The streak is over.
The Medicine Hat Tigers were riding a rather unique stretch heading into the past weekend, a run of 10 straight regular season wins combined over the Regina Pats and Red Deer Rebels. In fact, the Tigers were undefeated last season against both teams.
The Tigers ran the streak to 11 games with a big win Friday, but despite earning a point Saturday, the run against the two Eastern Conference foes has come to an end.
Tigers 6, Pats 2
Medicine Hat waltzed into Regina Friday evening and took it to the Pats at the Brandt Centre. The teams were even at 2-2 after 20 minutes, but the Tigers’ team speed gave the young Pats fits over the final 40 minutes. Four unanswered goals led to the convincing road win.
Perhaps there was some extra motivation for rookie forward Cole Sillinger, who returned to his hometown and tallied twice while adding an assist to earn the nod as the game’s first star.
Sillinger, whose father Mike played 281 games for the Pats before embarking on a 1,092-game National Hockey League career, arrived in Medicine Hat after a productive season a year ago with the Regina Pat Canadians. The youngster collected a host of awards as he led the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League in scoring.
The 16-year-old forward, Medicine Hat’s first pick, 11th overall, at the 2018 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, has played a regular shift this season with the Tigers, for the most part alongside veterans Ryan Chyzowski and Brett Kemp. In Regina, Chyzowski scored once and added an assist, while Kemp also collected a helper.
In the “night of firsts” category, speedy forward Caleb Willms scored his first WHL goal on a second-period breakaway. Goaltender Garin Bjorklund, making his fourth career start and second of the season, earned his first career road victory, blocking 22 of 24 Regina attempts.
Elijah Brown and Eric Van Impe also scored for Medicine Hat, each with their first goal of the season. Defenceman Dru Krebs, 16, chipped in with two assists, his first WHL points.
The Tigers were 2-for-5 on the power play, while Regina went 0-for-4.
Medicine Hat has won five consecutive regular season games against Regina. Prior to the winning streak, the Tigers had fallen to the Pats on three straight occasions during the 2017-18 season.
Tigers 3, Rebels 4 (OT)
The Tigers and Rebels each arrived at Canalta Centre after wins against Saskatchewan-based opponents the night before. Red Deer knocked off the Broncos in Swift Current 5-1.
Billed as a matchup between the top two goaltenders in the Central Division, the Rebels’ Ethan Anders stole the show, making 39 saves on the night.
Anders, who was passed over by NHL teams at the draft in June, has been the Rebels’ best player this season. Entering its 28th season in the WHL, Red Deer is icing one of the youngest rosters in its history, with a current total of fifteen 17-year-olds. Indeed, this will be a season for Anders to shine.
Red Deer never trailed on the night, taking a 1-0 lead to the dressing room after 20 minutes, courtesy of Jaxsen Wiebe’s first WHL goal.
The teams traded four goals in the second stanza. Chyzowski (4) and Trevor Longo (1) tallied for the Tigers, while Rebels overagers Brett Davis (4) and Ethan Sakowich (2) staked Red Deer to a 3-2 lead after two periods.
James Hamblin tied the contest with seven minutes to play, beating Anders on a penalty shot after the officials ruled the Rebels had covered a loose puck in the goal crease. It was Hamblin’s third of the campaign and sent the affair to overtime.
But it ended quickly.
Chris Douglas chipped the puck past Mads Sogaard with the first shot in the extra frame. It was his third of the season, and it came just 38 seconds into overtime.
Sogaard faced 21 shots on the night. The 6-foot-7 import is 2-2-1 this season with a 2.18 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
Anders has started six of seven games for Red Deer so far, posting a 4-2 record along with a 2.34 goals against average and a .933 save percentage.
It was a frustrating evening for the Tigers, who peppered the Rebels goal with 14 shots in each period. While the shots on goal statistic can be debated in many ways, broken down by shot quality or scoring chances, a 42-shot barrage is certainly indicative of a territorial play advantage.
While Red Deer would qualify as an opportunistic victor on the night, escaping with the extra point against a divisional opponent, the Tigers can take some solace that their team speed and offensive zone pressure is at the very least serving to create scoring chances.
The Rebels were 2-for-5 on the power play, while the Tigers went 0-for-5. Attendance at the Canalta Centre was 2,860.
The Week to Come
The Portland Winterhawks visit the Tigers on Tuesday – note that puck drop is set for 7:00pm. The Winterhawks are the first U.S. Division team to cruise through the Central Division this season, a product of the WHL’s unbalanced schedule.
Last season, the Tigers traveled south of the border and picked up a 2-1 shootout verdict in Portland.
Sogaard was outstanding in that affair, stopping 32-of-33 shots before shutting down five straight shootout attempts. Ryan Chyzowski, who assisted on the Tigers’ only goal in regulation time, tallied the shootout winner in the fifth round.
The game Tuesday will be the Winterhawks’ third visit to Canalta Centre, a rink where they have yet to lose.
During the 2015-16 season, Portland won convincingly in Medicine Hat by an 8-1 count. Two years later, during the 2017-18 campaign, the Tigers fell 5-2 at Canalta in a game where Portland scored a pair of late empty netters to win.
The Winnipeg ICE make their first ever appearance at Canalta Centre on Friday, a 7:30pm start.
The ICE relocated to Winnipeg from Cranbrook, B.C., at the end of last season and play out of the East Division now.
Last season, the Tigers won five of six games against the ICE, when the team was a Central Division rival.
Pink in the Rink Night, October 12
On Saturday, Red Deer returns for another 7:30pm start.
In preparation for the Saturday affair, it seems Chyzowski has been up to some mischief at Canalta Centre. It was all caught on video and you can have a peek at the hijinx right here.
The Tigers will wear special third jerseys for their upcoming Pink in the Rink game Saturday against the Rebels. There will be a silent auction held at the game where the public can bid on the jerseys.
The auction will be open at 6:30 PM when the doors open until the end of the second intermission, and the winners will be announced during the third period. All proceeds from the jersey auction will go to the Canadian Cancer Society.
Tigers Tales…The Tigers are 4-2-1 through seven starts this season…Sillinger (4G, 3A), Chyzowski (4G, 3A), and Hamblin (3G, 4A) lead the team in scoring…Krebs leads the way with a plus-6 rating, while Van Impe and Bryan Lockner are next at plus-5…According to the WHL, the Tigers drew an average of 3,121 per game during the regular season. On opening night, announced attendance at Canalta Centre was 4,050. Through three home dates so far, the average population at Tigers home games is 3,346.