Friday, 8 January 2016

Tigers break Blades' hearts

David Quenneville, right, celebrates his empty-net goal with his teammates.
    Brock Hamm returned to his early season form, but it wasn’t enough to help his Saskatoon Blades.
    The 18-year-old netminder, who has faced a lot of struggles for about the last month and a half, was flat out spectacular turning away 50 of 52 shots on Friday night before 5,073 appreciative spectators at the SaskTel Centre. Unfortunately for Hamm, the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers skated away with a 3-1 victory, which included an empty-net goal.
    Hamm had a number of strong outings helping the Blades jump out to a 7-4-3 start, but he and his team have struggled since falling from the top eight of the WHL’s Eastern Conference and out of a playoff spot.
    Against the Tigers on Friday, it appeared Hamm might steal the game. Early in the first period, he robbed Tigers left-winger Ryan Jevne on a breakaway making a sprawling stop with his left pad, which set the tone for what was to come that night.
    Just past the midway point of the opening frame, the Blades proceeded to jump ahead 1-0 on a power-play goal from speedy centre Cameron Hebig, who redirected a nice set-up pass coming across the face of the Tigers goal from linemate Connor Gay. The marker was Hebig’s 20th goal of the season.
Brock Hamm stopped 50 of 52 shots taking the loss in goal for the Blades.
    Shortly after that tally, Hamm had to come up with a huge short-handed breakaway stop on Tigers centre Chad Butcher. Medicine Hat held a 17-12 shots on goal advantage after the opening 20 minutes.
    The second period was a high-tempo frame that resulted in both squads having quality scoring chances, where the Blades had a 14-12 edge in shots on goal. Hamm continued turn aside waves of Tigers chances, while Medicine Hat netminder Mack Shields kept the Blades at bay.
    Medicine Hat dominated the third with a big push and finally broke through on the scoreboard at the 12:28 mark of the frame while working on a two-man advantage. Butcher, who was on the point, fed a perfect pass to rearguard David Quenneville near the top of the left faceoff circle, and he wired a blast past Hamm to tie things up at 1-1. The goal game on the Tigers 42nd shot of the contest.
Matthew Bradley picked up the winning goal for the Tigers.
    About three minutes later, Tigers winger Matthew Bradley fired home a shot low stick side on Hamm to put the visitors up 2-1. That tally came on Medicine Hat’s 47th shot of the contest. Quenneville sealed with win with an empty-net goal with 23.2 seconds to play. Shields made 34 stops to earn the victory in goal for the Tigers.
    Medicine Hat improved to 15-21-3-1 to sit four points back of the idle Edmonton Oil Kings (17-20-4) for eighth overall in the Eastern Conference. Edmonton holds the conference’s final playoff spot. Saskatoon falls to 15-22-3 to remain five points behind the Oil Kings.
    The Tigers return to action on Saturday, when they travel to Prince Albert to face the Raiders (23-14-3-1).
    The Blades head to Moose Jaw on Saturday to take on the Warriors (20-15-4-1). Over the next five weeks, the Blades will play just four times at home, which increases the difficulty they face in attempting to move up the standings into a playoff spot. In total, Saskatoon plays 12 of its next 16 games on the road.
    The next home game for "The Bridge City" bunch is Jan. 23, when they host the Brandon Wheat Kings at 7 p.m. local time at the SaskTel Centre.

Sanford out after trade request

Cole Sanford (#26) in action for the Tigers on Dec. 27, 2015.
    The Tigers were without star overage right-winger Cole Sanford on Friday night, who requested a trade prior to the game.
    Sanford, who was the team’s captain, has 21 goals and 17 assists in 33 games this season. The Vernon, B.C., product had a career year last season piling up 50 goals and 45 assists in 72 games. During his WHL career, Sanford, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 165 pounds, has 106 goals and 111 assists in 230 regular season games.
    Sanford last dressed for the Tigers on Tuesday, when they dropped a 4-2 decision to the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors at the Canalta Centre in Medicine Hat.
    With Sanford out of the lineup, the Tigers named overage defenceman Ty Stanton as their new captain.
    Sanford has spent his entire WHL career with the Tigers having been selected in the sixth round and 117th overall in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft. The WHL’s trade deadline is set for 12 p.m. Mountain Time on Sunday.

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