The Medicine Hat Tigers are nearly unstoppable on the power play against the Red Deer Rebels this season.
It was on full display Friday at the Centrium, as they scored three times on the man advantage in a 5-3 victory.
In five games between the central division rivals this season, Medicine Hat has scored 11 times on the power play in 19 opportunities.
“We beat ourselves. That’s two points we lost because we did some things that you can’t do,” Red Deer Rebels head coach Brent Sutter said of the loss.
“They got good goaltending and they got some guys up front. Their power play goals, 50 per cent or more have been scored against us. They’re running at over 50 per cent against us. That’s not a good stat to have. That tells you your penalty killing hasn’t been good and your goaltending has to be better and too many undisciplined penalties, those three things fall in line. Your best penalty killer is your goalie.”
Indeed, Tigers goalie Mads Sogaard was stellar again, outduelling Ethan Anders, who allowed five goals on 34 shots. Sogaard finished with 36 saves and has beat Red Deer five times already this season.
Even if the Tigers were better on their four power play opportunities, the Rebels didn’t earn their first power play until the final two minutes of the game. Sutter was visually upset with refs at several points in the game, but stopped just short of criticizing them postgame.
“Don’t even get me started. I lose many hours of sleep over certain things that go on,” he said.
While that may have been a sore spot for Sutter, allowing five goals on the night was his main bone of contention with the way his club played. The win also pushed the Tigers past Red Deer by one point in a tight central division race.
“You can’t be giving up five goals against and think you’re going to win, especially this time of year. It’s really hard,” Sutter noted.
“You look at the things we did to give up those goals, it’s not like it’s happening to our young kids. It’s our veteran players, guys that have been here for three years or longer… it affects us in a bad way. We have some guys that just need to play better.”
After a scoreless first, Medicine Hat struck first on the man-advantage early in the second.
Elijah Brown blasted a wrist shot from the top of the circle that bounced off the post and in past Anders. In five games against the Rebels this season, the Tigers are over 60 per cent on the power play.
Ryan Gottfried tied the game when buried his first career WHL goal with a seeing-eye point shot that caught the post and went in.
Medicine Hat proved deadly again on the power play late in the second. Off the rush, Logan Christensen burst out wide down the wing and buried a shot short side from a tough angle over Anders’ glove.
Just 18 seconds into the third, Brandon Hagel willed the Rebels within a goal. He drifted behind the net, evaded a pair of Tigers’ defenders and zipped a shot glove side for his 28th goal of the year. It was also his 90th career tally, one back of Shawn McNeil for fifth on the franchise all-time goals list.
Penalty trouble cost the Rebels again four minutes into the third. Gottfried got whistled for delay of game, then just over a minute later, Ethan Sakowich took a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.
On the ensuing advantage, Brown buried his second of the night. It was the Tigers third power play goal of the night and the third time in five games this season against Red Deer they’ve scored three times on the man advantage.
“It’s just details in our penalty killing. Whether it’s not taking the lane through the middle away or guys just two feet off of where they should be. Shots are coming and we’re not blocking shots,” Sutter said.
“Just being two feet out place from where you should be and undisciplined penalties. Five-on-three, you kill it off and then boom, they get a five-on-four goal… again it’s being smart and playing the right way. They certainly burnt us on that, credit to them.”
Still, the Rebels continued to battle back midway through the third. After some good forechecking from Hagel, he picked up the puck down low and found Reese Johnson who buried a one-timer. With the assist, Hagel moved with two of Arron Asham for the all-time Rebels franchise mark.
“We didn’t quit. It had nothing to do with that part of it. For the most part this team does work. There’s a difference between working and working smart and working with discipline,” Sutter said.
Baxter Anderson buried with 6:46 left in the game after a bad Rebels turnover to restore the Tigers two-goal lead and Sogaard shut the door down the stretch to pick up the victory. He made 17 saves in the final 20 minutes.
Next up for the Rebels is the Prince George Cougars on Saturday night at the Centrium.