On an evening when the Gas City experienced its first snowfall of the season, it also became a night of “firsts” for many of the players inside the Canalta Centre.
The Medicine Hat Tigers showed up for work Saturday after delivering a 47-shot barrage in Swift Current the night before. The Tigers parlayed that effort into a hard-fought 2-0 verdict over the Broncos, which set the stage for the return engagement.
But this one wasn’t even close.
In fact, there were murmurs on press row about how to invoke a mercy rule.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Tigers had hung a 10-1 drubbing on the visitors.
Very early on, though, it looked as though the Tigers might see more of the same from a Broncos goaltender. On Friday, Isaac Poulter was outstanding, turning aside 45 shots in a game that was scoreless through two periods.
On Saturday, Jordan Fairlie, a 16-year-old rookie from Fort St. John, B.C., got the start for Swift Current, opposite the Tigers 17-year-old keeper, Garin Bjorklund.
Medicine Hat peppered Fairlie with four shots in the first minute of play, and the youngster was easily up to the task. In fact, while his mates looked to find some jump in the early going, it was Fairlie who stood tall for the Broncos. He looked solid, despite the lack of defensive support.
And then, it got ugly.
Import forward Jonathan Brinkman, who came over from Denmark to join the Tigers, tallied his first Western Hockey League goal at the 6:17 mark, waltzing past a Broncos defender, then ripping a shot over Fairlie’s glove just inside the post.
Only 30 seconds later, Tigers captain James Hamblin picked up a rebound and beat Fairlie to extend the lead.
At 10:32, Tyler Preziuso took a feed from Hamblin and one-timed a shot from the deep slot and it was game, set, match.
The trio of Brinkman (1G, 1A), Hamblin (2G, 1A), and Preziuso (1G) combined for six points on the night. The Tigers scored on their seventh, eighth, and ninth shots on goal, yet at the end of the first frame, the Broncos, trailing 3-0, held a 13-12 advantage.
However, the Tigers first-period output was enough to seal the deal.
Back to the starting goalies.
The goaltending matchup was reminiscent of a pre-season contest the teams played in Irvine, Alberta, in September, when Fairlie and Bjorklund also started against each other. On that night, Bjorklund played the entire game, dropping a 4-2 decision. Fairlie played the first 30 minutes before handing over duties to Reid Dyck.
On Saturday, Fairlie also relinquished the netminding duties, this time after 40 minutes. By that time, the Tigers had pumped another half-dozen pucks past the beleaguered rookie.
In fact, after the Tigers’ ninth goal, scored by Nick McCarry, Fairlie made a splendid save on a shot from the slot, only to have the goal judge switch on the goal light. Presumably, the minor official was as rattled by the onslaught as the young keeper?
Poulter came on in relief for the Broncos and played the third period, surrendering the tenth and final goal of the night at the 14:03 mark. Cole Clayton, with his first of the campaign, completed the run to double digits for Medicine Hat.
Bjorklund earned the win in his first start of the season, turning aside 32 of 33 Swift Current attempts. The Tigers’ first-round pick at the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, 21st overall, Bjorklund appeared in two games last season when Mads Sogaard was away at the 2019 World Junior Championship. The then 16-year-old netminder earned a victory in each start, against the Victoria Royals (4-2) and Kootenay ICE (5-3). Both contests were played at the Canalta Centre. Bjorklund has yet to appear in a regular-season road game in the WHL.
Brian Lockner with two goals, Cole Sillinger, and Brett Kemp also scored for the Tigers. Eric Van Impe chipped in with three assists, while Clayton and Parker Gavlas added two helpers apiece.
Tyler Smithies was the Broncos marksman, fashioning a nifty deflection that beat Bjorklund early in the final frame.
Ice Chips…Three stars were Hamblin, Lockner and Bjorklund…The Tigers were 0-for-1 on the power play, and the Broncos went 0-for-2…The Tigers have been on the penalty kill 10 times in four games this season and are the only team in the WHL that has yet to surrender a power-play goal…Medicine Hat outshot Swift Current, 41-33. Over the two games this weekend, the Tigers held an 88-58 shots on goal advantage…Medicine Hat scratched D Ryan Watson, D Damon Agyeman, and F Caleb Willms…Swift Current scratched D Henrik De Klerk, D Chase Lacombe, and RW Kye Buchanan…Swift Current is only carrying two 20-year-olds, RW Ethan O’Rourke and D Jake Kustra…On Friday, Mads Sogaard earned the shutout in Swift Current, blocking all 25 shots he faced. It was his fourth career regular-season shutout and second against the Broncos. Sogaard also had a shutout against the Edmonton Oil Kings in the playoffs last season…The Tigers play the Hitmen in Calgary on Sunday, a 4:00 pm start, then travel to Regina Friday to take on the Pats. Next home game is Saturday when the Red Deer Rebels come calling…Attendance at the Canalta Centre was 3,129.