It isn’t very often that a team sweeps a season series, and more rare is one where a team behind you in the standings takes every game against you.
The Medicine Hat Tigers are on the verge of just that after taking the fifth game of the season series by a score of 5-3. The teams will meet for the sixth and final time on Wednesday March 14th in Medicine Hat.
The win did put the Tigers a single point up on Rebels in the overall standings.
Red Deer was wearing the WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation jerseys and they looked quite sharp. There was an auction to win the game worn jerseys with proceeds going to the Kidney Foundation of Alberta.
It was an entertaining first period of play for the two teams as they traded chances back and forth. Red Deer had the best chance when a puck squirted through the pads of Mads Sogaard and into the blue paint behind him. There wasn’t a Rebel stick close enough to poke the puck beyond the goal line.
Medicine Hat had the lions share of the scoring chances in the period, but Rebels netminder Ethan Anders was up to the task. He stopped all 14 Medicine Hat shots through 20 minutes, Sogaard had 11 saves.
Second period penalty trouble cost the Rebels dearly.
With defenseman Jacob Herauf in the sin bin, Medicine Hat took advantage as they have done all season against the Rebels.
Their ninth power play goal on 16 chances this season, came 4:21 into the second frame. Elijah Brown opened the scoring with his eighth of the season.
Five and half minutes later the Rebels tied the contest. It would be the last time the teams were at evens. Ryan Gottfried’s first Western Hockey League goal came from the point, his shot just wired beyond Sogaard.
Before the second period was out, the Tigers would add to their lead, once at five-on-five and then with yet another power play marker.
James Hamblin scored with four minutes and 31 seconds remaining in the middle stanza. The captain’s 27th goal of the year made it 2-1.
The potent power play struck again two minutes and ten seconds later. Logan Christensen scored his fifth goal of the season.
The Tigers had three goals on 10 shots in the second while the Rebels added just the single marker with nine shots on Sogaard.
It took just 18 seconds of the third period for the Rebels to climb back into the game and it was all Brandon Hagel. The Morinville, AB native stick handled his way through the offensive zone and created an opportunity in front of the net. His shot slid right along the ice and under Sogaard’s pads to close the gap to 3-2.
More penalty trouble spelled the end of this comeback bid. A delay of game penalty followed by an unsportsmanlike penalty to Ethan Sakowich resulted in 35 seconds of five-on-three time for the Tigers.
While the Tigers did not score on the two man advantage, they would retake their two goal lead with an extra attacker still on the ice.
Elijah Brown’s second goal of the game came with less than half of the second minor penalty left to kill off for Red Deer. With their third goal on the power play of the night, Medicine Hat now has scored on 11 of their 19 power play chances over their five game set.
“You beat yourself, it’s two points we lost tonight because we just did some things you can’t do, and they’re a team that’s going to take advantage of it. They have good goaltending and they have some guys up front on their power play.” said Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter.
“Their power play, 50 per cent or more of their goals have been scored against us. That’s not a good stat to have. It tells you your penalty killing and goaltending has to be better and there are too many undisciplined penalties. Those three things fall in line.”
The Rebels didn’t quit on this game despite the constant set backs.
“We didn’t quit, it had nothing to do with that part of it,” said Sutter. “For the most part this team does work but there’s a difference between working and working smart, working with discipline and managing pucks the right way.”
Reese Johnson’s 20th goal of the season closed the gap to a single marker. His goal followed more hard work from Hagel. His assist drew him to within three of the Rebels all-time team record held by Arron Asham.
Once again the Tigers answer the Rebels push back. With under seven minutes to go, Baxter Anderson scored his second goal of the season. He collected a loose puck in the faceoff circle and threw the puck on the Rebels net. Anders didn’t quite have the post covered and the puck squeezed itself into the back of the net.
With three minutes remaining, head coach Brent Sutter pulled Anders for the extra attacker. The Rebels caught a break with under two minutes to play, a Tiger took their first penalty of the game. Despite the opportunity at 6-on-4, the Rebels could not capitalize. They did get multiple shots on Sogaard but he was able to get his big body infront of the puck and score the two points for the Tigers.
When asked about the Rebels only receiving the late power play Sutter was candid, “Don’t even get me started on that, I’ve lost many hours of sleep over certain things that go on.”
Rebel Yell… The three stars were Elijah Brown, Brandon Hagel and Reese Johnson. With a Lethbridge win last night the Rebels slipped to fourth in the division, good for the first wild card position. Brandon Hagel and Ryan Jevne lead the players with 8 shots on net. Reese Johnson was again excellent in the faceoff dot, he was 15-of-21. Medicine Hat scored 3 power play goals for the third time this season against Red Deer.