June 24th, 2024

Tigers score seven unanswered goals for win Friday

By James Tubb on October 27, 2023.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Tigers captain Tyler MacKenzie celebrates his second of three goals with centre Cayden Lindstrom in the third period of the Tigers' 7-4 win Friday night at Co-op Place over the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Medicine Hat Tigers fans got their moneys worth Friday night at Co-op Place.

After allowing four goals in the first period, the Tigers rattled off seven straight goals to beat the Edmonton Oil Kings 7-4. The win is their first game at Co-op Place. since Oct. 7, a 4-3 loss against the Moose Jaw Warriors, due to their 3-2 B.C. trip.

Associate coach Joe Frazer described the victory as a character win for the group.

“It was great to come back, get two points, obviously a tough start but it’s great to see us be able to regroup and find our game,” Frazer said. “I thought we looked a little sluggish in the first, they were jumping, they were winning every race and every stick battle there, they pretty much won everything in the first. It was great to see us regroup and it’s not easy to do when you’re down a hole like that.”

Captain Tyler MacKenzie had the game winner and two other goals within a span of nine minutes for his first career WHL hat trick. He says they shared the message and belief of playing for one another after the disappointing first period.

“We were disappointed in ourselves, that’s not how we play and it was bad,” MacKenzie said. “For us to be able to have the mental toughness, the courage and resilience to  try and bounce back,  fight our whole way back in that game, is something good. For our team to be able to do that, it shows we want to be a championship team and the no quit definitely helps that.”

Edmonton opened the scoring 17 seconds into the contest on a jam play by Rilen Kovacevic at the side of the net. They took a 2-0 lead just under seven minutes later with a power play goal from Skyler Bruce who skated out from the corner and went far side on starter Evan May. A series of errors found the puck on Adam Jecho’s stick who found the back of the net at the 10:30 mark to put the road team ahead 3-0. that goal marked the end of Evan May’s night, he made 10 saves before Zach Zahara took over the net.

The Oil Kings capitalized on a scramble with Blake Fiddler scoring his first career WHL goal to put Edmonton ahead 4-0 after 20 minutes. That goal was the only offence Zahara allowed as the 18-year-old made 23 saves for his third win of the season.

Forward Cayden Lindstrom, who got on the board twice in the last 40 minutes of the game, didn’t make any excuses for the Tigers first period effort.

“I don’t think the B.C. trip had anything to do with it, it was just a lack of preparation and we just didn’t have a good start,” Lindstrom said. “We we’re losing draws, no one was helping on draws and the forecheck was pretty bad.”

The Tigers mounted their comeback before the halfway point of the second frame. Gavin McKenna found the back of the net on a power play to crack the goose egg on the score board. Oasiz Wiesblatt had the lone assist.

Medicine Hat found twine again, with Lindstrom scoring his first of the game on a one-timer pass from Andrew Basha, to cut Edmonton’s lead to 4-2 at 12:42 in the second period. Rhett Parsons had the second assist on Lindstrom’s goal. After being outshot 20-10 in the first period, Medicine Hat rallied the shots to only trail 27-22 after 40 minutes.

The Tigers capitalized early in the third, Lindstrom scored his second of the night and 12th of the year to make it a 4-3 game. MacKenzie had the lone assist. McKenna scored his second of the night and seventh of the season, also on the power play, to tie the game up at 4-4 at the 6:16 marks. Wiesblatt had the only assist on that marker too.

MacKenzie tied the game up 2:17 later as he finished off a net front pass from Vasyl Spilka to make it a 4-4 game. Spilka’s assist marks his first WHL point as the Czechia forward made his WHL debut on Friday. Shane Smith had the second assist on the goal.

The offence kept flowing as MacKenzie and Lindstrom had a two-on-one breakaway with the latter making a pass while on his knees to MacKenzie who scored the insurance marker. Reid Andresen had the second assist.

With 1:47 left in the game, a face-off win by Edmonton resulted in a chip out play from Basha that was picked up by MacKenzie at centre ice before the captain fired home the puck for his sixth on the year and to make hats fly, setting up the final score of 7-4. The first WHL hat trick was a long time coming for the 19-year-old who says he was just happy to help in the win.

“It’s definitely a really cool feeling, it took four years to to be able to get to this point but I it’s hard work pays off,” MacKenzie said. “I try and show up every day,  just work my hardest and for that to pay off, it’s pretty special. I owe credit to all the guys who helped me, Spilka had a great pass, Lindy a great effort, it was great.”

Before the game could end, Oil Kings forward Marshall Finnie dropped the gloves and tried to fight McKenna behind the play. Before the 15-year-old could take on the challenge of the 19-year-old, Wiesblatt and defenceman Josh Van Mulligen joined the skirmish that eventually included both full lines.

McKenna says it makes him feel more comfortable on the ice knowing his teammates will step up for him like that.

The Tigers (8-4-1) are back in action Saturday when they host the Seattle Thunderbirds for a 7 p.m. contest. Frazer says it will be another challenge for the Tigers taking on the WHL’s defending champion.

“They have a lot of guys who had that championship experience,” Frazer said. They started off the trip really well, 3-0, lost in Swift Current tonight, so it’ll be a tough match.We just have to make sure we carry on how we finished. We have to make sure our starts are a lot better.”

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