(MEDICINE HAT, AB) It has been no secret of late the Medicine Hat Tigers have suffered through an uncharacteristic power outage, a trend that continued through the first period Tuesday against the visiting Regina Pats.
Entering the contest, the power play unit that performed better than any other in the Western Hockey League through the first 40 games of the season, sputtered along at a 3-for-36 pace over the past ten matches.
But the Tigers were able to ignite with the man advantage against the Pats, as special teams spark plug Elijah Brown returned to the lineup after a lengthy absence and chipped in with a goal and an assist on the power play.
“It was awesome, my team mates really had my back,” Brown said following the Tigers 7-0 romp. “Willie (Desjardins) really trusted me and put me in some key situations like on the power play.
“Even though we struggled at the start, he still put us out and we got some results.”
Import forward Jonathan Brinkman opened the scoring when he created a turnover in the Pats zone and rifled his tenth of the season past Donovan Buskey in the Regina cage at 16:54 of the first frame.
Medicine Hat, now 12-0 this season in games it leads after 20 minutes, added four second period markers to seal the verdict with one period remaining.
Early in the second stanza, at the :39 mark with Pats forward Logan Nijhoff serving a hooking minor, Brown collected an assist on a power play goal by James Hamblin that put the hosts ahead 2-0. It was Hamblin’s team leading 33rd of the season.
Parker Gavlas ripped a shot past Buskey with the teams at even strength at 3:40 to extend the Tigers lead.
With yet another man-advantage, Brown tipped in a shot from Hamblin at the top of the crease for his ninth of the season at 16:35.
“The goal he scored, there’s not a lot of guys that can tip it in from that angle,” said assistant coach Ryan Smith. “When it comes to offensive opportunities, because he’s so creative, he’s so skilled, sometimes he out thinks himself instead of just taking the play that presents itself.
“He is very good on the power play, very good on the rush. He’s been like that his whole career.”
Brinkman added his second of the game a minute later to put Medicine Hat ahead 5-0. It was the first two-goal game for the rookie from Denmark.
“It’s been an up and down season for me,” Brinkman said. “I had some trouble getting going, adapting to the game over here. But I think I’m playing better and I’m ready for the playoffs.”
With Brown out of the lineup, the Tigers power outage was obvious. Medicine Hat went through a five-game power play drought in January, going 0-for-13. In its most recent four-game run, the Tigers went 2-for-17.
While Brown has returned, dynamic forward Cole Sillinger has been sidelined since Jan. 28 and is said to be 7-10 days away from jumping back into the lineup. Sillinger and Brown have been integral parts of the Tigers five-forward power play unit this season.
For good measure, Brown picked up his third point of the night with a behind-the-back dish to Dylan Plouffe deep in the Pats zone. Plouffe found Ryan Chyzowski far post and the veteran buried his 24th of the campaign at 11:23 of the final period.
Chyzowski added his 25th at 14:37, whistling a rolling puck top corner on a partial breakaway.
Import goaltender Mads Sogaard blocked all 24 shots he faced, making two of his biggest saves in the final ten seconds. The Ottawa Senators 2019 second-round draft pick also got a helping hand from a goal post early in the third period and posted his third shutout of the season.
With the win, Medicine Hat improves to 34-16-2-1. The Pats (18-27-3-2), who have dropped its last six games against the Tigers, entered the contest on a five-game winning streak. Despite the good fortune of late, Regina is still 18 points out of a wild card playoff spot with 18 games to play. The Pats are 6-11-2-1 against Central Division teams this season.
The Tigers hit the road now for a tilt in Edmonton Saturday against the Eastern Conference leading Oil Kings. Edmonton has beaten the Tigers twice this season. Oddly, the Tigers win enabled the Oil Kings to clinch a playoff spot.
After the affair in Alberta’s capital, the Tigers will not face a Central Division team again until Mar. 3, when the Swift Current Broncos visit Canalta Centre. That game will be the first of ten straight against division rivals to end the regular season schedule.
Ice Chips…Three stars were Brown, Brinkman and Sogaard…The Tigers outshot the Pats, 43-24…Medicine Hat scratched F Cole Sillinger (7-10 days), F Nick McCarry (ill), D Nick Perna (ill) and F/D Damon Agyeman. Regina played without D Steven Zonneveld, F Carter Massier, F Sloan Stanick and F Jakob Brook… James Hamblin leads the Eastern Conference in both goals (33) and assists (48). He is second overall in league scoring to Spokane’s Adam Beckman, who has 89 points. Beckman leads the league in shots with 242, while Hamblin is second with 231. The Chiefs visit Medicine Hat next weekend…Brett Kemp chipped in with two assists…The Tigers lead the WHL in third-period scoring with 80 goals, eight ahead of Lethbridge and nine ahead of Winnipeg…Entering the contest, the Tigers were credited with an average of 39.21 shots per game this season, the highest total in the WHL. Medicine Hat has been outshot only seven times through 53 games…The Tigers are now 17-5-2 at home this season and 17-11-0-1 on the road…The Tigers lead the WHL with 227 goals in 53 games. Portland is next with 215 in 51 games…With its split last weekend, a 3-2 win in Brandon and the 4-1 loss in Winnipeg, the Tigers are 3-4 against Manitoba-based WHL rivals. Winnipeg visits Canalta Centre Monday afternoon for a Family Day 2:00pm start…Through 24 games at home this season, Medicine Hat is averaging 2,917 fans per game. The Tigers are one of five WHL teams averaging less than 3,000 fans per home game. Three of those teams do not have capacity to accommodate 3,000 spectators.
Tigers Record By Division
vs Central Division: 14-8-1-1
vs East Division: 14-5-1
vs BC Division: 3-2
vs US Division: 2-1
Tigers Remaining Games vs Central Division (10)
Edmonton: Home 1; Away 1.
Lethbridge: Home1; Away 1.
Calgary: Home 1.
Red Deer: Home 1; Away 1.
Swift Current: Home 2; Away 1.
1. MH Brinkman 10 (16:54)
Penalties: REG Denomie (tripping) 1:01; REG Cikhart (tripping) 3:57; MH Krebs (tripping) 6:29; MH Kemp (holding) 11:02; REG Nijhoff (hooking) 19:37.
2. MH Hamblin 33 (Plouffe, Brown) :39 pp
3. MH Gavlas 3 (Baker, Kemp) 3:40
4. MH Brown 9 (Hamblin, Kemp) 16:35 pp
5. MH Brinkman 11 (McNabb) 17:31
Penalties: REG Holmes (tripping) 7:32; REG Denomie (hooking) 12:59; REG Holmes (tripping) 14:53.
6. MH Chyzowski 24 (Plouffe, Brown) 11:23
7. MH Chyzowski 25 14:37
Penalties: MH Hopwo (unsportsmanlike conduct) 2:59; REG Krane (checking to the head) 9:13; REG Johnson (charging), Englot (fighting), MH Gavlas (fighting), Kemp (fight, game misconduct) 16:44
Shots on Goal
MH: 13-19-11: 43
REG: 6-4-14: 24
MH: Sogaard (59:59) 24/24
REG: Buskey (40:00) 27/32; Belluk (20:00)
Attendance at Canalta Centre: 2,323