By James Tubb on February 10, 2024.
The Medicine Hat Tigers channeled their inner comeback kids Saturday night.
The Tigers scored three unanswered goals in the third period before completing the 5-4 overtime comeback win over the Red Deer Rebels at Co-op Place.
Bogdans Hodass scored with 19 seconds left in the overtime period for the win. For the Latvian defenceman, it was his first goal since Nov. 22 and fourth on the season. The 20-year-old was all smiles after the contest and calling game himself.
“I just looked at the clock and (there) was 20 seconds left and JVM (Josh Van Mulligen) changed and I just jumped in and was yelling,” Hodass said. “(Hunter St. Martin) Marty dropped me that one and then just walked in, rip one and I was really happy to finally get that one.”
The Tigers comeback overtime win is only the fourth time this season they’ve overcame a third period deficit for the victory. They came into the contest off a 6-2 loss Friday on the road to the Calgary Hitmen, carrying a record of 4-4-1-1 in their last 10 games.
Head coach Willie Desjardins says the contest Saturday was a playoff game between two teams fighting for the Central division lead.
“It was a pretty amazing comeback, that’s a really good (Red Deer) team, it was a playoff game, they played hard and they’re a big, heavy team,” Desjardins said. “But with the first two, they got a couple of face off goals, a couple power play goals. Our penalty kill is great, they got a couple on it but you know really five-on-five we were pretty good. Then to find a way to come back in the third was outstanding.”
Red Deer opened the scoring off a face off play with Jhett Larson scoring 8:42 into the contest. Medicine Hat answered back less than three minutes later with a power play goal from Tomas Mrsic. Oasiz Wiesblatt and Gavin McKenna had the helpers on Mrsic’s 14th on the year. The Rebels grabbed the lead late in the first on a four-on-four turning into a four-on-three power play with Kalan Lind tapping in a goal with 20 seconds left in the frame.
The Rebels rattled off two goals in the second period, with Frantisek Formanek scored off a face off tie up 4:32 into the middle frame. Just 1:16 later, Carson Birnie got the final touch on a puck that pinballed over the goal line for their second power play goal of the game, setting the 4-1 score after 40 minutes. Medicine Hat led in shots 25-17 after two periods.
The Tigers slowly chipped away at the lead in the third period.
Hayden Harsanyi got them on the board 4:05 into the final frame, reawakening the crowd of 3,739 in attendance with his tap-in goal on a puck loose in the crease. Jack Kachkowski and Hodass had the helpers.
Almost five minutes later, McKenna carried the puck in the Red Deer end and dangled his way through defenders before scoring his 23rd of the season to make it a 4-3 game. Wiesblatt and Kachkowski had the assists on his goal.
With 1:57 left in the game, the Tigers won a draw and Andrew Basha skated with the puck out front and out-waited Chase Wutzke before scoring his 23rd and completing the comeback. Tyler MacKenzie and Wiesblatt had the assists as Wiesblatt finished his night with three helpers.
The 19-year-old Wiesblatt says he started getting goosebumps in the third as the Co-op Place crowd got louder and louder with each goal.
“Harsanyi’s goal was a huge goal, I honestly didn’t really see it, but I saw the crowd behind him lose it and that really sparked the team and gave us a lot of energy,” Wiesblatt said.
The Tigers outshot Red Deer 4-2 in the overtime frame that looked destined for a shootout before St. Martin starting flying up the ice with the puck. He crossed into the Rebel end and dropped the puck to Hodass who put all he had into the shot and called game, completing the 5-4 comeback.
Wutzke made 39 saves in net for the Rebels and across the ice from him, Tigers net minder Zach Zahara tuned aside 18 shots. Red Deer’s power play made good on both of their man advantage opportunities, the Tigers were one-four-five on their power plays. They finished with 44 shots to the Rebels 22.
For the Tigers (31-17-3-1), the overtime win gives them the season series over Red Deer and a much needed two points. Their lead for first in the Central division over the Rebels sits at four with 16 games left on the schedule.
Medicine Hat is back in action Tuesday when they hit the road for their final matchup of the regular season against the Regina Pats.