July 19th, 2024

Tigers look to capitalize on remaining B.C. trip

By JAMES TUBB on October 20, 2023.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

With two games left on their B.C. road trip, the Medicine Hat Tigers have given themselves examples of how they should play and what they need to avoid.

The Tigers enter play tonight at Kamloops against the Broncos coming off a 3-2 overtime win Wednesday night at Vancouver over the Giants. The extra-time win gives them a 2-1 record on their five-game trip, after a 9-2 win on Oct. 19 over the Kelowna Rockets and a 4-1 loss Tuesday against the Victoria Royals.

Associate coach Joe Frazer says they liked their response in the Vancouver game following the loss to the Royals. He says it was a return to Tigers hockey that helped them find success.

“We really liked how he played his group of five, in the Victoria game we were spread out and they did a really good job, they worked hard but I felt Wednesday we stuck to the game plan,” Frazer said. “It’s just good to see the bounce-back from the Victoria game where we felt like our team play wasn’t as good, I thought our team play (Wednesday) was really good and we stuck with it for 60 minutes, which was nice to see.”

The Tigers capitalized on their special teams against the Giants, with their first goal coming shorthanded off Brayden Boehm’s stick and their second on a power play goal from Tomas Mrsic. The game winner came from Oasiz Wiesblatt, who straddled the blue line with the puck and just kept it onside before skating in and firing a shot top shelf for his first goal of the season and the game winner.

Vancouver fans in attendance booed the officials after the goal for not calling the close play offside. Frazer says he didn’t see how close the puck was to being offside until he saw a photo on Twitter after the game.

“I thought he kept it in by a centimetre or so but it was just great footwork on the blue and just a huge goal for him,” Frazer said. “He’s just an unbelievable player for us and he’d been snake bit a little bit, but no better time to get the first one than there.”

The trip has provided a family experience for a handful of Tigers who are from B.C., getting their first opportunity to play WHL games at home in front of friends and family. Frazer says they’ve had some time off that’s allowed players to see family while still maintaining the focus on winning hockey games.

“We’ve had some really good quality family time, which is important in the long season,” Frazer said. “As the team matures it sometimes can be a little distracting because you’re pulled in different directions on the road with the families and stuff, but I think we’re doing a pretty good job of enjoying our time away from the rink and then once we get to the rink, it’s business.

“It’s a learning experience for some guys, I think guys are doing a pretty good job once we get to the rink that it’s business as usual.”

On top of picking up four points through the first three games of the trip, keeping them in first place of the Central division with a record of 6-3-1, the Tigers’ special teams numbers continue to rise against the league. Their power play is third in the league operating at 31.9 per cent and the penalty kill sits fifth at 86.3 per cent.

They’re second in the league in shorthanded goals with five, trailing the Prince George Cougars, who they’ll face Sunday.

With the Blazers and Cougars left on the road trip schedule, Frazer says they would have wanted six points so far, but are looking for another four, and he says the next two games will make or break the trip.

“We liked how we played against Kelowna and Vancouver and we have to play that way every day, we can’t stray away from it,” Frazer said. “We have to stay disciplined as a team, we have to maintain the business mentality and to play Tigers hockey, we can’t get away from it. When we play our brand of hockey, it’s pretty successful.

“When we get spread out a little bit, too individualistic, then it’s not as great, but we’re going to play as a group of five and work. When everyone’s on the same page it’s pretty good, so we have to make sure we’re doing that every night.”

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