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Everytime Mark Kastelic touched the puck, it went in.
That’s barely an exaggeration.
Up against the Regina Pats (18-28-5) on Wednesday night, the Calgary Hitmen (29-18-5) captain came out hot, stayed sizzling and then proceeded to raise the temperature in the Scotiabank Saddledome by about four degrees by the time the game was halfway through.
His teammates followed suit and were rewarded for their efforts with a commanding 8-1 win over the Pats.
Kastelic scored four goals against the Pats, with three of them coming in an opening-10 minute stretch that saw the Hitmen finish the game before it really even got started and jump out to a four-goal lead.
Coaches might want to preach that their teams need to play a full 60 minutes, but with all due respect to Hitmen bench boss Steve Hamilton, that simply wasn’t true for his squad on Wednesday evening. They needed 10 minutes, and as long as the puck found Kastelic’s stick, the Pats might as well not have been on the ice at all.
“That’s a great start — it’s about as good as you get,” Hamilton said. “It might have been three-for-three — I’m not sure he missed a shot. His linemates did a lot of work for him, and yeah, it’s a great start.”
To be fair, the Hitmen’s domination of the Pats lasted way longer than just the opening 10 minutes. In fact, there was literally not a second during which they weren’t completely pounding on their visitors. That went beyond the goals, too. Kyle Olson won an unanimous decision in his late-game fight against the Pats’ Steven Zonneveld, while Dakota Krebs won his second-period scrap with the Pats’ Austin Pratt, too.
An 8-1 scoreline sort of speaks for itself, but in this particular case, it barely tells the whole story of just how lopsided this game really was.
Midway through the third period, the Hitmen had more goals (8) than the Pats had shots (7). That wouldn’t last until the final buzzer, but the Hitmen still out-shot the Pats 38-14, with most of the Regina crew’s shots coming in the final five minutes of the game.
Kastelic was far from alone in getting his name all over the scoresheet — he added an assist to his four goals. Olson added two goals and two assists and is showing exactly why the Hitmen coveted him at the trade deadline, while Carson Focht had two goals and an assist and Luke Prokop had three helpers.
Still, though, this was Kastelic’s night. He credited his teammates with the feeds that set up his goals but couldn’t help but admit that putting four pucks in the back of an opponent’s net was pretty special.
“It seemed like every shift I got one. I had some great set-ups, so a lot of credits to my teammates,” Kastelic said about his opening 10 minutes. “Pretty surreal.”
With the win, the Hitmen ended a short two-game losing skid that, honestly, didn’t do much to change their position in their standings.
They’ve essentially been in no man’s land for the past couple months, sitting in the WHL Eastern Conference’s first wild card spot. The Saskatoon Blades are right behind them, but there’s no chance the Hitmen are fully out of the playoffs, and it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll catch the Medicine Hat Tigers, who are 10 points ahead of them in third place in the Central Division.
Nights like Wednesday, though, make you wonder if the Hitmen are starting to peak at just the right time.
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