June 22nd, 2018

Tigers come up short against Hitmen, but clinch Central anyway

By Ryan McCracken on March 13, 2018.

Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman Dylan MacPherson blocks a shot during the first period of Tuesday's Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Canalta Centre. -- NEWS PHOTO RYAN MCCRACKEN

The Medicine Hat Tigers may not have left the ice with a victory on Tuesday night at the Canalta Centre, but by the time they climbed into their cars, they were Central Division champions.

Calgary Hitmen winger Riley Stotts scored with seven minutes left in the third to steal a 3-1 victory from the hands of the Tigers, but the Lethbridge Hurricanes were unable to get the points they needed to stay in the hunt for the Central with a 5-1 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings and Medicine Hat locked up the banner for a second consecutive season.

Tigers goaltender Michael Bullion kept his team in an early stalemate with nine saves through a scoreless opening frame — including a number of big stops on odd-man rushes and a pad save on a Jakob Stukel breakaway.

Medicine Hat pushed the pace into the second and quickly took over a lead in the shot department thanks to a pair of early power plays, but former Tigers goaltender Nick Schneider had an answer for everything and carried a 26-save performance into the third.

Tigers centre Ryan Chyzowski jumped on a chance to fire up his team after taking exception to a Mark Kastelic hit in the dying seconds of the middle frame. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Kamloops product held his own against the 6-foot-3, 213-pound Kastelic, and his teammates immediately rewarded the effort in the third.

It only took 12 seconds for the Tigers to gain the zone and set up Dylan MacPherson’s fourth goal of the year on a hard shot from the slot with Chyzowski watching from the bin — but the Hitmen dug in their heels and came surging back.

First Calgary’s Tristen Nielsen scored off the rush to draw even six minutes later, then Stotts stole away the lead with Tyler Preziuso in the box for a slew footing double-minor.

Connor Chaulk iced the game with an empty netter in the final minute of regulation.

Schneider locked up the 36-save victory in his final WHL appearance at the Canalta Centre — pushing Calgary to 22-36-9-2. Bullion stopped 20 in the loss, dropping Medicine Hat to 35-27-8-0.

The Tigers close out the regular season with a home-and-home set against the Hurricanes, starting Friday in Lethbridge at 7 p.m.

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