The best offence in the Western Hockey League was on full display at the Art Hauser Centre Wednesday night.
Although the Prince Albert Raiders were able to claw their way back and tie things up at four early in the third period, the Medicine Hat Tigers scored four unanswered goals in the final frame as they picked up an 8-4 victory.
“We played Prince Albert in our barn recently (in a 4-2 affair that Medicine Hat won on Nov. 23) and they gave us a good run, so we knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy game,” Tigers forward Cole Sillinger said.
“We’re a third period team and we do a lot of extra conditioning to focus on that part of the game. We try to wear the other teams down and I think we were able to do that.”
Despite the loss, which dropped the Raiders record to 19-7-3-1, head coach Marc Habscheid was pleased with how well his team pushed back after the Tigers took a 3-0 lead early in the second period.
“I loved the resiliency from our guys,” Habscheid said. “They brought it after they went down 3-0…they never quit.
“It just seemed like whenever we’d make a mistake, it would end up in our net. I have to coach better and devise a better defensive plan, so that’s on me, but the guys brought it and they played hard, which is what I asked of them.”
Many defences around the league are wondering what they have to do to slow down the 22-8-1-0 Tigers, who are tied with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic for the second best offence in the entire CHL with 137 goals.
After being shutout by the Everett Silvertips in a 5-0 affair Saturday, the Tigers got back on track in a big way Tuesday with an 11-3 romp over the Saskatoon Blades.
“We’re just clicking right now,” Sillinger said. “We have all four lines going and all of our defensive pairs are playing well.
“During our practices, we focus a lot on finishing our plays and that’s paying off in games.”
Ryan Chyzowski and Brett Kemp were dominant forces throughout the night as they each recorded a hat trick.
For Chyzowski, it was his first three-goal performance in his 225th WHL game, while Kemp previously recorded a trifecta in a 7-4 win over the Red Deer Rebels on March 13.
“Our line (which includes Sillinger) was playing really well tonight,” Chyzowski said. “When you are playing the right way, the points will come.
“The backbone of our team is our structured play and our fast pace, which can allow anyone to produce.”
Kemp also had a pair of helpers during the game, while Chyzowski recorded an assist of his own on Kemp’s second goal of the night.
Sillinger put together the best performance of his rookie campaign to date on Wednesday as the 16-year-old from Regina had a goal and five assists.
“I think it’s been a mix of everything that’s allowed me to have a good start here,” said Sillinger, who leads all first-year players in the WHL with 34 points in 26 games.
“I got a little bit of experience in the playoffs last year against the (Edmonton) Oil Kings and I trained hard during the summer to get ready for this season. The coaches, the veterans and the other rookies have all been a big help to me and they’ve allowed me to play my game.”
Cole Clayton had the other goal for the Tigers, who are two points back of the league-leading Edmonton Oil Kings for first place in the Central Division ahead of a road game against the Red Deer Rebels on Friday.
Rookie netminder Garin Bjorklund turned aside 31 shots as he improved his record to 11-2.
Ozzy Wiesblatt led the way on offence for the Raiders with three assists, while his linemate Spencer Moe found the back of the net twice.
“That wasn’t good enough, especially late in the third,” Moe said. “They were able to get four goals on us and they went two for two on the power play.
“None of us are happy about it, but this is an experience that we can learn from.”
Brayden Watts had a goal and an assist in the loss, which also saw Kaiden Guhle light the lamp.
Boston Bilous made 24 saves in almost 47 minutes of work before he was pulled for Carter Serhyenko, who stopped six shots in the final 13 minutes.
“There are some nights where you have it and there are some nights that you don’t,” Habscheid said. “There were a couple of goals that I’m sure he wants back but he’s certainly not the reason that we lost tonight.”
The Raiders will return to action Friday against a surging Winnipeg Ice side that is now just five points back of the East Division leaders.
That contest, which will see the Raiders wear ugly Christmas sweater themed jerseys, will get underway at 7 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.
Wednesday’s loss marked the first time that the Raiders had given up eight goals to an opponent since an 8-0 setback to the Regina Pats at the Art Hauser Centre on Dec. 30, 2016.
Ryan Chyzowski and Brett Kemp became the first teammates to record a hat trick in the same game since Carson Focht and Kaden Elder accomplished that feat for the Calgary Hitmen in a 9-3 home win over the Swift Current Broncos on Feb. 27.
Zach Fischer and Matt Bradley were the last Tigers tandem to score three times in a contest during a 9-3 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings on March 10, 2017 at the Canalta Centre.
Prior to Wednesday, Hunter Shinkaruk had the most recent hat trick for the Tigers against the Raiders.
That came at the old Medicine Hat Arena on Jan. 25, 2012 in a 6-5 thriller that saw Mark McNeill score four goals in a losing effort.
Oddly enough, the Tigers were the last team to have a pair of hat tricks against the Raiders.
That came on Dec. 9, 2003 when Cam Barker and Darren Reid each scored three times in a 7-2 road win for the Tigers.
Ozzy Wiesblatt’s three-assist night allowed him to extend his point streak to five games, which matches the longest run of form in his career.
Aliaksei Protas, Ilya Usau and Niall Crocker did not play for the Raiders on Wednesday, while the Tigers scratched Mads Sogaard, Nick Perna, Damon Agyeman, Noah Danielson and Jonathan Brinkman.
- Edmonton 3 Swift Current 1 (Riley Sawchuk – One Goal and One Assist)
- Lethbridge 4 Red Deer 2 (Justin Hall – One Goal and Two Assists)
- Kamloops 4 Regina 2 (Orrin Centazzo – Two Goals – Max Paddock – 43 Saves)
- Winnipeg 3 Kelowna 1 (Connor McClennon – Two Goals)
- Kelowna 2 Brandon 1 (Matthew Wedman Shootout Winner – Roman Basran – 33 Saves)
- Moose Jaw 5 Kamloops 4 (Brayden Tracey Overtime Winner – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Medicine Hat 11 Saskatoon 3 (Cyle McNabb – Three Goals and One Assist – First Career Hat Trick – James Hamblin – Five Assists)
- Spokane 4 Seattle 2 (Adam Beckman – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Everett 6 Calgary 3 (Jake Christiansen – Two Goals and One Assist)
- Portland 4 Prince George 1 (Seth Jarvis – One Goal and One Assist)
- Vancouver 4 Tri-City 1 (Tristen Nielsen – Three Assists)
Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp
Prince Albert product and Brandon Wheat Kings blueliner Braden Schneider had an assist on a goal by Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets) on Wednesday in Oakville, Ont. as Canada picked up a 4-3 win over a team of U Sports All-Stars at the World Junior Selection Camp in Oakville, Ont.
Bowen Byram (Vancouver Giants), Dawson Mercer (Drummondville Voltigeurs) and Kevin Bahl (Ottawa 67’s) also scored for Canada, who split goaltending duties between Joel Hofer (Portland Winterhawks) and Nico Daws (Guelph Storm).
Ryley Lindgren (Mount Royal Cougars), Kris Bennett (UNB Reds) and Stephen Johnson (Saint Mary’s Huskies) countered for the U Sports squad, who had Team Canada hopefuls Olivier Rodrigue (Moncton Wildcats) and Hunter Jones (Peterborough Petes) in between the pipes.
The two sides will play again on Thursday with roster cuts expected to be made shortly after the scrimmage.
Heading into Friday’s encounter at the Art Hauser Centre, the 18-11-1-0 Ice are tied with the Spokane Chiefs for the longest win streak in the WHL at five games.
Their only other encounter with the Raiders came in Prince Albert on Sept. 28 when Jeremy Masella scored the overtime winning goal in a 3-2 affair.
Nino Kinder (Germany), Peyton Krebs (Canada) and Michal Teply (Czech Republic) are all currently at World Junior Selection Camps and are not expected to play on Friday.
Michael Milne will also be out of the lineup as he’s week-to-week with an upper body injury.
With those four players unable to play, Prince Albert Mintos forward Chase Bertholet was called up by the Ice earlier this week and made his WHL debut on Wednesday against the Kelowna Rockets.
Forward Jakin Smallwood has recorded a point in his last five games, which matches a streak that he set in January.
- Winnipeg vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
- Kelowna vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
- Kamloops vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
- Moose Jaw vs. Brandon – 7:30 p.m.
- Swift Current vs. Edmonton – 8 p.m.
- Medicine Hat vs. Red Deer – 8 p.m.
- Everett vs. Portland – 9 p.m.
- Victoria vs. Prince George – 9 p.m.
- Tri-City vs. Seattle – 9:30 p.m.