By Ryan McCracken on October 8, 2016.
Deficits just don’t seem that daunting to the Medicine Hat Tigers, and special teams are a big reason why.
Medicine Hat’s penalty kill went a flawless 7-for-7 while the power play struck four times on seven chances in Friday’s 6-3 victory over the Red Deer Rebels, capping off another comeback for the team’s fifth win in a row.
“Our penalty kill was aggressive and solid again, and part of your PK is your goaltender, and the power play was clutch,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston. “We’ve been able to capitalize on chances and it was definitely the difference tonight.”
Tigers defenceman David Quenneville was at the forefront of the power-play effort, connecting on three of Medicine Hat’s four markers Friday, bringing him to five points in four games from the back end.
“It was huge. I’m obviously trying to take care of my own end first but I’m going to be counted on every night to help contribute to putting the puck in the net,” said Quenneville, whose Tigers moved to 5-1-0-0 with the win. “I’m just really excited that I could do that tonight.”
Rebels forward Michael Spacek scored back-to-back goals in the first and second periods to flip the tables on the Tigers following Quenneville’s opening salvo.
While Mark Rassell beat Rebels goaltender Riley Lamb through the wickets to knot the game back up at 2-2, Evan Polei managed to tip a puck past Nick Schneider to re-establish a one-goal lead through 40 minutes.
But for the second game in a row, Medicine Hat’s offence exploded into the final frame.
“It wasn’t our best game, but I think we were a little bit fortunate tonight. Red Deer outplayed us in the first period, that’s for sure,” said Clouston. “I thought from there on it was much more even and our third was our strongest.”
Chad Butcher and Quenneville connected for back-to-back power play goals after the Rebels put themselves in a 5-on-3 situation to re-take the lead early in the third. Medicine Hat’s man advantage broke through again 10 minutes later as Quenneville completed the hat trick with a blast from the point to tack on some insurance, then Mason Shaw put the game away with an empty-netter in the final minute.
“(Quenneville) is a great player. He’s gifted offensively and has a cannon of a shot,” said Clouston. “He unloaded a couple slap shots, one of them might have been tipped, I don’t know if anything will change, but he’s very dangerous on the power play.”
While the Tigers were out-shot for the first time this season, Schneider put forth his best effort to date with 37 saves, moving the Flames prospect to 4-0-0-0 on the WHL season.
“Schneider played very well and kept it close,” said Clouston. “He made some big saves when the game was close our else it could have really swung in their favour.”
Butcher continued his offensive onslaught with three assists on top of his power-play goal, while Shaw had a three-point night, Steven Owre finished with three helpers.
The Tigers faced three penalty kills over seven minutes in the second period then three more in the third, but held strong to bring their season percentage to 84.9, while the power play is sitting pretty at 44.8 percent, second-best in the league.
“That’s going to lead to success,” said Quenneville. “Putting four in out of seven on the power play is huge for us.”
The Tigers return to the Canalta Centre Saturday to take on the Kamloops Blazers at 7:30 p.m., and Quenneville says they’ll be looking for a much better jump than in their previous two matchups.
“We’ve been a little sluggish off the start in the last few games but we’ve been very hot in the third period and that’s really exciting for us,” he said. “We’re confident with where our game’s at and we know we can get better.”