June 22nd, 2018

Overtime heroics push Tigers past Hitmen

By Ryan McCracken on November 13, 2017.


The bragging rights belong to Mark Rassell.

The Medicine Hat Tigers captain collected a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime victory against the Calgary Hitmen at the Canalta Centre, bringing him to a total of three pucks put past former teammate Nick Schneider in the weekend’s home-and-home set.

“It’s fun. I’m going to go see him after tonight and say hello and ask him how he’s doing,” said Rassell, adding Schneider had his fair share of big saves. “He stopped me on that breakaway and I could hear him laughing.”

Rassell broke open a tie game midway through the second period when he deflected a point shot from David Quenneville past Schneider on the power play to extend his personal point streak to three games. While the Hitmen knotted things back up early in the third, Rassell set up Gerlach with six seconds left in overtime to steal away the victory.

“I knew if I could get him the puck it was going in,” said Rassell, whose Tigers jumped to 12-6-0-0 with the win, their fourth in a row.

While the Tiger captain earned the last laugh in Friday and Saturday’s victories, Schneider still kept Medicine Hat guessing all night with a strong performance in Calgary’s crease. The 20-year-old Leduc product — with 133 games as a Tiger under his belt — finished the evening with 32 saves.

“I’ve known him for a long time and at Flames camp we roomed together so we know each other pretty well,” said Schneider, whose Hitmen fell to 6-11-2-0 with the loss. “I think he really enjoys scoring on me and I really enjoy stopping him so it’s a good, friendly competition.”

The Hitmen took an early lead when Jake Kryski potted his second of the season just over a minute into action, but the Tigers answered in numbers. Jaeger White repeated his performance from the night before, putting his Tigers on the board with a game-tying goal in the first period, then Max Gerlach shook off a seven-game goalless drought to push Medicine Hat out in front.

“He looks cute with that cage on,” Rassell said of Gerlach, who has been sporting the full cage on his helmet since suffering a facial injury on Oct. 7. “It’s huge to have him back.”

“It definitely took me longer than I wanted, to get back on the scoresheet,” added Gerlach. “When you have to go back (to a cage) it’s a bit challenging at first. It’s tight to your chin and restricts a bit of your eyesight but it’s just one of those things you’ve got to battle through and it’s a safety thing, so I’m happy to wear it.”

Calgary mustered a response of their own a few minutes later when blueliner Jake Bean snapped a puck past Hat goaltender Michael Bullion to draw even at the break, then the Tigers tightened things up in the second.

Bullion picked up the slack on a handful of quality scoring chances to lay the framework for Rassell’s go-ahead marker, but Calgary’s Jakob Stukel struck 32 seconds into the third to put his team right back into the contest.

The Hitmen looked to take a lead when Andrew Fyten cut in on a breakaway and beat Bullion a few minutes later, but a review determined the puck was kicked into the net on a second chance and the goal did not stand.

The Tigers were forced to kill off a late penalty to Gerlach, 21 seconds of which carried over into overtime, but they escaped with the victory on the heels of the Texan’s game-winner — sending the 3,970 in attendance home happy.

“I took a late penalty so it was amazing to get that goal so late in the game,” said Gerlach. “Everybody wants to score the OT winner or play in OT, so I think instead of us being nervous it’s all about being excited and ready to go.”

Bullion turned aside a total of 36 shots to lock up Medicine Hat’s the victory, including a tide-turning breakaway stop on Matteo Gennaro in overtime.

“He was outstanding,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston. “I thought both goaltenders played really well. They threw everything possible at us in the third period and we needed really good goaltending in the third to come up with that one.”

Tigers forward James Hamblin was missing from Saturday’s contest as a scratch after tweaking his knee Friday. The 18-year-old centre has four goals and 14 assists on the year.

“I don’t think he’s going to be long, but he was too sore to go (Saturday),” said Clouston.

The Tigers return to the Canalta Centre Tuesday to host the Kootenay Ice (8-11-1-0) at 7 p.m.

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