By Ryan McCracken on January 12, 2019.
Brett Kemp pulled up to the Canalta Centre to join the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday at 2 p.m. Six hours later he became the team’s newest goal-scoring leader.
The 18-year-old centre — acquired from the Edmonton Oil Kings in exchange for 17-year-old winger Josh Williams at Thursday’s WHL trade deadline — scored twice to pass Tabby captain James Hamblin for the team lead in goals with 24 while powering his new squad to a 5-2 victory over the Regina Pats.
“I just met the guys right before the game, so it was a long day but it was nice to get the two points,” said Kemp, who played on a line with Elijah Brown and Bryan Lockner. “I think (Medicine Hat) and Edmonton are pretty close in terms of how they play. It was an easy transition for my game. I’m just kind of trying to get comfortable with the little things that have been different.”
Brown gave Medicine Hat an early edge when he jammed a rebound past Pats goaltender Dean McNabb six minutes into the opening frame. The Tigers continued to control the flow of play into the final minutes of the period, but Regina’s Riley Krane converted on a late chance by tipping a Sergei Alkhimov shot past Hat netminder Jordan Hollett to set things back to even after 20 minutes.
“It was a really good game for our line,” said Lockner. “I thought we were clicking right off the start, ever since the first shift. I think we’ve got to keep that going.”
Kemp sprung into action five minutes into the second period when he cut in on goal and ripped a feed from Lockner under the bar.
“I’m playing with really good linemates and that helps a lot,” said Kemp. “Obviously you kind of have a little pressure on you coming in, but playing with those two guys, they’re unbelievable players.”
Kemp repeated the feat on a power play three minutes later by crashing the net and chipping a loose rebound past McNabb to shift the momentum back in Medicine Hat’s favour while taking over the goal-scoring lead.
“I thought he was involved early, he was around the puck, his stick was on the ice and on the puck, and he’s got some nice hands,” said Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston, adding he plans on keeping Kemp’s line together when the Oil Kings come to town Saturday. “Him and Brown seem to have a bit of chemistry. He struggled a couple shifts in the D-zone, so we probably have to clear that up, but overall just a terrific debut.”
Sebastian Streu answered for Regina five minutes later by beating Hollett over the glove with an extra attacker out for a delayed penalty, but Hat defenceman Cole Clayton quickly responded in kind on a shot through traffic, then Linus Nassen added another goal from the point on a power play with seven seconds left in the frame to give the Tigers a three-goal cushion entering the third. Nassen’s goal also chased McNabb from the net in favour of affiliate backup Matthew Pesenti to start the final frame.
“Too bad they scored right after that. We could have built a lot of momentum off that,” said Streu. “I thought the whole game, when we were 5-on-5, we were putting pretty good pressure on them. It’s just been the same story the past couple games, we shoot ourselves in the leg taking those dumb penalties.”
See Pats, Page A10
The Pats responded with a more concerted effort to open the third and managed to hem the Tigers into their own end, but they were only able to muster a single shot on goal through the first nine minutes of the frame despite some sustained zone pressure and an early power play.
Regina put together another push later in the frame, but Hollett calmly kept them at bay to lock up a 20-save victory and push Medicine Hat to 23-16-1-2 on the season.
“He made some huge saves for us,” said Lockner. “If he doesn’t make a couple it could go the other way. Our goalies this year have been really good for us, we have a good one-two punch so going later into the season that’s going to be good for us.”
McNabb settled the loss after allowing five goals on 25 shots through 40 minutes. Pesenti stopped three in the third. Regina slipped to 12-29-1-1 with the loss.
The Tigers return to the Canalta Centre Saturday to host Williams and the Oil Kings at 7:30 p.m.
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