By Ryan McCracken on March 15, 2019.
The Medicine Hat Tigers locked up the Eastern Conference’s top wild card spot on Friday night at Western Financial Place.
Five different Tigers hit the twine and Mads Søgaard stopped 29 shots to back Medicine Hat to a 5-2 victory over the Kootenay Ice. Over in Red Deer, the Rebels dropped a 4-3 contest to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, locking Medicine Hat into a first-round playoff series against the eventual Central Division champions — either the Hurricanes or Edmonton Oil Kings.
Tyler Preziuso pushed the Tigers out in front midway through the first period when he pounced on a rebound at the doorstep and shoveled the puck behind Ice netminder Jesse Makaj, drawing assists from James Hamblin and Cole Clayton.
The Tigers continued to apply pressure in Kootenay’s end and Ryan Jevne doubled up on the lead when he picked up Ryan Chyzowski’s face-off win and beat Makaj to the top corner less than two minutes later.
Jevne returned the favour to Chyzowski five minutes after that, finding the 18-year-old centre in the slot for a quick redirection to leave the Ice staring down a three-goal deficit at the intermission.
Linus Nassen picked up an assist on Chyzowski’s tally, then added to Medicine Hat’s lead midway through the second period. The 20-year-old Swede jumped in on a play with Jevne and Brett Kemp then circled the zone and beat Makaj with a well-placed wrist shot.
Søgaard preserved Medicine Hat’s comfortable lead with 14 saves through 40 minutes, but his shutout bid was snapped when Marco Creta beat him on a shot through traffic to give the Ice some energy seven minutes into the third.
Kootenay kept hope for a comeback alive when Holden Kodak sent a cross-ice feed from Cole Muir behind Søgaard two minutes later, but the Ice were unable to build on the goal and Kemp put the game away with a late empty-netter.
Søgaard locked up the victory with a total 29 saves, lifting Medicine Hat to 35-26-4-2.
Makaj stopped 51 in the loss, dropping Kootenay to 12-45-7-3 with one game left in their final season in Cranbrook.
The Tigers return to the Canalta Centre Saturday for their regular season finale against the Hurricanes at 7:30 p.m.
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