NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB
Lukas Svejkovsky is congratulated on his first period goal in the Tigers Saturday's win by defenseman Reid Andresen. Svejkovsky has six goals in three games and had the shootout winner for Medicine Hat as they beat the Oil Kings 3-2 for their first home win of the season.
Lukas Svejkovsky brought the offence and Garin Bjorklund shut the door for the Tigers as they held on to win 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night against the Oil Kings.
Medicine Hat hit the road Friday morning 0-2 on the season after dropping their games against the Swift Current Broncos to start the year. Forty eight hours and two wins against division rivals later, and the Tigers are feeling great about being 2-2-0-0 on the season.
“It was a great weekend,” associate coach Joe Frazier said. “We pushed hard this week in practice, the guys responded and two tough opponents, Red Deer was really good last night. It’s always hard to win in Red Deer, it’s a tough trip and then we get home late last night and play a really good Edmonton team.”
Svejkovsky continued his tear to start the season, notching his sixth goal to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Bogdans Hodass and Corson Hopwo assisted on the goal 3:36 into the first period.
The 20-year-old now has six goals through three games this season as he did not dress for the season opener in Swift Current. Medicine Hat had four over-aged players through the first two games against the Broncos before they moved defenseman Eric Van Impe to Seattle on Thursday. The Tigers now have Svejkovsky, Hopwo and Daniel Baker filling their three over-age roster spots.
The Oil Kings tied it all up halfway through the frame off a Shea Van Olm goal, his first of the season. Kobe Verbicky and Jakub Demek picked up assists on the tying marker.
Edmonton ended the first outshooting the Tigers 9-5 in a period that saw both teams take control of the momentum.
Neither team scored in the second but traded high calibre chances as both netminders made big saves to keep the game tied. Baker had two separate penalties in the last six minutes of the frame as the Tigers penalty kill was put to the test. They killed off both penalties, including the last 28 seconds that leaked into the third period.
John Szabo broke the tie 8:03 into the third for the Oil Kings as he potted his first of the year and gave Edmonton a 2-1 lead. But with 3:38 left in the frame, Baker fired a seeing eye shot from the point that snuck by Oil Kings goalie Sebastian Cossa and forced overtime his first of the season.
The extra frame solved nothing, as Edmonton and the Tigers traded chances during the 3-on-3 period.
Both teams missed on their first shootout chances — Oren Shtrom for the Tigers and Josh Williams for Edmonton — buy Svejkovsky stayed hot and scored to give Medicine Hat the shootout lead.
The next three shooters, Jakub Demek, Baker and Dylan Guenther all failed to score and the Tigers held on for their second win of the season.
Svejkovsky says the shootout is something he has always worked on and he was happy to be one of the guys picked to score.
“I love that aspect of the game, was pretty excited when I went up there and luckily got the goal,” Svejkovsky said.
Garin Bjorklund, getting his third start of the season, stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced between the pipes. Bjorklund is now 1-2 on the season with a 2.28 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. He says it’s nice to get his first win and get the monkey off the back.
“To get a win over a good team like Edmonton, it’s pretty exciting and the boys are pretty fired up,” Bjorklund said.
Cossa stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced. The 15th overall pick of the Detroit Red Wings attended Canada’s world junior camp alongside Bjorklund this summer.
“Me and Coss’, we’ve been good buddies since we were playing peewee against each other, he was in Fort McMurray and I was in Grand Prairie,” Bjorklund said. “At summer camp for Hockey Canada, we were on the same team and team Alberta we’ve always grown up being on the same team so to battle head-to-head, it’s pretty cool.”
It was a close loss for the Oil Kings, who were named the top team in the CHL to start the year. Besides the loss, it was an emotional day for Edmonton as Saturday would have been the 17th birthday of Caleb Reimer. The Oil Kings forward passed away Aug. 21 following a car accident in Surrey, B.C.
“It was tough. Our group has had to deal with a lot of emotion from the summer, obviously after the tragedy,” Edmonton assistant coach Luke Pierce said. “A lot of reminders and today was another one of them. It’s a lot for guys to have to process and it was certainly on the forefront of our minds tonight… Our guys are still very much thinking of the family and just can’t fathom what they’re going through.”
The Tigers are on the road all next weekend as they play the Saskatoon Blades Friday night and stop in Prince Albert to take on the Raiders on Saturday.