By Ryan McCracken on March 7, 2018.
The Regina Pats were in town to take on the Medicine Hat Tigers in a potential playoff preview on Tuesday at the Canalta Centre —and it did not disappoint.
After battling to a stalemate through 40 minutes, the Pats erupted for three goals in the final five minutes to steal a 6-3 victory away from the Tigers and pad their lead on third place in the East Division.
“Our habits just weren’t quite there and we weren’t ready to execute our game plan consistently enough,” said Tigers captain Mark Rassell who scored his 49th of the season Tuesday. “They’re stacked and they have big names, but when we play as a group and embrace the underdog role we can beat these guys, we can beat anyone. If it ends up being them in the first round I think we’re confident.”
The win puts Regina three points in front of the Brandon Wheat Kings — who hold the first wild card —for third in the East, though the Wheaties have a game in hand with six contests left in the regular season. The Tigers on the other hand have a six-point lead on the top of the Central Division, with the Lethbridge Hurricanes holding two games in hand. The winner of the Central Division will take on the first wild card in the opening round of the playoffs, while third place in the East Division will face either the Moose Jaw Warriors or Swift Current Broncos.
“We’re playing good hockey right now so for us to come out and execute, it was good,” said Pats centre and former Tiger Matt Bradley. “I think we’re going right now. Everything is starting to click together and it’s clicking at the right time. We know we have the firepower to beat the top teams so we’re really excited for the playoffs. It’s going to be hard hockey but it’s going to be fun.”
Hoping to earn some breathing room on Brandon, the Pats set the tone for a high-tempo first period when Jesse Gabrielle beat Hat goaltender Michael Bullion one a one-timer just over two minutes into the frame — but the Tigers quickly rallied back to take over the lead on a pair of opportunistic plays.
Tyler Preziuso put Medicine Hat on the board by banking a pass intended for Ryan Chyzowski off Regina defender Liam Schioler, then Henry Rybinski chipped a loose puck past Pats goaltender Max Paddock to push the Tigers in front less than a minute later.
The back-and-forth trend continued into the dying moments of the first when Koby Morrisseau beat Bullion to a loose puck in the blue paint, then Emil Oksanen took back the led for Regina with a power play goal early in the second.
“I think we came out hard for the first little bit but they’re just a really skilled team,” said Rybinski. “We had moments where we fought back but they pushed harder.”
Cameron Hebig appeared to give the Pats a two-goal lead when he grabbed a puck out of the air and put it past Bullion with just over two minutes left in the second — but a review determined the puck had been thrown into the net, the goal did not stand and within a matter of seconds Rassell had tied the game back up.
The overage Tigers captain was waiting on the edge of the crease when a Bryan Lockner shot stopped dead on the goal line, and he nudged the puck across to set up a winner-take-all third with his 49th of the year.
While the Tigers pushed the pace into the third period, they found themselves in trouble after getting caught with too many men on the ice and Libor Hajek made them pay for the error. The Czech defender ripped a low point shot past Bullion to break the tie with less than five minutes left in regulation, then Morrisseau and Josh Mahura struck in succession to put the game out of reach.
“Overall it wasn’t a real strong game,” said Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston. “We probably played somewhere in the middle tonight but not near good enough, I don’t think, to expect success against a real talented team like Regina.”
Bullion settled for a 23-save loss, ending his personal six-game winning streak while dropping the Tigers to 34-25-8-0. Paddock stopped 24 shots to earn the win and push Regina to 36-25-5-1.
The Tigers return to the Canalta Centre Friday to host the Edmonton Oil Kings (19-39-6-2) at 7:30 p.m.
You must be logged in to post a comment.