The Medicine Hat Tigers used their speed to defeat the Victoria Royals 6-3 on Saturday night.
Tigers’ captain James Hamblin scored a hat-trick to lead the way offensively and was the game’s first star.
“This was my first hat-trick so it’s pretty special,” said Hamblin postgame. “My dad was in the crowd too, so it was awesome.”
“We try to play as fast as we can and try to transition as quickly as possible,” said Hamblin of his team’s effort. “That worked to our favour tonight.”
“Their game is based on speed and quick-strike offense,” said Royals’ Gary Haden. “I think we could have managed the puck better in the neutral zone and that would have taken away a lot of their chances. We’re going to look at the video and build off it.”
After a quick goal to start the game, Medicine Hat never trailed and sealed the deal with a three-goal third period.
“It’s a matter of concentrating and making sure we are prepared to play,” said Royals’ Head Coach Dan Price. “At puck drop to start the game, within two-tenths of a second they were all over our D. We didn’t have any support for the D and that was a sign of things to come. So if the team doesn’t start on time, that’s my fault.”
“I will start my conversations with the leadership group,” added Price. “What’s the tone in the room? How’s everyone’s energy and focus? Is it too loose, too tight? It was one of those two today.”
The Central Division Tigers made an infrequent visit to the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre to kick off their BC Division road trip. The Tigers’ last victory in Victoria came way back on October 11, 2014.
Saturday night’s contest was a 1990’s themed throwback, with the Royals bringing in a live DJ to spin some classic tunes.
Less than a minute into the game, the Tigers got on the board. A simple wrister by Ryan Chyzowski beat Royals starting goalie Shane Farkas over the blocker to make it 1-0 at 46 seconds.
Medicine Hat was the much fresher team in the first period, playing their first game in six days. For Victoria, playing their fifth game in eight nights showed as they could not match the Tigers speed in the opening frame.
The visitors took their 1-0 lead into the second period. Victoria tied it up off a breakaway goal from Haden. Haden, a former Tiger, went five-hole on Medicine Hat goalie Mads Sogaard for his third goal of the campaign.
“I got a pass from Keanu [Derungs] and I looked up and I had a breakaway,” described Haden. “I’ve played against Sogaard and he’s a big goalie, I’m not gonna be able to deek and go around him. So I think it surprised him with the quick shot to the five-hole.”
The Tigers immediately responded. A quick video review confirmed the goal for Vancouver Island native Corson Hopwo. For Hopwo, it was a first of the year for the Duncan, BC product and made the game 2-1.
Victoria tied it while with the man-advantage, as Keanu Derungs worked behind the net then snuck in a wrap-around at 13:53.
“That’s something we practiced a lot,” said Derungs. “I give credit to [Assistant Coach] J.F. Best. He gave me the move around the net and it worked.”
The Tigers answered while on a powerplay of their own, as Farkas could not squeeze a Hamblin point shot. The goal at gave Medicine Hat the lead again at 15:25.
In the third, the Tigers added to their lead with a nice goal. A slap-pass Elijah Brown found a wide-open Parker Gavlas who made no mistake on the empty net to make it 4-2. Another goal came on the powerplay to make it 5-2, as Hamblin scored his second of the night on a wrister.
Hamblin finished his hat-trick as he went in all alone on Farkas, beating the Victoria goalie to make it 6-2 at 15:07 of the third period.
The Royals got one back late as River Fahey scored his third of the season at 17:06. Getting an assist on the goal was Carson Golder, his first WHL point.
Victoria heads out on a BC Division road trip, first to Kelowna to face the Rockets then up north to face the Prince George Cougars.
The Tigers head out on a tour of British Columbia themselves, as they head to Langley next to face the Vancouver Giants. Following that, they face the Cougars in Prince George, then battle the Rockets and Kamloops Blazers on their way east.