April 22nd, 2024

Rebels take Game 1 with four goal comeback ending in double OT win over Tigers

By James Tubb on March 30, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Tigers forward Cayden Lindstrom gets stopped by the left pad of Red Deer Rebels goaltender Chase Wutzke in the first overtime period of a 5-4 Game 1 double OT win for the Rebels Friday at Co-op Place.

A three hour, 46 minute marathon of a Game 1 started the Medicine Hat Tigers way and ended with the Red Deer Rebels on top.

The Tigers led the opening game of their first round series against Red Deer 4-0 through 22 minutes, but the Rebels clawed back and scored five unanswered for a 5-4, double overtime win.

Rebels head coach Dave Struch says their fitness levels pulled them through and he applauded his team’s character in the comeback.

“They stuck with it character,  every one of those words that you can talk about not giving up,” Struch said. “We got to use everybody. There were different moments of the game that guys stepped up. We played a really good team in Medicine Hat, we saw what they can do when they when they get things going.

“Our guys didn’t  falter with their with their  grit, their character and their willingness to do what it takes to win a hockey game.”

Medicine Hat opened the scoring just over six minutes into the game.

Jack Kachkowski blasted a shot on net that Hunter St. Martin tipped and as the puck settled, Oasiz Wiesblatt knocked it in to set off the crowd of 4,522. Just before that goal, forward Vasyl Spilka went down with an apparent shoulder injury, getting up on his own power but went down the tunnel holding his arm and did not return. 

Head coach Willie Desjardins had no update on the Czechia-born forward, but he says his absence impacted their lineup.

“We had a good start, lots of good things happening,” Desjardins said. “I don’t think we’re as good once we lost Spilka, it took us out of our forward rotation and that made a difference for us.

“Saying that I thought we didn’t give them an awful lot. In the second period, they had two goals on four chances, which are they had one on the power play so it wasn’t that out goalie didn’t play well, he did. But they didn’t have an awful lot they just capitalized.”

Ethan McCallum made 29 saves in what was his playoff debut. Across the ice from him, Chase Wutzke made 38 saves, also in his playoff debut.

After opening the scoring, the Tigers struck again exactly a minute later, taking advantage of another loose puck. 

Cayden Lindstrom drove into the Red Deer end and forced his way to the front, getting off an in-tight shot that hung in the crease. Andrew Basha broke in and tapped in the rebound for a 2-0 lead. Tomas Mrsic had the second assist.

Lindstrom returned to the lineup for his first game since Dec. 16. He missed the entire second half after suffering a hand injury in the Tigers first skate back from Christmas and was nursing a back injury. While he was on sheltered minutes, Desjardins liked his game.

“That’s a real tough game to come in after sitting out that long, like really, really hard,” Desjardins said. “So I thought he had a great game for that.”

The Tigers weren’t finished in the first period. With 30 seconds left in the frame, St. Martin and a Rebel defender got tangled up at centre ice and the puck squirted loose to Gavin McKenna. The 16-year-old poked it past another defender and skated for a breakaway, scoring five-hole. Dru Krebs had the second assist on the 3-0 goal.

They carried the momentum into the second period. Tyler MacKenzie had the puck behind the Red Deer net and sent it out front to Josh Van Mulligen who blasted it home for a 4-0 lead. Shane Smith had the secondary helper, putting them ahead 4-0 2:04 into the middle frame.

Red Deer got themselves on the board seven minutes apart. Kai Uchacz had a wrap around attempt that had the puck floating in air and the Rebels captain knocked it in. Kalan Lind had the lone assist. 

They struck 6:10 at 14:08 on a power play. Carson Latimer carried the puck into the Tigers end on a rush and threw the puck on net from the corner. It ricocheted off a leg and past McCallum for the 4-2 score after 40 minutes. 

Red Deer tied it up in the third period.

Mats Lindgren fired a seeing eye shot from the point that found twine 7:29 into the third period. Carson Birnie and Talon Brigley had the assists. 

They made it a 4-4 game with 5:50 left in the contest. 

Ollie Josephson was left all alone in front, he took and pass from Hunter Mayo and scored with a nifty move for the comeback. Kalan Lind had the secondary. assist. Neither team scored Jen the remaining team, sending the game to overtime.

The Tigers and Rebels traded chances in the first overtime frame but neither wanted to give the other the big chance to win. Medicine Hat outshot the Rebels 8-2 in the first overtime frame.

After an icing on a designed play brought the puck back into the Tigers end, a failed clear saw the puck slide out from behind the net to the slot and Lind made no mistake, finding the back of the net and calling game.

“You always dream of  being the hero when you’re a kid, scoring the OT winner,” Lind said. “But I have awesome teammates and my teammates worked their buts off tonight and it was awesome. I got rewarded but every single one of those guys in the room could have got rewarded.”

The Rebels were 1-for-6 on the power play, Medicine Hat went 0-3 with the man advantage. The Tigers won the face-off battle, 56-51. With Game 2 Saturday back at Co-op Place, Desjardins says they have to come back with a hard work ethic and make good on more of their chances.

“They’re going to be in every game just because of how they play, so you’re not going to get away on it,” Desjardins said. “They’re going to be there all the time, so we have to play good defence and we have to capitalize on our chances.”

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