By Ryan McCracken on December 30, 2017.
The Medicine Hat Tigers etched their coach’s name into franchise history on Saturday night at the Canalta Centre.
Mark Rassell scored with 19 seconds left in overtime to secure a 4-3 victory over the Red Deer Rebels and push head coach Shaun Clouston to his franchise-best 324th win behind Medicine Hat’s bench in dramatic fashion.
The win puts Clouston’s all-time coaching record with the Tigers at 324-201-34, one win ahead of former bench boss Willie Desjardins’ 323-176-60 in the exact same number of games.
While the Tigers put themselves in early penalty trouble after giving up the game’s first two power plays, Gary Haden broke through shorthanded to give Medicine Hat a 1-0 lead for the first time since Dec. 6 — a 5-4 shootout win over the Raiders in Prince Albert.
Rebels rookie River Fahey followed it up with a highlight reel deke to knot the game up with the first goal of his career, but Rassell quickly responded in kind to give the Tabbies an edge at the break.
The 20-year-old Tigers captain opted to shoot on a 2-on-1 and beat Rebels goaltender Ethan Anders for his 30th goal of the season. Rassell reached the 30-goal plateau on Feb. 25 last season before closing out the year with a team-high 36 goals. He’s now on pace to surpass the 50-goal mark after scoring 31 in just 37 games.
While Anders settled into his crease and kept the paddle down for the better part of the second period, Tyler Preziuso finally managed to solve the 17-year-old netminder with a top-corner snipe in the final minute of the middle frame.
But the Rebels pushed right back early in the third period with another career first, this time from Arshdeep Bains.
The 16-year-old Surrey product was credited with the milestone after jumping into the slot and poking a loose puck past Tigers goaltender Michael Bullion. The goal brought life to the Rebel bench and pushed the Tigers back onto their heels, opening the door for Mason McCarty to draw even with just less than three minutes left in regulation.
Despite the late push, Rassell stole away the momentum and secured the win in the final minute of overtime by forcing a turnover in the Rebels end and beating Riley Lamb up high for his 31st of the year.
Bullion turned aside 23 pucks to lock up his eighth win between the pipes and push the Tigers to 20-15-2-0 on the year. Lamb settled for the loss after entering in relief of Alders to start the third and stopping 16 shots. Alders finished with 23 saves. The loss puts Red Deer at 10-19-5-2.
The Tigers hit the road to Cranbrook to take on the Kootenay Ice on Monday at 4 p.m.
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