calgary Hitmen scoring leaders (As of May 6, 2010)
2010 WHL Championship Series Game 1 – Tri-City 0 at Calgary 7
Game 2 – Tri-City 1 at Calgary 4
Game 3 – Calgary 4 at Tri-City 1
Game 4 – Calgary 2 at Tri-City 4
Game 5 – May 7, 2020