Despite not being where they envisioned about the halfway point of their 2016-17 season, the Calgary Hitmen are set to make a playoff push.
Heading into a games in the latter half of January, the Hitmen sat only two points out of a wildcard playoff position in the Central division of the Western Hockey League.
“We’ve been in a lot of tight games, and we’ve been pretty competitive” said head coach Mark French in an interview.
“But clearly we need to be better and need to find a way, in those tight games, to get two points.
“We just need to play the right way, and the results will take care of themselves.”
French said one player who’s been playing well, and will need to continue doing so, is captain Beck Malenstyn.
“Just before Christmas is when he really started to heat up offensively, and he has continued to play well,” said French.
Going into the season, French said captain Matteo Gennaro was someone they would be relying heavily on to produce offensively.
“He has really delivered,” French said
“His two-way game has come a long way, and it is obvious that he’s been really hot.”
Gennaro is currently the Hitmen’s leading scorer with 45 points.
He has said that he is pleased with his statistics this season, but also knows that they will need to play better as a team to get where they want to go this season.
“As a team we had higher hopes for the first half of the season,” said Gennaro.
“All of us, from the management downwards, kind of pictured different results, in terms of games won, so it was a little bit frustrating.”
Gennaro said the team is still learning how to play to win, and that cannot be learned overnight.
“The coaching staff has made it pretty clear that there is a specific identity we have to play to, and a certain style of game we have to execute each night,” Gennaro said.
“The overall learning process of that is in full effect.”
For the Hitmen to make the playoffs, the divisional games they have coming up are going to be key.
“If we can just find some consistency in our play, and start stringing together some wins, we should be fine,” Gennaro said.
Fresh off his stint with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship, defenceman Jake Bean will look to use that experience in helping the Hitmen make a playoff push.
“It was a huge learning experience for me, and really put things into perspective here,” said Bean.
“There were a lot of high-pressure situations playing at that level, and now when I play in those same situations here, it feels a little easier to execute the plays I want.”
We just need to play the right way, and the results will take care of themselves. – Mark French
Bean was drafted 13th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and therefore missed several games due to the Hurricanes training camp.
He missed more games while playing for Team Canada.
Now that he’s back with the Hitmen full-time, Bean has said that he is ready to help the team with the playoff run.
“I feel my play is starting to get better, and I’m just trying to lead the team the best I can,” Bean said.