By RYAN MCCRACKEN on October 9, 2019.
The Medicine Hat Tigers bounced back into the win column on Tuesday night at the Canalta Centre.
After being stymied in an overtime loss to the Red Deer Rebels Saturday, the Tabbies regrouped and stole a 4-2 comeback victory from the grasp of the Portland Winterhawks in the lone meeting between the clubs this season.
“I think we’ve just got to play desperate in those,” said centre Brett Kemp, who had points on two of Medicine Hat’s three goals in the third. “We’ve got to play desperate all the time, but the third period has been our period so we just wanted to take it to them and we definitely did.”
Goaltending stole the early limelight, as Medicine Hat’s Mads Søgaard and Portland’s Isaiah DiLaura refused to let anything past them through a scoreless 20 minutes. The Winterhawks had a prime opportunity to strike first on an early odd-man rush, but Søgaard cut across his crease to rob Jaydon Dureau with a highlight-reel blocker save.
The Tigers were given a chance later in the frame when Portland’s Matthew Quigley was nabbed for cross checking, but DiLaura kept them at bay to finish the period with 11 saves.
Jonas Brøndberg pushed Portland out in front four minutes into the middle frame when he picked up a pass from Cross Hanas in the slot and beat fellow Dane Søgaard over the glove for his first goal of the season.
James Hamblin erased Portland’s progress just over two minutes later by cutting to the net, chipping the puck on goal and getting a friendly bounce off Winterhawks defenceman Clay Hanus – giving the Hat captain his 200th career point and fourth goal of the year.
But Hanus found redemption a few minutes later. After Quigley and Nick McCarry were sent to the box for offsetting minors, Hanus restored the lead in 4-on-4 action by beating Søgaard with a sharp-angle shot off the rush.
“We knew they were going to come hard,” said Tigers winger Cole Sillinger. “They’re a pretty skilled team over there. They’ve got lots of speed so I think something we had to do is just throw pucks on net and wear them down. In the third period I think we did that.”
Medicine Hat kept the pressure up in the final frame and Kemp broke through to knot the game back up with Jack O’Brien in the box for interference. The 19-year-old centre split the defence then beat DiLaura clean over the blocker for his second of the year.
“(Parker) Gavlas gave me a nice pass and I saw some open room,” said Kemp. “I just wanted to attack that D, he was flat-footed and speed is my biggest asset, so I thought I would take him on and lucky enough I got around him.”
Just four seconds after the ensuing draw at centre, Tabby blueliner Daniel Baker took the puck and fooled DiLaura with a shot from the neutral zone to give Medicine Hat their first lead of the night. The tally stood as Baker’s first this season.
“They really controlled the third,” said Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston. “They had a lot of jump, a lot of energy. I just think our team is young and a little bit fragile right now. The (seven-game) road trip is a good challenge for them early in the year, but we’re not playing the way we can play I know that. We’ve got to get back to playing how we can play.”
Portland responded by pushing the pace into the Tigers zone, but Søgaard weathered the storm then Trevor Longo finished off a feed from Kemp to nudge the game out of reach.
“We’ve been working hard in practice and I think you can tell our cardio is getting there,” said Tigers assistant coach Joe Frazer. “The way we want to play, we have to be in great shape. I think the guys did a real good job taking short shifts which leads to being a little fresher in the third period.”
Søgaard stopped 26 shots to collect the victory and push Medicine Hat to 5-2-1-0 on the season.
DiLaura settled for the loss despite a 45-save performance in his season debut. The result leaves Portland at an even 3-3-0-0.
“I thought (DiLaura) was really good in goal,” said Johnston. “Early in the game there wasn’t much, but in the third – even though he got scored on in his own world – they had a lot of pressure, a lot of good scoring chances.”
The Tigers return to the Canalta Centre Friday at 7 p.m. to host the Winnipeg Ice (3-3-1-0) for the first time since their relocation from Cranbrook to Manitoba.
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