Saturday, 25 January 2020

Tigers remain kings of the tiebreaking shootout

Raiders fall in fast-paced heartbreaker

The Tigers mob Brett Kemp (#21) after his shootout winning goal.
    PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. – It was a game where both sides deserved to win.
    On Saturday night, 2,577 spectators at the Art Hauser Centre saw the WHL at its best as the defending WHL champion and host Raiders went toe-to-toe with the Medicine Hat Tigers in a high paced back-and-fourth affair, where both teams transitioned quickly up and down the ice.
    The two sides exited regulation and a five minute three-versus-three overtime session locked in a 3-3 tie, which forced them to go to a tiebreaking shootout.
    In the shootout, captain James Hamblin and star right-winger Brett Kemp scored for the Tigers to give them a 2-1 victory in the tiebreaking session and a 4-3 overall victory in the game.
Brett Kemp scored the shootout winning goal for the Tigers.
    Raiders star centre Ozzy Wiesblatt, who had two assists in regulation, scored the Raiders goal in the shootout.
    The Tigers improved to a WHL best 5-1 in shootouts this season and upped their regular season record to 30-14-1-1. The Raiders fell to 1-4 in shootouts and saw their regular season record move to 24-14-5-4.
    Kemp was the final player to take shot in the shootout, and Tigers offensive defenceman Daniel Baker said his club was thankful Kemp’s shot found the back of the net.
    “It was just relief,” said Baker. “You don’t like it to come down to one shot.
    “Mads (Sogaard) has made some big saves for us and Jimmy (James Hamblin) and Kemper netted some big goals, so it was good.”
Ozzy Wiesblatt had a pair of assists for the Raiders on Saturday.
    With Prince Albert having downed the WHL Eastern Conference leading Edmonton Oil Kings 3-2 at the Art Hauser Centre on Friday night, Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid was fine with how things played out for his club.
    “It was a good weekend,” said Habscheid. “We accomplished a lot of things.
    “We got our identity back. We got our foundation in place. They beat us in the skills contest tonight, so it is all good.”
    The Tigers opened the scoring 52 seconds into Saturday’s tilt as right-winger Corson Hopwo zipped down the right side of the Raiders zone and slipped in a close in shot past Raiders netminder Max Paddock. Hopwo scored on the Tigers first shot of the game.
Daniel Baker had a goal and an assist for the Tigers on Saturday.
    Just over two minutes later, the Raiders returned the favour scoring on their first shot of the game with left-winger Matthew Culling netting his sixth of the season.
    Culling had an assist to go along with his goal in a real spirited effort on Saturday.
    “He does a lot of the hard work,” said Habscheid. “He goes to the net.
    “He forechecks. He can kill penalties and play power play. He just plays the right way.”
    Before the opening frame ended, the Raiders jumped ahead 2-1 when defenceman Landon Kosior fired home a point shot through a screen on the power play.
    Kosior scored on the second part of a power play that was created when Kemp was given a double minor penalty for high sticking. 
Matthew Culling had a goal and an assist for the Raiders on Saturday.
    Kemp’s penalty will automatically be reviewed by the WHL office for a possible suspension.
    The two clubs continued to blitz up and down the ice in the second, but the only goal came when Baker fired home a point shot through a screen to even the score at 2-2 with 2:37 remaining in the frame.
    Baker, who had an assist to go with his goal on Saturday, is having a breakout season as an 18-year-old sophomore. In 45 regular season games with the Tigers, the Edmonton, Alta., product has 11 goals, 22 assists and a plus-32 rating in the plus-minus department.
    As a rookie last season, Baker had two goals and 15 assists appearing in all of the Tigers 68 regular season games.
    “He (Baker) has been big,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Willie Desjardins. “He has certainly put up bigger numbers than last year.
Kyle McNabb had two assists for the Tigers on Saturday.
    “I think he is a guy that he always seems to find his spot to jump in the rush or do whatever. Our whole defence is good. I thought all the guys played hard.”
    Baker said he has found a higher comfort level on the ice playing through his second full season in the major junior ranks.
    “It has been really good so far,” said Baker. “The puck is going in the back of the net.
    “Our forwards do a good job of getting to the net, so it has been good.”
    Just 1:58 into the third, the Tigers jumped back out in front 3-2. Entering the Raiders zone with speed on a rush, Tigers right-winger Kyle McNabb fed a pass across the front of the Prince Albert goal to linemate Nick McCarry, who knocked home his eighth goal of the season to give the visitors the lead.
    The assist was McNabb’s second helper of the contest.
Kaiden Guhle scored the third period equalizer for the Raiders.
    The Raiders didn’t goal away. With 7:34 remaining in the third period, Raiders offensive defenceman Kaiden Guhle wired home his eighth goal of the season to force a 3-3 tie and overtime.
    Guhle potted the equalizer about four minutes after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Tigers right-winger Lukas Svejkovsky. Svejkovsky received a minor penalty for that hit.
    Habscheid thought Svejkovsky’s hit could have resulted in a stiffer penalty but noted the officials only get to see a play once in making a judgment call.
    “That was a dirty hit,” said Habscheid. “I hope the league looks at that.
    “That was just a bad hit. We don’t want that type of hit in this game. I think that if they looked at it on replay they might have called it differently.
    “They don’t get that opportunity.”
    Guhle’s equalizer ultimately set the stage for the Tigers to take the contest in the tiebreaking shootout.
Mads Sogaard makes a third period stop in goal for the Tigers.
    Mads Sogaard made 19 saves over 65 minutes in goal for the Tigers and turned away two of three shooters in the shootout. Paddock turned away 30 shots over 65 minutes in goal for the Raiders and one of three shooters in the shootout.
    Desjardins said Saturday’s contest was a tossup, where his side just happened to come out on the better end of the scoreboard.
    “I thought it was a good game,” said Desjardins. “I thought it was a playoff type game.
    “I thought both teams played hard. Obviously if you go into a shootout, the game could have gone either way.”
    While the Tigers are known for their fast-paced style of going up and down the ice, Desjardins said the Raiders are strong at playing that way too.
The Tigers celebrate their win on Saturday night.
    “They are a good team,” said Desjardins. “They can play that way as well.
    “They have some high end guys that like to skate and like to play a transition game. I think whenever you look at their game you think of them as a transition team, a speed team. I think it was probably equally suited for both teams.”
    The Tigers are back in action on Tuesday when they host the Swift Current Broncos (7 p.m. Alberta time, Canalta Centre).
    The Raiders return to play on Wednesday when they host the Victoria Royals (7 p.m., Art Hauser Centre).

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