Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Wow! – Tigers, Raiders burn up the ice in WHL thriller

Medicine Hat claims 5-4 victory after tiebreaking shootout

Tigers captain Mark Rassell (#27) scores in the third period.
    PRINCE ALBERT – It was a WHL game that was made for a national television broadcast.
    On Wednesday at the Art Hauser Centre, the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers and the host Prince Albert Raiders tore up and down the ice in a fire wagon type contest, where the goalies on either side also stood on their respective heads. The two clubs went to overtime locked in a 4-4 draw.
    In the three-versus-three extra session, the first whistle came when there was 8.5 seconds remaining in the frame.
    In the tiebreaking shootout, captain Mark Rassell and star right-winger Max Gerlach scored on the first two shot attempts for the Tigers to allow the visitors to take the session 2-0 and escape the overall game with a 5-4 victory before 1,750 spectators.
Centre Jordy Stallard had a pair of goals for the Raiders.
    “That is the thing about junior hockey is these games are always exciting,” said Rassell, who had two goals and an assist in regulation. “There is so much passion in the air.
    “It is just so fun to win those games. Obviously, we’d like to hunker down a little more defensively and not give up as many goals as we did. We’re happy with the two points in the end.”
    The Raiders had the majority of the best scoring chances in the contest as Tigers starting netminder Jordan Hollett made 49 saves thru 65 minutes and turned away both Raiders shooters he faced in the shootout.
    Prince Albert netminder Ian Scott had a strong outing as well turning away 33 shots over 65 minutes before being beaten by Rassell and Gerlach in the shootout.
Mark Rassell (#27) had two goals and an assist for the Tigers.
    The Tigers controlled play in the first outshooting the Raiders 14-8 in the frame. The visitors got the only goal in the first 20 minutes as left-winger Ryan Jevne knocked home a pass across the face of the Prince Albert goal from linemate Ryan Chyzowski for his 10th of the season.
    The contest really opened up in the second with the Raiders outshooting the Tigers 19-11 in the frame, and the host side entered the second intermission holding a 3-2 lead. Overage centre Jordy Stallard scored twice for the Raiders in the second period, while Czech import defenceman Vojtech Budik fired home a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle with 22.7 seconds to play in the frame to break a 2-2 tie.
    Rassell had the lone reply for the Tigers in the second.
    The second period also contained a spirited fight between Jevne and Raiders defenceman Brayden Pachal.
    “I thought both teams started out a little careful,” said Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid. “There wasn’t much tempo.
    “Then as the game went on, it got better. It turned out to be a pretty good hockey game. We had more shots, and I thought we had more chances.
Raiders goalie Ian Scott (#33) stops Tigers forward James Hamblin.
    “In overtime, outside of their one break there, I thought we had numerous chances. I thought their goaltender played real good. He was the difference.”
    At the 3:11 mark of the third, Tigers offensive defenceman David Quenneville fired home his 10th of the season to tie the contest up at 3-3. Rassell potted his second goal of the contest at the 8:28 mark scoring in close at the right side of the Raiders goal to put the visitors up 4-3.
    The Raiders didn’t go away. With 6:58 to play in the frame, 18-year-old defenceman Austin Crossley fired a point shot on goal that was tipped home by 16-year-old rookie centre Eric Pearce to pull the Raiders into a 4-4 tie with the Tigers.
Goalie Jordan Hollett makes an OT save for the Tigers.
    For the past 15 years, the Tigers have built a reputation of playing a type of game where they transition up and down the ice with speed and skill. The Raiders haven’t traditionally played that type of style over that same timespan, but Habscheid believes he has the players to play that type of game.
    “We’ve been trying to play fast,” said Habscheid. “We’ve got some players who have some good feet, so we are able to play that way.
    “We just try to compile something that fits your group. We think we can play a little faster this year.”
    The Tigers just outshot the Raiders 5-4 in an extremely high tempo overtime frame. Raiders 18-year-old right-winger Parker Kelly had two big chances to score the winner at the end of the extra session, but he was denied by Hollett.
    Rassell said it was intense to play almost the entire three-on-three frame without a stoppage.
    “It is nerve-racking,” said Rassell. “Three-on-three and game is on the line.
    “If you are on the ice, you’re the guy they are counting on to stop them from scoring and get it done yourself. With that craziness with no faceoffs, there is no time to rest. There is no time to think.
    “You just have to trust your instincts and play.”
Raiders D Brayden Pachal fights Tigers LW Ryan Jevne.
    The win allowed the Tigers, who sit first in the WHL’s Central Division, to improve to 17-11-1. The Raiders record moved to 11-11-5-2 to hold the second wildcard spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
    “They are a good team,” said Habschield. “They play with pace.
    “We had some turnovers, which plays right into them. They got some offence off of that and some energy off of that.
    “I thought we got better as the game went on. As the game went on, I thought our pace was better than theirs.”
    Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston said he wasn’t surprised the Raiders are trying the play an up-tempo style. The veteran bench boss said the Raiders played his side tough last season and you could see the structure and speed the Prince Albert club was developing as a young team. With the Raiders returning a number of players from last year with an extra year of experience, Clouston expected them to be a tougher opponent this season.
    Wednesday’s game marked the first time the Tigers have defeated the Raiders in the current campaign in three head-to-head meetings.
The Tigers celebrate their 5-4 victory after a tiebreaking shootout.
    “We’ll take the win,” said Clouston. “I thought we got tremendous goaltending especially down the stretch.
    “Going into the third being down a goal and coming out with two points is a real positive. I thought we gave up a couple of really quality chances and Holly (Hollett) kept us in there. We probably spent a little more time in the D-zone than we wanted to, but we hung in and blocked some shots.
    “It wasn’t the prettiest at times, but we got through it.”
    The Tigers return to action Friday, when they travel to Brandon to face the Wheat Kings (20-7-0-1). The Raiders host the Kamloops Blazers (13-15) on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser centre in their annual “Teddy Bear Toss” game.

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