By Ryan McCracken on April 1, 2018.
Mark Rassell’s Western Hockey League career came to an end on Sunday at Dauphin’s Credit Union Place, but he made sure to go out with a bang.
The Medicine Hat Tigers overage captain potted a hat trick to keep hope alive in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final series against Brandon, but the Wheat Kings stormed back to clinch the best-of-seven series and send the Tabbies packing in a 4-3 overtime thriller.
Rassell completed his hat trick 34 seconds into the third period — allowing the Tigers to extend their season into overtime — but Linden McCorrister punched Brandon’s ticket to a second-round matchup with the Lethbridge Hurricanes when he beat Hat goaltender Jordan Hollett eight minutes into sudden death.
The Wheat Kings pushed the early pace, but Medicine Hat struck for the opening goal when David Quenneville found Mark Rassell with a stretch pass through neutral ice and the Hat captain cashed in on a breakaway.
Brandon nearly set things back to even entering the final minute of the first after Quenneville crashed through Hollett in the middle of a goalmouth scramble, but the 20-year-old blueliner managed to stop Luka Burzan’s shot and freeze the puck between his legs. Hollett closed out the period with 14 saves to keep Medicine Hat’s narrow lead intact.
Needing a win to extend his major junior career, Rassell doubled up on Medicine Hat’s lead midway through the second period by jumping on a Jaeger White rebound in the blue paint and jamming it through Myskiw for his seventh goal of the post-season.
But the Wheat Kings battled back into the conversation following a spirited fight between Brandon rearguard Zach Wytinck and Tigers winger Baxter Anderson just over a minute after Rassell’s marker. The bout clearly sparked something on Brandon’s bench — and within five minutes, Medicine Hat’s lead was gone.
Stelio Mattheos put Brandon on the board just 23 seconds after Wytinck’s scrap stepping into a one-timer from Ty Lewis for his third of the series.
Hollett did all he could to keep his Tigers ahead with a slew of highlight reel saves a few moments later, but the Wheat Kings followed it up with a 2-on-1 chance and Evan Weinger went top shelf to knot the game up.
While Brandon took over the momentum after 40 minutes, Rassell once again silenced the crowd of 1,255 when he picked up a rebound beside the net and chipped it past Myskiw to complete his second career playoff hat trick early in the final frame.
Medicine Hat rode the energy to a 14-0 edge in shots to start the third, but the opportunistic Wheat Kings battled back into the game when Weinger found McCorrister for a one-timer on the doorstep to set up overtime 11 minutes later.
McCorrister struck again in overtime to clear the benches when he deflected a puck past Hollett midway through the first overtime frame, sealing a 4-2 series victory and ending Medicine Hat’s post-season in six games.
Myskiw improved to 4-0 in Brandon’s crease with a staggering 52-save victory. Hollett stopped 42 in the season-ending loss, including eight in overtime.
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