Vancouver Giants – Calgary Hitmen Preview

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Dan Elliott

The Vancouver Giants drop the puck on the 2012 calendar year Wednesday January 4 when they play host to the Calgary Hitmen at 7:00 pm at the Pacific Coliseum. It marks the 2nd of 8 straight home games for the Giants.

Vancouver (24-13-1-1) sits in 2nd place in the BC Division and 4th in the Western Conference, while the Hitmen (19-16-2-1) are in 4th spot in the Central Division and 8th in the Eastern Conference. Since coming into the league in 2001, the Giants have had their struggles vs. Calgary with a record of 6-14-1-1 and 1 tie. Vancouver is 4-7-1-0 at the Pacific Coliseum vs. the Hitmen.

The Hitmen, coached by Mike Williamson, are two years removed from their WHL Championship team of 2010. They are coming off a last place finish in 2010-11, but are much improved this season. Wednesday will mark the final game of six straight on the road for the Hitmen, who have been kicked out of the Saddledome due to the 2012 World Junior Championships. On their current trip they lost to Prince George 3-1, defeated Kamloops 6-3, beat Kelowna 2-0, and play Victoria Tuesday night on the island. They will be without Victor Rask (16 G, 13 A, 29 PTS), who is playing for Sweden at the World Junior Hockey Championships. However, they will have Abbotsford product Jake Virtanen in the line up. The 15 year old was the 1st overall pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft and currently plays for the Fraser Valley Bruins of the BC Major Midget League. He has 14 goals, 19 assists, and 33 points in 24 games this year.

Wednesday will be the last game the Giants will be without Don Hay, Brendan Gallagher, David Musil, Marek Tvrdon, Anthony Ast, and Jackson Houck. All 6 will return to Vancouver in time for Saturday’s game vs. Portland following their international commitments. Under acting head coach Glen Hanlon the Giants are 5-3-0-0. The Giants will have 15 year old Reid Zalitach in the line up. The 15 year old was the Giants 2nd round pick, 38th overall in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft. In 27 games this season for the Winnipeg Thrashers of the Manitoba Midget AAA League, the blueliner has 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points, and 26 penalty minutes.

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