Tri-City Americans

Calgary finishes off Tri-City in 5

CALGARY, Alberta -- The fireworks erupted in flashes of gold and red. The cheers from the crowd were deafening.

All of it was in celebration of the Calgary Hitmen winning the Western Hockey League title Friday night.

Michael Stone scored a pair of goals and Martin Jones made 32 saves as the Hitmen defeated the Tri-City Americans 4-1 before a crowd of 15,335 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

For the Americans, it ends a season that saw them win a third straight U.S. Division title, their first Western Conference title and play in their first WHL finals.

"There's nothing to be ashamed of," said first-year Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. "There's everything to be proud of. We talked at the beginning of the season of trying to take this (team) from good to great. In the end we didn't reach our ultimate goal, but you have say that's a great hockey team and they had a great season. Any time you can say that about a team, you have to feel pretty proud."

For team captain Jarrett Toll, it's not quite the way he wanted to end his five-year career in Tri-City.

"It's frustrating because we are such a better team that what we showed in the series," Toll said. "We were nervous the first two games. We didn't have the experience they did. Hopefully the guys coming back next year can take that with them. They capitalized on every mistake we made. The scores didn't represent the series at all.

"We were picked to not be very good this year and we were the best team in franchise history," Toll continued. "We have to focus on that and look at the positives right now. It's two more banners, it's not all bad."

The Hitmen, who won the best-of-7 series 4-1, will join the host Brandon Wheat Kings and Ontario Hockey League champion Windsor Spitfires at the Memorial Cup that begins May 14. In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final, Moncton and Saint John are tied at two games apiece.

"It wasn't the prettiest game," said Calgary coach Mike Williamson, whose team won the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the first time since 1999. "We got outchanced tonight, but Jonesie was incredible and we found a way to score."

In the end, Game 5 was an average Calgary-Tri-City game. In six matchups this season, the Hitmen outscored the Americans 24-7 -- an average of a 4-1 score.

"This was a close series," Williamson insisted. "The team that got the timely goals and the saves at the right time won all the games. We certainly didn't want to leave here and go back to Tri with the momentum they were building. I'm glad we got it done."

Tied at 1 after the first period, Stone gave the Hitmen the lead for good midway through the second with a pair of goals.

The first came at 6:43 as his shot from the top of the left face-off circle clanked off the crossbar and landed in the net.

Stone beat Tri-City goalie Alex Pechurskiy from the right point on the power play at 9:57 to put Hitmen up 3-1.

Tyler Fiddler gave the Hitmen a 4-1 lead at 13:34 of the second as he picked off a pass by Brendan Shinnimin at the red hash marks in the slot and beat Pechurskiy over his shoulder.

Tri-City had two golden opportunities in the second as Jordan Messier had shots on the doorstep, but Jones denied him each time.

"They got a couple of big blasts," Hiller said. "Stone has a heavy shot and he found the net twice. But I thought Jones was at his best tonight.

"We had good chances. We didn't have a lot of puck luck in this series. I don't want to make an excuse, but I'll be honest, I don't think we got a lot of bounces around their net in particular. Give (Jones) credit and give their defense credit."

The Americans had a chance early in the third to try and cut into Calgary's lead with a 5-on-3 power play for 1:39, but managed just two shots on goal.

Tri-City was first to light up the scoreboard in the game as Adam Hughesman picked up a rebound at the left post. Jones had been plastered to the post on the original shot, but as he pulled his skate away from the post, Hughesman slipped the puck in the net for his third goal of the playoffs at 5:02.

The lead was short-lived as the Hitmen took advantage of their second power play just a minute later.

Misha Fisenko took a feed up ice from Jones, came down the left lane and let the puck fly from the middle of the face-off circle, beating Pechurskiy glove side at 6:03.


Pechurskiy, in his third start of the playoffs, finished with 23 saves. ... The attendance for the game was the largest of the playoffs for the Hitmen.