January 22nd, 2022

Tigers rally past Wheat Kings

By James Tubb on January 12, 2022.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Owen MacNeil carries the puck out of the Medicine Hat Tigers zone in the first period of the Tigers contest against the Brandon Wheat Kings Wednesday night.

Owen MacNeil scored in overtime for the Medicine Hat Tigers as they came back and beat the Brandon Wheat Kings 4-3 in extras Wednesday night at Co-op Place.

Tigers head coach and general manager Willie Desjardins said he liked the Tigers lineup in the win.

“I told the guys before the game I thought it was the best lineup we dressed all year,” Desjardins said. “We’re finally healthy which is a good sign for us. I thought a lot of guys battled and I thought it was a different feel a little bit in the room.”

Garin Bjorklund turned aside 19 of the 22 shots he faced for his fifth win of the season. The net minder said it was nice for the Tigers to comeback after not playing in over a week.

“It was nice for us to go out there and get the first goal and the boys were excited to play and it was nice to get the win,” Bjorklund said.

Both teams were coming off a stretch without games due to different COVID-19 pauses, as the Tigers last played on Jan. 2 while the Wheat Kings hadn’t played since Dec. 30 entering Wednesday night’s contest

Desjardins said he didn’t think they were great coming off the extended pause but was happy with how the Tigers out shot the Wheat Kings 23-7 in the second and third periods.

“I didn’t think we were great, I thought we had been off for awhile and it showed,” Desjardins said. “I think we can play better than that but that’s the best shots through the second and third period we’ve put up probably for a year or two. It was a good sign to see that and we have to build on it. One game doesn’t mean a lot, so we have to build on it.”

The Tigers got on the board first using the man advantage, as Ashton Ferster knocked the puck past Wheat King netminder Ethan Kruger 4:14 into the contest. Oasiz Wiesblatt and Tyler MacKenzie picked up the assists on Ferster’s eighth of the season.

Medicine Hat controlled the play for the majority of the first until the Wheat Kings answered back from the early deficit. Rylan Roersma put the puck past Bjorklund at the 13:14  mark to tie the game up at 1-1.

Brandon capitalized on a power play less than minute later as Wheat King captain Ridley Greig scored to put the Wheat Kings ahead. 

Both teams pushed but there was no more offense in the frame as the Wheat Kings led the frame in shots 13-9. Before the period could end, Tigers captain Daniel Baker laid a big hit on Brandon rookie Trae Johnson and Wheat King Landon Roberts came to his defence. Roberts and Baker then dropped the gloves in the final five seconds of the period.

Medicine Hat opened the middle frame in a hurry as Pasha Bocharov scored his second of the season only 45 seconds into the period to tie the game up at 2-2. MacKenzie and Ferster picked up the helpers on Bocharov’s goal.

For Bocharov, the goal was his first goal and point as a Tiger. He came to the Gas City from the Saskatoon Blades in Medicine Hat’s three-team deal on Dec. 28. 

Shortly after, Greig came down the wing on Bjorklund and fired a shot top shelf past the netminder to silence the crowd of 1,959 Tigers fans in attendance and give the Wheat Kings a lead for the second time in the contest. His 16th of the season is his 11th point against the Tabbies.

There was no love lost in the contest as Tigers defenceman Rhett Parsons and Wheat King Riley Ginnell had their own fisticuffs battle in the last three minutes of the middle frame. That fight was the last excitement of the period as the Tigers outshot Brandon 13-5 in the frame but trailed on the scoreboard 3-2. 

Ferster said seeing Baker and Parsons stand up for themselves gave the Tigers momentum throughout the contest.

“It was great, really gave us energy and showed we weren’t going to back down,” Ferster said. “It created momentum swings for us.”

Desjardins said having Baker and Parsons step up was big for the Tigers as it gave them a different feel in the win.

“…We just have to play hard,” Desjardins said. “We know that, we’re not the most talented team right now. We have to have structure in battling and we did a good job tonight but we have so much hockey ahead of us, so we’re going to need everybody to be good.”

With eight minutes left in the third period, Brendan Lee picked the puck up for a mini breakaway and out waited Kruger to score his first as a Tiger and tie the game up at 3-3.

Brayden Boehm and Wiesblatt had the helpers on Lee’s sixth of the season that sent the game to overtime as the Tigers outshot Brandon 10-2 in the third.

MacNeil’s game-winner came on the Tigers only shot of the extra frame to give the Medicine Hat its seventh win of the year. 

MacKenzie and Tigers d-man Dru Krebs picked up the assists on MacNeil’s game winner, his fifth goal of the season. The 17-year-old MacKenzie assisted on three of the four Tigers goals in the win as he now has nine points in his last six games.

He said it’s been’ huge’ for him being a part of the Medicine Hat offence over the stretch.

“You just have to keep working night in and night out and I can’t do any of it without my teammates so huge shoutout to them and huge shoutout to everyone around me that’s helped me to get here,” MacKenzie said. ” But it just stems from hard work and I think we have to keep building on it.

The Tigers are back in action Friday night on the road as they travel to Moose Jaw to take on the Warriors at 7 p.m.

Editors note: An earlier version of the story stated Ashton Ferster scored for the Tigers early in the second period. The credit for the goal was changed to Pasha Bocharov after the game.

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