(MEDICINE HAT, AB) It took the Prince Albert Raiders a mere 15 seconds to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at Canalta Centre in Medicine Hat Wednesday night.
With the Tigers ahead 3-2 and the clock winding down, the Raiders stunned the assembled patrons with the tying goal at 19:53 of the final frame. Then, eight seconds into overtime, Prince Albert tallied the game-winner.
“We had a couple of shots at the empty net,” said Tigers assistant coach Ryan Smith after the 4-3 loss. “Then with 15 seconds left, there was no need to push for another goal. We could have just melted a few more seconds away in the corner.
“We turned it over and they came up ice and you know, good players make good plays.”
On a night the Tigers arrived for battle without three of its top six forwards, second-year forward Nick McCarry delivered some timely secondary scoring as the hosts gave the Raiders everything they could handle.
The 18-year-old McCarry scored twice, including what looked to be the game-winner with 4:28 to play.
“They told me I had to step up here when all the guys are injured and sick,” a dejected McCarry said afterward.
Medicine Hat (32-15-2-1) took the early lead, scoring at the five-minute mark on the game’s first shot on goal. It was a fluke, a dump-in from the red line by Baxter Anderson that took a crazy bounce in front of Raiders goalie Max Paddock and hopped into the top corner of the net. It was Anderson’s fourth of the campaign.
Prince Albert bounced back 1:20 later when Daniil Stepanov corralled a loose puck behind the Tigers net, wrapped around into the crease and jammed his fifth of the season under netminder Garin Bjorklund.
With Elijah Brown sidelined since Jan. 7, Cole Sillinger sitting out his third straight game and Lukas Svejkovsky out of the lineup Wednesday, the Tigers power play units were missing some key offensive weapons. Medicine Hat was unable to sustain pressure in the first frame on either of its opportunities with the man advantage.
The teams went to the dressing rooms after 20 minutes tied 1-1. Medicine Hat entered the affair with an 8-2 record in games where it was tied after the first period. Prince Alberta was 12-4-5-1.
McCarry put the Tigers ahead early in the second stanza when he redirected a centering pass from Parker Gavlas past Paddock at 2:09. It was his 10th goal of the season.
The Raiders answered four minutes later when Justin Nachbaur sent a harmless looking shot from the blueline toward the Medicine Hat net, only to have Bjorklund appear completely handcuffed. The tally was Nachbaur’s seventh of the year.
With less than five minutes to play, the Tigers worked the puck into the Raiders zone. Cole Clayton sent the puck across ice and McCarry tipped it past Paddock. It was a carbon copy of his earlier tally and his 11th of the season.
“Yeah, they were both nice,” McCarry said of his two goals. “Just good plays by the other players, Cowboy and Gavs, just to make it all happen for me.”
What was said during a timeout with just over a minute to play remained in the vault as the Raiders coaching staff was unavailable to the media.
But suffice to say, with Paddock on the bench, the Tigers had ample opportunity to tally an insurance marker to ice the contest.
Instead, with less than 15 seconds to play, Raiders forward Spencer Moe carried the puck into the Tigers zone and sent a cross-ice feed to Brayden Watts in the slot. Watts got off a hard shot, which Bjorklund was able to block, but Aliaksei Protas stuffed the rebound in for his 23rd of the season with only seven seconds remaining.
In overtime, the Raiders took the opening faceoff into the Tigers zone, Watts dished off to Protas and the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder one-timed a shot past Bjorklund from the top of the face off circle to seal the win.
Prince Albert (28-14-5-4) has enjoyed success against Central Division teams this season, posting a 12-4-1-3 record so far. The Raiders play in Calgary Friday and Lethbridge Saturday.
The Tigers did manage three wins in four starts against the Raiders this season, but this one will sting for awhile. Medicine Hat is now 16-5-2 at home this season.
The Tigers hit the road now, a run into Manitoba for games in Brandon (Friday) and Winnipeg (Saturday). Medicine Hat has not beaten the Wheat Kings in three tries this season, and has split its two encounters with the Ice. Next home game is Tuesday when the Regina Pats pay its first visit of the season to Canalta Centre.
Ice Chips…Three stars were Protas, McCarry and Stepanov…The Tigers outshot the Raiders, 33-22…Neither team was able to connect on the power pay. Prince Albert was assessed four of the five minor penalties on the night…Medicine Hat scratched F Elijah Brown (injured), F Cole Sillinger (injured), D Nick Perna (injured) and F Lukas Svejkovsky (illness). Prince Albert played without F Tyson Laventure…Through 23 games at home this season, Medicine Hat is averaging 2,943 fans per game…The Tigers lead the WHL with 215 goals in 49 games. Kamloops Blazers are next at 205.
1. MH Anderson 4 5:00.
2. PA Stepanov 5 (Pearce, Hayes) 6:20
Penalties: PA Hayes (roughing) 7:06; PA Masella (cross checking) 11:11.
3. MH McCarry 10 (Gavlas, Lockner) 2:04.
4. PA Nachbaur 7 6:09
Penalties: PA Protas (tripping) 7:57; PA Allan (holding) 12:06; MH Van Impe (holding) 17:46.
5. MH McCarry 11 (Clayton, Chyzowski) 15:32
6. PA Protas 23 (Watts, Moe) 19:53
7. PA Protas 24 (Watts) :08
Shots on Goal
MH: 7-14-12-0: 33.
PA: 6-11-4-1: 22.
MH: Bjorklund (60:08) 18/22
PA: Paddock (58:58) 30/33
Attendance at Canalta Centre: 2,892
Around the Central Division
The Lethbridge Hurricanes (31-12-2-5) knocked off the Red Deer Rebels (17-27-2-3) by a score of 7-6.
Tigers Record By Division
vs Central Division: 14-8-1-1
vs East Division: 13-4
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.