MEDICINE HAT, AB – When the Medicine Hat Tigers last took to the ice with two points in the standings on the line, it was 11 days ago.
Such is life in the Central Division with five teams playing only on the weekends. And just a couple of days ago, it was assistant coach Joe Frazer who suggested his charges were chomping at the bit to get back into game action after its bye weekend.
The Tigers promptly went out Friday and dominated the first period against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, outshooting the visitors 17-6, en route to a 3-0 win.
The hosts opened the scoring at 3:41 of the first frame.
With rookie forward Oasiz Wiesblatt cooling his heels in the penalty box, veteran forwards Brett Kemp and Corson Hopwo broke into the Hurricanes zone two-on-one. Kemp waited patiently for the defender to commit, then slid the puck over to Hopwo for a tap-in. It was Hopwo’s fifth goal of the season.
Despite the territorial play advantage, the Tigers only led 1-0 at the break. A combination of Carl Tetachuk standing tall in goal for Lethbridge and an uncharacteristic lack of finish by the Tigers kept the affair closer than it had to be.
In the second period, Tetachuk was outstanding. The Lethbridge-native turned away Nick McCarry on a partial breakaway and stoned Kemp with a kick save when it looked like the Tigers would tally an empty-netter. All told, Thomson made 19 saves in the middle period.
At the other end, Garin Bjorklund didn’t face as much of an onslaught, making 13 saves through 40 minutes, but the Hurricanes forced him to be sharp in the Tigers’ cage. Bjorklund was working on a shutout and helped the hosts to the dressing room with the lead, closing the door on Hurricanes forward Logan Barlage from in close with three seconds left in the stanza.
The Tigers solved Tetachuk 54 seconds into the third. Lukas Svejkovsky, who checked back into the lineup after missing two games against the Calgary Hitmen with an upper-body ailment, stepped around a Lethbridge defender a sent a laser over Tetachuk’s shoulder, stick side to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
With eight minutes left to play, rookie defenceman Reid Andresen took a shot from the top of the circle that Tetachuk couldn’t handle and Svejkovsky stuffed the rebound home for his fifth of the season to make it 3-0.
If his first WHL game was any indication, Andresen looks like he’s arrived as advertised.
For his part, Andresen demonstrated the slick puck-moving skills the Tigers scouting staff spoke to at the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. Medicine Hat chose Andresen, from Saskatoon, with its first-round pick, 11th overall.
The diminutive 15-year-old defenceman played alongside fellow rookie Rhett Parsons and the duo did not look out of place.
In fact, the Tigers coaching staff had the pairing on the ice during the final minute of play as the team was able to preserve Bjorklund’s shutout bid.
Bjorklund, selected by the Washington Capitals at the 2020 NHL Draft, made 22 saves to register his second career clean sheet. With the victory, the Tigers record is now 5-3 on the season.
The Tigers travel to Lethbridge Saturday to face the Hurricanes at the Enmax Centre. Puck drop is 7:00 pm.
Ice Chips…The “DUBNetwork 3-Stars” were Kemp, Bjorklund and Tetachuk…The Tigers outshot the Hurricanes, 47-22…Tetachuk made 44 saves…Lethbridge went 0-for-3 on the powerplay, while the Tigers did not earn a man advantage on the night…The last time these two Highway 3 rivals met, the Tigers earned a decisive 6-2 victory in Medicine Hat on Jan. 18, 2020. Jimmy Hamblin scored a natural hat trick in the first period and finished the game with four goals. By the way, that was a mere 433 days ago…During the shortened 2019-20 regular season, the Tigers won five of six-game against Lethbridge. When the season was canceled, both teams had played 63 games. Medicine Hat had 85 points to the Hurricanes 81 and the squads were destined for a first-round playoff matchup. Oh, what might have been…Next home game for the Tabbies is 6:00 pm Sunday at Co-Op Place against the Hurricanes.
(Glen Erickson is a long-time freelance writer with ties to the WHL over the past 35 years. He covered the WHL extensively in Kelowna between 2005 and 2019, in addition to four CHL Top Prospects Games and a pair of IIHF World Junior Championships. Erickson provided coverage of Rockets home games for the Kelowna Daily Courier during the 2018-19 season, before relocating to Medicine Hat.)