June 19th, 2024

Tigers open five-game home stand with sweep

By JAMES TUBB on October 31, 2023.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Tigers' net minder Evan May makes a glove save in the Tigers' 6-3 win Saturday night at Co-op Place over the Seattle Thunderbirds.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

The Medicine Hat Tigers made a splash in their return to Co-op Place.

After having not played in their friendly confines for close to three weeks, the Tigers won their first two games at home beating the Edmonton Oil Kings 7-4 Friday and dispatching the defending WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday.

Picking up four points in the first two contests of a five-game home stand gives the Tigers a strong start, something they’ve struggled with.

Friday’s win featured seven unanswered Medicine Hat goals after they allowed four straight in the first 14:13 of the opening period. In Saturday’s game, after leading 2-0 through 20 minutes, the Tigers allowed a goal 15 into the middle frame.

Having the slow starts to periods is something associate coach Joe Frazer says each player has to figure out themselves how they need to get ready for puck drop.

“Each guy is different, so as an individual, maturing as a person and a player is figuring if you have to be a little more focused, a little more intense, or maybe you’re too intense too focused and have to loosen up a little bit,” Frazer said. “But that’s up to each guy individually, that’s just finding your way as a player and it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. We’re at that stage right now where routines become very important. That’s finding the routine that works best for you, because each guy is different and each guy plays their best at different intensity levels.”

Shane Smith opened the scoring Saturday with his 11th goal of the year, finding the back of the net short-handed for the second time this season. It was also the Tigers’ sixth shorthanded goal so far. Reid Andresen scored twice to give him three goals this season, Tyler MacKenzie potted his seventh and Cayden Lindstrom scored the empty netter for his team leading 13th goal.

The game winner was a memorable one as it both secured the victory and will live on the mantle at Nate Corbet’s parents house as the defenceman scored early in the third for his first in the WHL.

“It was pretty incredible, I don’t really remember the play much, I saw it go in and saw the guys celebrating and realized I should maybe hit a celly too,” Corbet said. “It was just pretty surreal.”

Saturday’s win also marked a bounce back effort from starter Evan May who picked up his sixth win on the year after making 23 saves. A night earlier he was pulled after allowing three goals on 13 shots. May says he just wanted to get his team a win and sees a lot of growth within the group and himself while handling adversity.

“Rebound (efforts) are really important as a goalie, it builds my confidence a bit, so it’s really nice and I could help the boys out on this one, that’s really huge,” May said.

“This group has come a long way mentally wise. Last year we’d get down a bit but this year we have a belief and we believe we can win any game in this league.”

Coming out of the weekend, the Tigers sit in second place of the Central division with a record of 9-4-1, trailing the first place Lethbridge Hurricanes who are 8-5-2.

The Tigers continue their home stretch and open a buys week ahead, with four games in five nights starting Wednesday when they host the Portland Winterhawks. Portland was ranked No. 1 in the CHL last week.

The Hurricanes are at Co-op Place on Friday and the Everett Silvertips are also there on Saturday. Medicine Hat heads to Edmonton on Sunday to wrap up the stretch.

The Tigers will be on that run without rookie Gavin McKenna, who left Sunday to represent Canada at the U17 Hockey Challenge. McKenna is tied for the team lead in scoring with seven goals and 20 points.

With forward Brayden Boehm already out of the lineup on a week-to-week basis, the Tigers could employ a 11 forward, seven defenceman roster. Frazer says they’ll take decisions like that one game at a time.

“A big week, four in five with tough teams, Portland, Lethbridge, Everett and Edmonton in the last one, three and three where we have to drive up there, so just a huge week,” Frazer said. “Portland is the number one team in the country coming in Wednesday so it’ll be exciting and good to see where we’re at. That’s the only one we can worry about now. With Boehm out and Gavin leaving, it’s a lot of opportunity for other guys to step up and we’re going to need it collectively.”

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