Former Vernon Vipers forward Brent Kisio breaks down Game 4 vs the Brandon Wheat Kings. Brandon leads the best of seven Eastern Conference Championship series 2-1 with Game 4 going tonight in Calgary. Kisio Assistant an Associate Coach & Assistant General Manager is in his eigth season with the Western Hockey League (WHL) Calgary Hitmen. Kisio played one season in Vernon (2002-2003) in 59 regular season games with the Vipers Kisio collected (20-goals-46-assists-66-points).
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COACH'S CORNER: Kisio breaks down Game 4 vs. Wheaties
Apr 29, 2015
By Andrew Schopp - Hitmenhockey.com (@Azschopp)
No matter how many times the Calgary Hitmen head to overtime in the 2015 WHL Playoffs, it never gets any easier on associate coach Brent Kisio’s ticker.
After Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Championship series headed to extra-minutes for a second-straight time on Tuesday at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Hitmen broke a franchise record for most overtime periods in the playoffs with eight.
Scoring his third overtime goal of the post-season, Adam Tambellini claimed the crucial tilt for the Hitmen to narrow the Brandon Wheat Kings series lead down to 2-1.
“Does it get easier for a coach? The answer is definitely no,” Kisio laughed of the Hitmen developing penchant for overtime. “It’s something that from a comfort level, we’ve been there lots. The biggest thing for us is our leadership in the room. There’s not a lot of panic, we just go out and play our game.”
With Tuesday’s victory, the Hitrmen improved their overtime record during the playoffs to 5-3 as they look ahead to Game 4 on Wednesday at the Saddledome.
Here’s how Kisio broke down some of the Hitmen keys to victory:
THE YOUNG GUNS
According to Kisio, losing key components of the lineup is par for the course for any team thrust in a deep playoff run.
With key pieces in Chase Lang, Jake Virtanen and Connor Rankin missing from the Hitmen lineup, the team’s core of freshmen have stepped up to the plate.
Being hit by the injury and suspension bug in the playoffs is something the Hitmen are prepared for, Kisio explained.
“We were banged up at different parts of the season,” he said. “We had some guys step up and play different roles. We are missing a couple guys now, but it’s almost no different than the regular season.”
The Hitmen young guns have rose to the occasion in a big way in the wake of Lang, Virtanen and Rankin’s absences from the lineup.
On Tuesday, A newly formed line combination of forwards Beck Malenstyn, Pavel Karnaukov and Carsen Twarysnki served as a shining example of the Hitmen crop of rookies’ ability to grab increased minutes by the horns.
Throughout the playoffs, Hitmen first-year skaters Pavel Karnaukhov, Jordy Stallard, Caren Twarynski, Taylor Sanhiem, Jake Bean, Loch Morrison, Layne Bensmiller and Beck Malenstyn have combined for an impressive 34 points.
“It’s something that in the playoffs you are going to see,” Kisio added. “The games are battles, they are going to be physical and there’s going to be nicks and bruises and guys are going to miss some games.”
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Kisio considers the Hitmen situation in net to be a favourable one.
Hitmen 19-year-old goaltenders Brendan Burke and Mack Shields have been duking it out throughout the playoffs for time in net with both netminders delivering game-stealing performances in close series’ against the Kootenay Ice, Medicine Hat Tigers and Wheat Kings.
Kisio said that’s what the Hitmen set out to do when they acquired Burke at the 2015 WHL Trade deadline in exchange for rookie goalie Evan Johnson and a fourth round draft pick in 2016.
“They have both been fantastic,” Kisio said of his goaltending duo. “It’s what we wanted to create at the deadline. We wanted to create something where we could have two guys competing for playing minutes, no different than a forward or defenceman.”
Against the Ice, Burke saw the bulk of the action through the first six games before Shields stepped in to take Game 7 of the series, when he faced just 13 shots after making a relief appearance in Cranbrook midway through Game 6.
Shields took the reigns between the pipes against the Tigers and was instrumental in his team’s 4-1 series triumph, stopping 196 of 208 shots thrown his way in the best-of-seven.
Round 3 has belonged to Burke so far.
The Arizona Coyotes prospect has so far matched Shields’ stellar play in Round 2 with an outstanding 43-save performance in Game 2 on Saturday in Brandon before claiming Game 3 with 33 stops.
With a pair of capable and experienced backstops, the Hitmen know they’ll have a bona fide starter with loads of WHL experience in net on any given night.
“It’s something where if you asked our players in the room and a from coach’s standpoint, we are comfortable with whoever’s in net,” Kisio said.
The idea of going down 3-0 against the regular season champion Wheat Kings was a reality the Hitmen weren’t ready to accept.
They came out with all guns blazing on Tuesday and Kisio expects the Wheaties to come back at the Hitmen with the same level of intensity on Wednesday.
“We just have to stick to our game plan,” he said. “We have to play hard and have a sense of urgency. I think you’ve seen that when our team has a snese of urgency like we did in Game 7 vs. Kootenay and last night, we have a different level to our game.”
“We know Brandon is going to come out and be playing a little harder and tighten things up,” he added. “We know that and expect it. It’s going to be close and the little things will be the difference.”