As if beating the rival Brandon Wheat Kings for the sixth time in 10 games this season Wednesday in the final round-robin game at the Memorial Cup wasn't enough, the Calgary Hitmen will have their top scorer in the lineup for Friday's semifinal-round rematch (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, SPORTSNET).
Brandon Kozun, a 2009 sixth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings who led all Canadian Hockey League players with 107 points, had missed the last two games with an ankle injury, including Wednesday's 5-1 win against the host Wheat Kings.
Kozun skated Thursday and Calgary coach Mike Williamson told reporters Kozun "absolutely" will be in the lineup Friday.
"It feels awesome, especially knowing that I can contribute and have confidence in myself," Kozun told the Calgary Herald. "Watching those last couple games has been fuelling something inside of me and I'm really going to be ready to go."
The winner of this game will meet the defending champion Windsor Spitfires in Sunday's championship game (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, SPORTSNET).
In Kozun's absence, Atlanta Thrashers prospect Jimmy Bubnick has led the offense with a tournament-leading 8 points. Linemates Kristopher Foucault (Minnesota Wild) and Tyler Shattock (St. Louis Blues) are tied for second with 6 points each.
Kozun, who led the Western Hockey League in playoff scoring with 30 points as the Hitmen won the league title, played just a few shifts in the team's tournament opener last Saturday, but missed Monday's game against Windsor and Wednesday's game against Brandon. Williamson said he could have played Kozun in those games, but the decision was made to let the injury heal, and Kozun is feeling good at the best possible time.
"(Kozun's) a very big key element to our team," Hitmen co-captain Ian Schultz told the newspaper. "He adds that next dimension of scoring to us. It's a boost of confidence for us and that'll make teams think a little more about our power play. We have another weapon we can use and utilize."
It's also another thing to worry the Wheat Kings, whose two losses at the tournament, against Windsor and Calgary, have been by a combined score of 14-4.
"I think the boys are a bit rattled," said Brandon captain Matt Calvert, a 2008 Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick. "They obviously don't want to lose 5-1 to Calgary. The good news is we've got another chance. That was just the end of the round robin and we're into the playoffs now. It's one game, and if you lose it you're going home. It's going to be do-or-die mode, especially for a lot of us. We've got an older team and a lot of guys don't want to stop their junior career (Friday)."
Calvert and linemate Brayden Schenn, the fifth pick of the 2009 Entry Draft by the Kings, are two of those players who could see their junior career come to an end with the loss. The top line forwards have just 1 goal each, and likely will be without the third member of their line, Dallas Stars 2009 first-round pick Scott Glennie, who missed the last two periods Wednesday and is questionable for Friday.
They'll also need better goaltending from Jacob DeSerres, a 2008 third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, who allowed five goals on 14 shots in the first period Wednesday against Calgary.
He rebounded to stop all 16 shots he saw in the second and third periods, and believes he is a good bounce-back goaltender.
"I love big games," he told the Herald. "I hate when the games don't mean anything. I'm looking forward to (Friday). I'm ready to go."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org