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2016-17 YEAR IN REVIEW: PART 2 – BIG GAMES

Medicine Hat, AB — The Medicine Hat Tigers 2016-17 was filled with major milestones, amazing comebacks and unbelievable skill. The Tigers were able to collect 50+ wins for the 4th time in franchise history and win the Central Division pennant for the first time since 2007. During the 72 games this season the Tigers battled with lots of blood, sweat and tears. Every night the boys tried to pick up the crucial victory and in some instances the boys proved to stop the hearts of many Tiger fans.

In Part 2 of the Year In review we recap some of the biggest and most memorable games this past season!

 

September 24th, 2016 vs. Lethbridge – Tigers Home Opener

To open year 47 of Tigers hockey the Medicine Hat faithful were treated to an old fashioned type game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. One hundred and 92 penalty mintues were dished out in a game which Medicine Hat ran away with. The game saw 10 fighting majors handed out along with 8 game misconducts all resulting from a 5 on 5 brawl late in the game. Fan were also excited as the goal horn sang 9 times on the night.

Zach Fischer scored three of the Tigers first five goals on the night. The hat trick was the first ever in Canalta Centre history. Medicine Hat went 4 for 8 on the power play with Chad Butcher leading the way offensively with 6 points, including 5 assists. Mark Rassell, Mason Shaw and Clayton Kirichenko all had multi-point games in the victory. Meanwhile in between the pipes was 16 year old Duncan McGovern who picked up his first career WHL win.

 

October 19th, 2016 vs. Kootenay – Double Digits

The high powered offense of the Medicine Hat Tigers was in full flight on this Wednesday night with the lowly Kootenay Ice coming to town. The Tigers sported a 6-3-1-0 record and were looking to bounce back after an overtime loss to the Vancouver Giants just 3 days prior. James Hamblin and Captain Clayton Kirichenko scored in the opening period, a dominating one by the Tigers nonetheless for the early hometown lead. Medicine Hat didn’t let up and saw themselves take a 9-0 lead early into the third period.

Eight Tigers would record multi-point games with the biggest offensive damage belonging to Mason Shaw and his 5 assists. John Dahlstrom recorded his first career WHL hat trick and was +5 on the night. Kirichenko would go on to be a team high +6 and Nick Schneider made 34 of 37 saves and rookie Gary Haden scored his first career goal for the 10-3 victory. The game marked the first time in Canalta Centre history the Tigers have scored double digits and first time since January 12th, 2013 the Tigers scored 10 or more in a regular season game.

 

November 5th, 2016 vs. Kelowna– The Streak Begins

In what was the start of a greuling month for the Tigers they finished their BC Division road trip in style, beating the always tough Kelowna Rockets. The Rockets played 2 men short on this night giving the massive advantage to Medicine Hat. A strong finish by the Tabbies was all they needed in order put away the close game. Medicine Hat scored 3 times in the final frame including goals 28 seconds apart.

Chad Butcher would score twice and add an assist in the game but it was the play of Mark Rassell, who added 2 assists of his own on the night, which earned the Calgary native 1st Star of the game. Medicine Hat outshot the Rockets 40 to 25. The game would kick start the Tigers winning streak heading back home for the first of 3 home games at the Canalta Centre.

 

November 29th, 2016 vs. Prince Albert – Streakin’ x 10

After being on the road for 7 of their last 9 games heading into November 29th, the Tigers had built a streak of 9 consecutive victories including a 4 game sweep of the East Division on their previous road trip, playing 4 games in 5 nights. The Tigers hosted just their 3rd home game of the month before heading out once again on the road, this time to the United States.

Chad Butcher got the Tigers on the board first with his 12th of the season. Prince Albert held their own against one of the WHL’s elite offensive teams this season. Zach Fischer scored the eventual game winning goal and also added 2 assists. David Quenneville recorded 2 assists in the game and Steven Owre also had a multi-point night with the Tigers winning 4-1.

The victory put the Tigers into ‘teams to watch for’ throughout the CHL recording their 10th consecutive victory, the first time since the 2007 season.

 

December 10th, 2016 vs. Calgary– Teddy Bears

Each year the Tigers support many charitable causes, donating items for auctions and raising money. But every year in December the Tigers put on their annual Teddy Bear Toss game and on this night the Tabbies made the holiday season magical for some at the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital. With the Tigers on a stretch of 5 consecutive losses it was an early “must win” for the Tigers.

Max Gerlach would open the scoring just 5 minutes in on the power play and sent the Teddy Bears raining down on the ice as he potted his 20th of the season with assists to Clayton Kirichenko and Steven Owre. The Tigers collected over 2500 items which included Teddy Bears and winter clothing in another successful Teddy Bear Toss. The Tigers also won the game 7-4, which snapped the losing streak and began a 6 game winning streak increasing their record to 22-10-1-0 on the year.

 

January 20th, 2017 vs. Regina – 1 vs. 2

It was a statement type game for Medicine Hat as they came off a tough 5-3 loss to the Saskatoon Blades and with a days rest visited the number one ranked team in the Eastern Conference, the Regina Pats. It was a battle of the WHL’s top two teams at the time and a good test for the boys to see what they could be up against come the post season. The previous two meetings at the Canalta Centre hadn’t gone the Tigers way, resulting in 2 losses but it was a rebound game.

Steven Owre opened the scoring with his 16th on the power play which was followed by back to back goals from Mark Rassell. Rassell scored twice on the same shift just a minute and 11 seconds apart for an early 3-0 lead. Regina battled back and made it a 3-2 game before the buzzer sounded. John Dahlstrom would score a pair of goals for the Tigers in the second period giving the Tabbies a 5-3 lead after 40 minutes.

The third period was intense, with a playoff feel. The period saw 5 goals scored. Regina tied the game at 5 at the six minute mark and put the pressure on Medicine Hat. But Owre’s second of the night proved to be eventual game winner as Zach Fischer sealed things with an empty net goal and a big 8-5 win.

Chad Butcher recorded his second 5+ point game of the season with a goal and 4 assists, Owre had 4 points with Fischer adding 3 points and Clayton Kirichenko chipped in with a +3 rating and 2 assists.

 

February 11th, 2017 vs. Lethbridge – Making room 

In a season where the Tigers looked to be a shoe in for the Central Division title, nipping at their heels were their pesky rivals, the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Canes had gone 17-2-1-1 since December 28th and made a huge climb in the standings. It felt as every time the Tigers would win, Lethbridge would pull out a last minute victory themselves. Heading into the game February 11th, the Canes sat less than 10 points back.

It set the stage for a determined Tiger team to make some room between themselves and their rival for the top spot in the Central. Clay Kirichenko got the game started with his 10th of the season on an early power play. James Hamblin and Ryan Jevne both scored in the second period and Zach Fischer, along with Mason Shaw would tally in the third. Newcomer Michael Bullion solidified himself in the hearts of fans with his unorthodox play leading to a perfect performance and 5-0 victory.

The game marked the 4th straight win, 40th win on the season and the first career shutout for Bullion.

 

February 25th, 2017 vs. Brandon – Lysiak Night

Only one Tiger has ever had their jersey retired in franchise history. On February 25th the Medicine Hat community made it two with the jersey retirement of the late Tom Lysiak. Lysiak was considered one of the greatest Tigers of all time by many people and it was time his number 9 was sent to the rafters. On hand was his family to accept the parting gifts from the Tigers and take part in the pre game ceremonies.

On the ice the Tigers took control with Tom’s banner standing watch over the Tabbies net. David Quenneville and Mason Shaw scored in the opening period and Michael Bullion was solid in stopping the 12 shots his way. Ryan Jevne even brought back an old time feel to the game, dropping the mitts with Kade Jensen, something that Lysiak was never afraid to do.

After the opening period the Tigers would control the game, like most nights and not look back. Mark Rassel scored his 30th of the year and Gary Haden potted his 7th of the year on a breakaway to increase the lead to 4-0 to open the third period. Bullion stayed solid in net and with Lysiak looking down on the Tigers picked up a big 4-0 victory in honor of Tom and his family on what was a spectacular night for the Tigers.

Lysiak now has his rightful spot in the rafters next to his line mate and friend Lanny McDonald.

 

March 17th, 2017 vs. Lethbridge – Central Crown solidified/50 wins

The Tigers had another big game against their rival the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Medicine Hat had two opportunities to get their 50th win on the season. It would mark just the 4th time in franchise history a Tigers team reached the 50 win plateau. A victory also guaranteed a Central Division title and the first banner to be raised into the Canalta Centre.

On the road in Lethbridge meant a quick start was in order. John Dahlstrom got the Tabbies on the board first with his 30th of the season on a power play. The goal marked the first time a Tigers Import player has ever reached the 30 goal mark in one season. James Hamblin added his 20th of the year giving the Tabbies 10 players on the season with 20 or more goals, the first time since the 1986 Tigers (who finished with 12).

The Tigers were able to kill off a 5 minute major penalty and prevented a power play goal on 8 opportunities for the Canes. Clayton Kirichenko recorded another 3 assist night and a +3 rating which pushed his total to +50 on the year.

Medicine Hat got a great team performance including a 32 save performance from Michael Bullion as the Tigers would win their first Central Division Pennant since 2007.

 

March 24th, 2017 vs. Brandon – Playoffs return

It was an exciting time heading into the end of March. 365 days ago the Tigers were packing up their bags for a long off season at home. In 2017 however the orange and black were on the ice heading into the post season for the first time at the Canalta Centre. The number one seed in their back pocket and a date with the Brandon Wheat Kings was in order.

Medicine Hat came out of the gate with lots of jump, taking advantage of a lackluster Brandon squad. Clayton Kirichenko and Matt Bradley scored in the opening period to get the Canalta Centre into a frenzy and rally towels waving. Playoff hockey was back.

Zach Fischer, Kirichenko and Mark Rassell would add goals in the second period. Rassell would complete the playoff hat trick late in the third period, the first playoff hat trick since the 2011 season. The Tigers dominated from puck drop and despite the game being gritty and tough, the boys in the orange and black persevered and picked up a big 7-2 victory in Game 1.

 

March 29th, 2017 vs. Brandon – Closing out the Series

With 2 wins at home the series shifted to Dauphin, Manitoba with the annual Manitoba Winter Fair taking place in Brandon. The orange and black would take game 3 decisively nonetheless with a 6-2 victory. The Tigers had the defending WHL Champions on the brink of elimination heading into Game 4. The crowd hostile with Tigers fans sparse you could count them on one hand, a pro Wheat Kings arena and a team not willing to go easy made for an exciting Game 4.

Medicine Hat was on their game, peppering Brandon goaltender Logan Thompson with 16 shots in the opening period, majority of them great chances. At the other end for the Tigers Michael Bullion was solid stopping all 7 shots his way as well. The game continued into the second period and once again the Wheat Kings netminder had an answer for all 21 shots in the period. The game stood scoreless through 40 minutes and one period would determine the fate for Brandon.

The Captain, who had come up clutch before, raced in off the opening face off and Steven Owre delayed at the blue line and found Kirichenko who had all the time in the world. The defenseman went top shelf 24 seconds into the period and an early 1-0 lead. Moments later David Quenneville snapped home a wrist shot from the blue line which found the far post and past Thompson, the two break the Tabbies needed. Brandon would cut into the lead to make it a 2-1 game but Quenneville had the answer on his stick. A power play goal just past the midway point ended up being the game winning goal on this night.

Brandon got a late goal in the period and tried to tie the game, and almost did. For dramatic purposes the Wheat Kings were just 1 seconds too late to tying the game as a loose puck found it’s way into the net, but just after time expired, ending the season for Brandon.

Onto the second round.

 

April 7th, 2017 vs. Lethbridge – Keeping the Momentum

It was a waiting game. A long wait, 9 days to be exact to find out who the Tigers would play in their second round playoff match up. Medicine Hat looked to continue their momentum after the 4 game sweep in the opening round to whoever they were about to face. The dust settled and their rival the Lethbridge Hurricanes were successful against the Red Deer Rebels in Game 7 and had a date in Medicine Hat just 48 hours later.

With the extended rest the game was never in question for Medicine Hat from the opening puck drop. The Tigers dominated play and shut down the then top scoring duo of Tyler Wong and Giorgio Estephan. Medicine Hat would outshoot the Canes 37-16 in the game and actually never make a trip to the penalty box, something that has become rare in today’s game.

John Dahlstrom opened the scoring in the first period with his 4th of the playoffs. Chad Butcher, Steven Owre and Zach Fischer all followed with goals of their own and Michael Bullion earned the 16 save shut out, his first career post season shut out as the Tigers took the early 1-0 series lead into Game 2 just 24 hours later.

 

April 16th, 2017 vs. Lethbridge – Must Win 

With the Tigers dropping Games 2, 3 and 5 a must win Game 6 was in order to extend the series and their playoff aspirations. It all occurred on Easter Sunday, a day for reflection and spending time with family. In this case it was a time to renew one of the better rivalries in the Western Hockey League. The location: Enmax Centre.

With the Tigers flying in the opening frame they managed to throw 15 shots on Stuart Skinner, who was a thorn in Tigers fans side all series long. However this time both Max Gerlach and Matt Bradley were able to find holes, both on the power play to give the Tigers two early leads. Although the Canes only found the net 4 times in the period, they made them count with 2 goals of their own. Import Egor Babenko scored both times and we were even heading into the break.

Michael Bullion settled down for the majority of the game after a shaky start for the Tigers and the rest of the boys responded in a big way. Steven Owre, Bradley and John Dahlstrom all would score over the next 40 minutes to give the Tigers a 5-2 victory and forcing Game 7 back at the Canalta Centre 48 hours later. It had seemed the Canes had not much left to give, playing in a league high 13 games at this point.

Game 7 would tell…

 

April 18th, 2017 vs. Lethbridge – Game 7 

The Tigers have had some memorable Game 7’s in their history. Who can forget the Championship winning goal scored in overtime by Brennan Bosch? This time there were 23 players all biding to become the next hero. The stage was set, all that was needed was the puck to drop.

When the puck dropped the raucous crowd at the Canalta Centre (the second highest ever) was eager and ready. Zach Fischer made all those in attendance cheer just 9 minutes into the game with his 7th of the post season. However the cheers would later become jeers as Lethbridge would score 3 unanswered goals to close out the opening period and things looked like they were going south on Medicine Hat quickly.

But the never say die attitude of the Tigers this season broke through in the middle period. Matt Bradley and a pair of goal by Mark Rassell, including one on the power play, saw Medicine Hat take a 4-3 lead to the excitement and joy of the Tigers fans watching. Which left just one more period of hockey and the Tigers with the lead heading to the third.

The third brought edge of your seat play. Both the Tigers and Canes doubled shifted their best players, looking for any opportunity to increase the lead or protect it in the Tigers case. The Canes pressed and pressed, the Tigers pushed back even harder but couldn’t find that insurance goal. Finally it was the visitors from down Highway 3 that found the back of the net. Affiliate call up Dylan Cozens was in the right spot at the right time potting a loose puck which squeaked past Bullion and into the back of the net. Tie game. Overtime.

Game 7 overtimes are something to watch, edge of your seat, one shot could win it all. Then, the Hurricanes took a penalty in the extra period and the Tigers power play unit stepped on the ice for a chance to win the game. 50 seconds into the man advantage things went from bad to worse.

Tyler Wong picked up a puck and skated through the neutral zone shorthanded and fired a puck on net. Wong’s shot found the top corner past Bullion and the 5500 people in attendance stood or sat shocked and in disbelief as their Tigers battled until the end but came up short.

The Tigers season would end on that note. A season full of ups and down. A season full of skill and goals (350 to be exact). A season full of beating the odds and the expectations. A season to hold your head high.

 

With so many memorable games this season to choose from the Tigers would like to thank their fans for their support and through the highs and lows. Thank you.

 

In part 3 of the Year In Review, we will take a look at some of this season’s players who ended up hitting new Career Highs from the 2016-17 season.

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