By Ryan McCracken on October 13, 2016.
The Medicine Hat Tigers are hoping for some added energy with the return of Mason Shaw entering this weekend’s pair of home games at the Canalta Centre.
The 17-year-old Tigers forward was absent from Tuesday’s lineup due to personal reasons, forcing head coach Shaun Clouston to do some line juggling in response.
“He’s a major piece of our top-six forward group,” said Clouston of Shaw. “He plays with so much energy and brings it every single night. I think that’s something, and we’ll give that some thought.”
Medicine Hat’s early dominance came largely due to their top line of Shaw, Chad Butcher and Zach Fischer. While Tuesday caused for a bit of a shake up, Clouston says he saw some good things out of the quickly assembled line of Butcher, John Dahlstrom and Max Gerlach.
“I thought they had some real good chances. I thought when they did get the puck in the offensive zone they created,” said Clouston. “John is real good down low and in front of the net, and there were times when that line was really effective.”
Clouston added he first opted to change up the line combinations when the Tabbies found themselves in a 4-0 hole after 40 minutes against the Moose Jaw Warriors. The shake-up paid off as Medicine Hat rallied for four goals in the third and Gerlach potted the overtime winner to complete the comeback â€” but Clouston says it ultimately lacked the long-term punch of the original lineup.
“The lines worked real well for a while and then we switched lines late in that Moose Jaw game and they seemed to click. We never quite found that level the next game so we went back to the original lines,” said Clouston. “(Tuesday) was a little bit different because we were missing that piece of the top-six. We’ll give it some thought and get some feedback from some of the older guys and go from there.”
While the team’s two-game slide has featured only two goals over 81 shots â€” while dropping the Tigers to 5-3-0-0 on the year â€” Clouston says he feels the success will return if the Tabbies just stay the course.
“The law of averages says if we keep working and stay positive and continue to do that the puck will start going in,” he said. “Unfortunately the last two nights at home we’re put up 40-plus shots and we’ve only scored two goals.”
Proof of that effort came in the way of Tuesday’s lone goal against Victoria â€” a power play marker from Gerlach. While it merely left a dent in the 5-1 score line, it was only the second power play goal allowed by the defensively gifted Royals this season.
“We knew that was going to be a challenge and we got one. It was an important goal, we were one goal away going into the third,” said Clouston, adding the law of averages can catch up on both sides. “In some ways our third period was our best period, but sometimes when you push hard against a team that’s solid defensively and transitions well, we gave out a couple chances in the other direction that they capitalized on.”
The Tigers return to the Canalta Centre Friday at 7:30 p.m.to host the Calgary Hitmen (3-2-0-0) before welcoming the Vancouver Giants (3-7-0-0) to town 24 hours later.
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