By Ryan McCracken on October 12, 2016.
A sluggish start hurt the Medicine Hat Tigers for the second game in a row Tuesday at the Canalta Centre.
A pair of early penalties gave the Victoria Royals the window they needed to take control in a 5-1 win. Dante Hannoun made good on an extended 5-on-3 power play, and the Tigers were unable to claw their way back.
“It’s taking a while for us to find our game right now,” said captain Clayton Kirichenko, whose Tigers fell to 5-3-0-0 after dropping back-to-back games for the first time this season. “We’re good in the second half but we need to translate that into our starts.”
The Royals added some insurance early in the middle frame when Blake Bargar managed to squeak a puck between the pads of Tigers goaltender Nick Schneider. The goal capped off a one-sided start to the second, as Victoria managed to hold Medicine Hat without a shot for the first eight minutes of the period.
“We know they play very well in this building and play very fast in this building and we felt if we weren’t going to skate we wouldn’t be able to play with them,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry. “I thought it was a good matchup with two good teams and we got off to a real good jump.”
The Tabbies finally found some offence against one of the WHL’s stingiest penalty killing units. After generating a strong offensive push from the newly formed line of Chad Butcher, John Dahlstrom and Max Gerlach, the Tigers found themselves on a power play â€” and Gerlach split the deficit with his fourth goal of the season. It was just the second power play goal allowed by the Royals in 33 chances.
“That was huge,” said Kirichenko of the power play goal. “I think they were 96 per cent on the penalty kill coming in and we had a game plan on the power play and made it work. Johnny (Dahlstrom) made a great play driving the net and Gerlach with a good stick tapped it in.”
Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston opted to juggle the lines entering Tuesday’s game due to the absence of forward Mason Shaw â€” who was away from the team for personal reasons â€” and he further mixed them up after a stagnant first.
“I think that kind of excited everybody,” said Gerlach of the line juggling. “You want to see what you can do, what you can spark up. But we can’t wait like that, we can’t sit back until the second period to start going.”
While Medicine Hat entered the third period with another man advantage, Victoria’s special teams unit shut them down and centre Matthew Phillips re-established a two-goal lead after drawing Schneider out of the crease and cashing in on a wraparound.
The Tigers continued to push for some life in the third, but Tyler Soy struck again for Victoria. The leading Royals scorer jumped on a breakout lob pass and beat Schneider on the breakaway, then Jared Dmytriw put the game out of reach with a late empty-netter.
“We’re on a five-game homestand here so we can’t let all these points get away,” said Gerlach. “That’s two games right there that we needed so for these next ones coming up we’re definitely going to have to focus.”
Schneider was handed his first loss of the season despite a 36-save performance, while Victoria’s Griffen Outhouse turned away 40 pucks to push the Royals to 4-4-0-0 on the year.
The Tigers return to the Canalta Centre Friday to host the Calgary Hitmen (3-2-0-0) at 7:30 p.m.
“We’ll think about this one for a couple minutes here, let it tick us off a bit and use it as motivation for Friday,” said Kirichenko. “We’re going to start getting prepped right now.”