Hitmen already proving last year was no fluke


Hitmen already proving last year was no fluke;

Supermen GM Furino has a lot of inner rage

November 7th, 2011

Comox Valley Hitmen GM Pat McKenna said losing last spring in the first round of the playoffs was a tough memory to shake. But rather than feeling sorry for themselves, the Hitmen have used that memory to get off to one of the best start in the AFHL this year.

Going into Week 5’s matchup with the Toronto Red Devils, the Hitmen are among the top eight teams in the league, and a win against the talented, blossoming Red Devils would go a long way toward proving that the Hitmen are a legitimate playoff team.

“Obviously losing in the first round is (motivation), especially after it happens and into the summer, into your training,” Hitmen forward Alex Steen said. “Obviously, that’s something you can’t forget and you never want it to happen again, so we’re trying to move past that and get better from it.”

Making the start even more impressive is what Comox Valley has had to overcome to be in the top eight. Starting goalie Roberto Luongo had a lot of trouble in most of his starts, yielding way for a couple of games to youngster Brian Elliot, who entered the season with no impressive resume. One of Comox Valley’s best defenseman, Marc Staal, has yet to make his season debut because of a concussion, and forward Tyler Kennedy, who scored three points in his first 6 games of the season, also suffered a concussion and has been sidelined ever since.

All of this comes after an offseason in which Comox Valley elected to get younger, trading star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to Lakehead for several talented prospects and trading star goalie Jonathan Quick to Toronto for Roberto Luongo and Cody Hodgson.

“I think we’ve had a couple of changes in the offseason, but a terrific story so far has been Brian Elliot who now has a 1.72 GAA with five wins under his belt,” GM Pat McKenna said. “It makes Luongo’s bad start much easier to deal with. Losing Kennedy changes our offense around a little bit. It gives other guys a chance to play a more important role. Marc Staal could be out even longer than expected and that’s a huge loss.”

“So there’s a little bit of uncertainty with where we are and it’s still a young season, but a lot of good signs. Different people have made a contribution already in different games. It’s not like we’re relying on one player or one line. Everyone’s been able to come in and do something positive so this fast start has been a full team effort.”

Comox Valley’s offense is currently ranked in the middle of the pack for goals, assists, and powerplay points. Nonetheless, Elliot has been spectacular in the goaltending stat categories, and if Luongo can get back to playing at his best on a consistent basis, then the goaltending will be a strength for this team.

Offensively, the different contributions have come across the board. The Hitmen enter this week’s matchup against the Red Devils with defenseman Dennis Wideman leading the team with 11 points, three players are tied with with 9 points, three with 8 and four with 7 points.

“I think last game all four lines scored,” said center Jarret Stoll, who was two goals shy of leading the team last year with 20 goals. “Everybody works hard for each other and we have a such a tight group in here so, yeah, keep rolling.”

In addition to the talk about the bitter taste of how the playoffs ended, the subject of the Hitmen chemistry and valuable experience gained from their run to the playoffs comes up a lot.

“Just the fact that we didn’t like the way we ended last year, I think you gain a lot of experience every year and the young guys are still really young, but there was a lot of experience,” Stoll said, “and we came to training camp with just one goal in mind and that’s to have a really good season and get ready for a return to the playoffs and so far we all play for each other.

“We know we don’t have the big guy who can score 50 goals, but, as a team, we know we can score a lot of goals so, all together, it’s definitely a lot of fun.”

McKenna said the team’s start is a good news/bad news situation.

“It’s a line, but it’s just so true — how you start the season gives you a great advantage of getting in the playoffs,” he said. “We’re excited about our start. We’re in the playoff picture. That’s the good news. But the reality is that these matchups have been very close. They’re nail-biters right to the end. We were trailing against Manhattan on the final day of the matchup but managed to come from behind to win. So it’s been really close.”

And for the Hitmen, those close matchups are almost always how it is. Former Hitmen defenseman, Dustin Byfuglien, said he thinks that despite the changes, the Hitmen are not much different from last season’s fourth place team.

“I think the Hitmen have always had no confusion with their team identity,” he said. “They’re always a team that plays a certain way and coach (Pat) McKenna has been around for some time now and he does a great job with coaching the team. They have good young players and drafted their players according to how they want their big team to play. So there’s no surprises. They’re a hard-working team, a detailed team. It’s what it is.”

So the national spotlight in the AFHL often is focused elsewhere, usually on teams with big named superstar players, and the expectations for the Hitmen are low — except for within the room.

“Since I’ve taken over at the beginning of last season, we always have been on the bottom,” said McKenna. “Everyone thought we’re never going to make the playoffs. It’s always nice to be the underdog, but we know in the locker room what we’re capable of and when we play as a team, we’re a tough team to beat.”

* * *


– Two teams remain undefeated going into Week 5 of the regular season: the first place Buffalo Phantoms and the second place Lakehead Thunderwolves.

– The Montreal Xtreme, Ottawa Knights, and Manhattan Supermen remain winless after losing their first four matchups of the regular season.

– Manhattan GM Tony Furino‘s mood swings continue. After signing his prized goalie prospect Jonathan Bernier to a multi-year deal worth $40 million dollars, Furino was reportedly seen in a pharmacy requesting special medication late last night after the loss to Comox Valley. “The woman behind the counter denied him of whatever medication he was seeking,” said an elderly woman who was at the scene. “He looked like a raccoon about to attack.”

– The Stanley Cup winning Washington Power are still seeking their first win of the season going into their Week 5 matchup with the Goldsboro Rebels. Washington lost their first four matchups, and tied the Twin City Vikings 5-5 last week.

Categories : afhl


  1. Toronto GM Jordan Carbone says:

    hahahahaha….. “The Montreal Xtreme, Ottawa Knights, and Manhattan Supermen remain winless after losing their first four matchups of the regular season.”

    And whos the Hitmens ONLY wins against?!
    Oh yeah those 3 teams hahahaha.

    I like Pat and what he’s done with his team but this run stops this week vs my team 😉
    Come on Comox Valley stop pretending and stop losing, your 1st rounder is supposed to land me Mikhail Grigorenko!!
    The Hitmen are nothing but a bunch of phonies… see where your sitting after the next 4 weeks when you take on some tough competition in London, Victoria, North Bay and myself lol.

    My names Jordan Carbone and I like starting rivalries. 🙂

    If I lose this matchup now I will- I’ll, umm…. I really don’t know. But needless to say it won’t be good to lose lol

  2. Lakehead GM Jason Briggs says:

    Ha ha ha ha ha – I love Monday’s! Stellar write-up Ton-ay!

  3. Washington GM Rick Charron says:

    lol, a great read after a hard days work…the power are looking to get on track this week! lol i hope!

  4. Comox Valley GM Pat McKenna says:

    Awesome Write up Tony spot on……. Gonna Kick some Devil’s ASS this week…. you are right Jordan the next 4 weeks really tell the tale as to how good this team can be…. still can’t believe guys like Horak and Smith are contributing….exciting cause i didnt think id see those guys til next year…..

  5. Hamilton GM Gates Imbeau says:

    Firestorm’s heating up! I smell another burning victory this week, leaving Manhattan in ashes. 😀

Leave a Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /misc/25/000/212/149/6/user/web/ on line 48

You must be logged in to post a comment.

The Amazing Fantasy Hockey League (AFHL) is a lifetime keeper fantasy hockey league that consists of 20 franchised teams, of which 10 are located in Canada, and 10 are located in the United States. The AFHL is in no way shape or form affiliated with the NHL or the NHLPA and all teams logos and players names are their property.