Early pressure propels Tigers over Hitmen

(Medicine Hat, AB) The Medicine Hat Tigers left little doubt early on they had come to play Friday at Canalta Centre, parlaying a fast start into a dominant first period that led to an important 5-2 victory over the Calgary Hitmen.

The hosts peppered Calgary goaltender Jack McNaughton with 21 shots, while the Hitmen also took three minor penalties. A very solid case could be made should McNaughton, aka “the plaintiff”, elect to file suit against his mates for non-support.

“It was a good response, that first period,” said Tigers assistant coach Ryan Smith. “The power play helped to establish a little zone time and when you get out to a bit of a lead, that always helps.”

The Hitmen handed the Tigers a 4-2 defeat on Wednesday at the Saddledome, the third time this season Calgary has beaten Medicine Hat.

“I mean, we scored 10 seconds in on the road Wednesday,” Smith said, when asked how the Tigers could find a way to manufacture these explosive starts on the road. “I don’t think it’s been a real concern of ours.

“You’re always excited to play at home, so the other teams want to establish their game. When you’re on home ice, you want to hold serve and that’s what happened this week.”

James Hamblin, 100th regular season goal

With the Tigers on an early power play, Brett Kemp worked the puck deep and his nifty backhand feed found Ryan Chyzowski in the faceoff circle. His shot bounced off McNaughton and Elijah Brown converted the tap-in to open the scoring at 4:27.

Four minutes later, with Corson Hopwo creating havoc in front of the Calgary cage, James Hamblin darted from behind the net to jam in a loose puck and extend the Tigers lead. For Hamblin, the tally was his 20th, the fourth straight regular season the overage forward has scored at least 20 goals.

Early in the second stanza, the Tigers went up 3-0 when Hamblin and Hopwo worked a give-and-go deep in the Hitmen zone. Hamblin swept the puck past McNaughton for his second of the night, 21st on the year and 100th regular-season goal of his career.

Elijah Brown, career high eight goals

Five minutes later, at 8:39, Brown counted his second of the affair. The diminutive Edmonton-native picked-off a Calgary pass at the Tigers blueline, walked in alone on McNaughton and ripped a shot high stick side for his eighth of the campaign.

Calgary replied at 10:26 on a power play when a screened Mads Sogaard couldn’t corral a point blast from Riley Stotts. Carson Focht chipped the rebound in for his 18th of the season.

The teams exchanged early third period goals. Tigers import forward Jonathan Brinkman scored his eighth at 1:45 and Blake Allan tallied his fifth for Calgary at 3:02 to complete the scoring.

The contest was the fifth installment of this Central Division rivalry this season that has seen the combatants meet three times in the past week. The road team has yet to win. The sixth and final meeting of the regular season is slated for the Gas City, March 6.

Ryan Chyzowski

Ice Chips…Three stars were Hamblin, Brown and Hopwo…Hamblin appeared in his 298th regular season game…The Tigers were 1-for-6 on the power play, while the Hitmen were 1-for-3…Medicine Hat scratched D Damon Agyeman, D Nick Perna, F Caleb Willms and F Noah Danielson. Calgary scratched D Egor Zamula, F Kyle Olson, F Devan Klassen, F Adam Kydd and F Wil Kushniryk. Zamula is at the World Junior Championship with Team Russia and Olson, who the Hitmen acquired Thursday from the Tri City Americans is nursing a lower body injury which has kept him out since late November… Ryan Chyzowski leads the league with 11 power-play goals…Cole Sillinger leads the league in scoring by rookies with 12 goals and 25 assists in 32 games. Sillinger, 16, has collected 20 power play points this season, tied for fourth overall in the league. The top-three are all 20 years old; Franklin – KAM; Wylie – EVE; Hughes – KAM…Daniel Baker, who leads the team by a wide margin with a plus-24 rating, has been an offensive revelation this season. Through 36 games this season, Baker has scored eight goals and added 15 assists, already surpassing his output of 17 points in 68 games last season…Medicine Hat entered the game with the top power play production in the league at 27.5% (41/149). The Tigers, which employ a five-forward power play unit on a regular basis, have surrendered seven shorthanded goals, the most in the league…If you have become weary of hearing players and coaches alike say “get pucks to the net”, consider this: the Tigers are the top scoring team in the league with an average of 4.19 goals per night, while also leading the league with 1,454 shots on goal. Kamloops is next at 3.89 goals per game and a total of 1,424 shots on goal…A quick turnaround for the Tigers as the Seattle Thunderbirds pay its only visit of the season to the Gas City. Puck drop is 7:30pm…Medicine Hat has played 17 home games, attracting an average crowd of 2,983. The Tigers have 17 more home regular-season games remaining.

SUMMARY

First Period
1. MH Brown 7 (Chyzowski, Kemp) 4:27 (PP).  2. MH Hamblin 20 (Hopwo, Svejkovsky) 7:33.
Penalties: CGY Prokop (interference) :39; CGY Wiesblatt (high sticking) 3:39.

Second Period
3. MH Hamblin 21 (Hopwo) 3:26.  4. Brown 8 8:39.  5. CGY Focht 18 (Stotts, Woo) 10:26 (pp).
Penalties: MH Krebs (cross checking) 9:11; MH Plouffe (holding) 15:17.

Third Period
6. MH Brinkman 8 (Lockner, Gavlas) 1:45.  7. CGY Allan 5 (van de Leest, Campbell) 2:02
Penalties: CGY Stotts (tripping) 4:34; CGY Kastelic (goaltender interference) 6:05; CGY Prokop (delay of game) 11:53; MH Anderson (tripping) 17:11.

Shots on Goal: MH: 21/10/16: 37. CGY: 5/8/9: 22.

Goaltenders: MH: Sogaard (60:00) 20/22. CGY: McNaughton (60:00) 32/37.

Attendance at Canalta Centre: 2,914

Around the Central Division
The Edmonton Oil Kings (26-7-5-2) shutout the Moose Jaw Warriors (10-21-2), 5-0…The Lethbridge Hurricanes (23-10-1-5) dropped a 5-4 decision in overtime to the Seattle Thunderbirds (14-19-2-1)…The Swift Current Broncos (7-18-1-2) hosted the Regina Pats (11-20-3-1) and hung on for a 7-5 victory.

Tigers Record By Division
vs Central Division: 11-7-1-1
vs East Division: 9-1
vs BC Division: 3-2
vs US Division: 1-0

Tigers Remaining Games vs Central Division (14)
Edmonton: Home 1; Away 2.
Lethbridge: Home 2; Away 1.
Calgary: Home 1.
Red Deer: Home 1; Away 1.
Swift Current: Home 3; Away 2.

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    Glen Erickson
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    (Medicine Hat, AB) The Medicine Hat Tigers left little doubt early on they had come to play Friday at Canalta Centre, parlaying a fast start into a do
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