(MEDICINE HAT, AB) Veteran forward Isaac Johnson collected a pair of assists then scored into an empty net, pacing the Winnipeg Ice to a hard-fought road victory over the Medicine Hat Tigers, 4-2.
While the verdict will not sit well with the local faithful, the game was a thoroughly entertaining affair, witnessed by a boisterous Family Day crowd of 3,397 fans. It was the fourth biggest gate of the season in Medicine Hat.
“I think we battled hard and we really played well together in the third period,” Johnson said. “We just played simple, got pucks deep and I think if we do that very game, we shouldn’t have too many problems.”
Johnson, who along with Jackson Leppard and Liam Hughes form Winnipeg’s overage trio, has scored 23 goals, a career high. He is one of five Ice forwards with over 20 goals this season.
“I think we’re all doing our jobs and it doesn’t matter who scores. As long as we get the puck into the back of the net, that’s all that matters.”
Winnipeg opened the scoring early in the first period at 3:55. Johnson spotted Michael Milne behind a Tigers defender and dished off as Milne waltzed through the crease. The youngster potted his 10th of the season, lifting a backhand past Tigers starter Mads Sogaard.
The Ice had plenty of opportunities to extend the lead as the Tigers took three straight minor penalties, which led to a 1:10 long 5-on-3 advantage for Winnipeg. But Sogaard was up to the task, making a particularly larcenous paddle save on Isaac Johnson with the Tigers down two men.
.@tigershockey dropped a 4-2 decision to @WHLWpgICE today but it wasn't without a valiant effort from goaltender Mads Sogaard who made 29 saves on 32 shots including this incredible save early in the first period pic.twitter.com/5ftveQxRd8
— Ben Dooley (@BenTDooley) February 17, 2020
Medicine Hat evened the score at 13:04. Brett Kemp made the play, ragging the puck in the attacking zone before finding a shooting lane. When Ice goaltender Liam Hughes could not control the rebound, Ryan Chyzowski was able to chip the puck into the open net for his 26th of the campaign.
Chyzowski added another with 33 seconds to play when he beat a Winnipeg defender by just enough space to rip a shot from the slot past Hughes.
“Brinkman just kind of made it a two-on-one,” Chyzowski said of the go-ahead tally, his 27th of the season. “I saw the puck and just wanted to hammer it.”
After a scoreless second stanza, Winnipeg scored two early goals in the final frame to set the Tigers back on their heels.
Owen Pedersen finished off a clinical three-on-two rush 35 seconds in, directing the puck into an empty cage after Michal Teply and Peyton Krebs worked the puck deep into the Tigers zone.
Then 39 seconds later, Jackson Leppard picked up a loose puck and wired a wrister through traffic high over Sogaard’s glove hand.
As determined as the Tigers were through the rest of the period, they couldn’t solve Hughes and Johnson eventually sealed the deal with this empty-netter.
“Isaac was a guy who was out of hockey for what, nine months,” said Ice head coach James Patrick. “I know Matt and Jake (Ice management) did a fair amount of research on who would be a real good 20-year-old to bring in.
“If you would have asked me after six weeks, I wasn’t sure. I can look back and say it’s obvious he was out of the game for awhile. But for the last three months, he’s just been outstanding.”
For Medicine Hat, the 2020 calendar year has become rather topsy turvy. The team went 9-4 in January, but February has been a challenge. In seven games this month, the Tigers are 2-4-1. Overall, Medicine Hat is 34-18-2-1.
“Obviously it’s something we have to correct,” said Tigers assistant coach Joe Frazer, when asked about surrendering the two early third period goals. “The first five minutes of every period is always so important and you’ve got to make sure you come out and play the right way.”
Winnipeg has five forwards with 20 or more goals this season. It’s the kind of scoring depth that makes the Ice so dangerous.
“You just can’t give up opportunities to skilled guys like that,” Frazer said. “One or two breakdowns and they have the skill to put it away.”
It was final of four regular season meetings between the eastern conference rivals. Each team won twice, once each at home and on the road.
For the last few seasons, the Kootenay Ice was a pretty easy out for the Tigers when the teams resided together in Central Division. But this season, Winnipeg (34-20-1) has rebounded nicely as an organization since relocating to the Manitoba capital and the East Division. A year ago, the Ice finished 21st overall in the WHL with a record of 13-45-7-3.
Both Winnipeg and Medicine Hat have been very good frontrunners this season, finding ways to put games away when leading after two periods. Medicine Hat is now 22-2 in games when leading after 40 minutes, while Winnipeg has gone 22-1 when taking the lead into the final frame.
The Tigers will not face a Central Division opponent again until Mar. 3, when the Swift Current Broncos visit Canalta Centre. That game on home ice will mark the first of ten in a row against division rivals to end the regular season schedule.
Ice Chips…Three stars were Leppard, Chyzowski and Johnson…The Tigers outshot the Ice, 36-33…Sogaard finished with 29 saves, while Hughes made 34 stops…Hughes last started a game in Medicine Hat Nov. 4, 2017 while a member of the Seattle Thunderbirds. Medicine Hat won the contest 4-3 in overtime, with James Hamblin picking up an assist on the game-winner…Hamblin leads the Eastern Conference in both goals (33) and assists (49). He is second overall in league scoring to Spokane’s Adam Beckman, who has 92 points…For Teply, the assist gives him at least one point in 11 straight games…Medicine Hat scratched F Cole Sillinger (7-10 days), F Noah Danielson, D Nick Perna and F/D Damon Agyeman. Winnipeg played without F Connor McClennon (8-10 weeks)…The Tigers are now 17-6-2 at home this season and 17-12-0-1 on the road…Thanks to an 11-2 drubbing of the Moose Jaw Warriors Sunday in Portland, the Winterhawks have scored 231 goals in 54 games. Medicine Hat and Kamloops have scored 231 in 55 games…Next home game for the Tabbies is Friday when the Tri City Americans come calling for a 7:30pm start…Through 25 games at home this season, Medicine Hat is averaging 2,937 fans per game.
Some family business
Coincidentally on this Family Day, the tilt marked the first meeting in Medicine Hat between Ice forward Peyton Krebs and Tigers rookie rearguard, Dru Krebs.
When Winnipeg first visited the Gas City back in October, Peyton was just shy of returning to action after suffering an achilles tendon injury while training during the off-season.
Peyton, 19, who has signed an entry level contract with the Las Vegas Golden Knights, has collected 10 goals and 40 assists in 32 games.
Dru, who celebrated his 17th birthday yesterday, has scored three goals and 13 assists in 48 games with a plus-6 rating.
Also of note, while Peyton and Dru were battling in Medicine Hat, 20-year-old defenceman Dakota Krebs was busy Monday afternoon with the Calgary Hitmen in Kelowna. Calgary overcame a 5-1 deficit to defeat the Rockets in overtime, 6-5.
The brothers are from Okotoks, Alberta.
With Cole Sillinger sidelined since leaving a home-game against the Swift Current Broncos Jan. 28, Ice forward Michal Teply has taken over the lead in WHL scoring among rookies.
Teply, selected in the fourth round, 105th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2019 NHL Draft, is on a 11-game point scoring streak.
Teply, who will celebrate his 19th birthday May 27, is an import from the Czech Republic and entered the contest with 26 goals and 29 assists in 44 games.
Eight of Teply’s goals have been game-winners and he has also tallied 10 power play goals, both tops among rookies.
Sillinger, who will celebrate his 17th birthday May 16, has tallied 18 times and added 28 helpers for 46 points in 42 games.
He continues to lead all rookies with 23 points on the power play.
Also in uniform was Carson Lambos, who last played in Medicine Hat as a member of Team Canada White at the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Lambos is atop the scoring race among WHL rookie defenceman with seven goals and 22 assists in 48 games.
Lambos and Sillinger were teammates during the event and Lambos was named to the tournament all-star team.
1. WPG Milne 10 (Johnson, Leppard) 3:55
2. MH Chyzowski 26 (Anderson, Kemp) 13:04
3. MH Chyzowski 27 (Brinkman, Gavlas) 19:27
Penalties: MH Plouffe (hooking) 4:28. MH Anderson (high-sticking) 5:18. MH McNabb (tripping) 9:47. WPG Krebs (cross-checking), WPG Johnson (roughing), MH Clayton (roughing) 11:01. WPG McMaster (high-sticking, double-minor)13:51.
Penalties: MH Brown (high-sticking) 11:06.
4. WPG Pedersen 23 (Krebs, Teply) :35
5. WPG Leppard 20 (Milne, Johnson) 1:14
6. WPG Johnson 23 18:58 (en)
Shots on Goal
MH: 9-10-17: 36
WPG: 10-9-14: 33
MH: Sogaard (58:17) 29/32
WPG: Hughes (60:00) 34/36
Attendance at Canalta Centre: 3,397
Tigers Record By Division
vs Central Division: 14-9-1-1
vs East Division: 15-6-1
vs BC Division: 3-2
vs US Division: 2-1
Tigers Remaining Games vs Central Division (9)
Edmonton: Home 1.
Lethbridge: Home1; Away 1.
Calgary: Home 1.
Red Deer: Home 1; Away 1.
Swift Current: Home 2; Away 1.