MEDICINE HAT, AB – There are still three games left in the regular season for the Medicine Hat Tigers, but their playoff chances improved greatly on Saturday night.
Playing arguably their most important game of the season, the Tigers knocked off the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings by a 4-2 score to grow their lead in the WHL playoff race to four points.
Ryan Jevne had three points in the victory for the Tigers, while top prospect Cole Sillinger played his first game at the Canalta Centre after three road tests to begin his WHL career.
It was a quiet first period until a Tigers power play late in the first frame, as Medicine Hat began working the puck around the Brandon zone.
Brett Kemp was able to throw a puck through the crease onto the tape of Jevne, who made no mistake firing home his 29th of the season with 3:44 left in the period.
Just seconds later however, some sloppy play in the Medicine Hat zone allowed Wheat Kings captain Stelio Mattheos to outreach three Tigers for the puck and tie the game.
Kemp had a glorious chance to put the home side in the lead in the final seconds of the first, but fanned on his shot before the buzzer sounded.
The Tigers redeemed themselves eight minutes into the second period however, as Jevne fired the puck on net, which sat in the crease for Ryan Chyzowski to easily pick up.
Jevne wasn’t done, as five minutes later he lifted a puck down the length of the ice to clear his zone.
Wheat Kings goalie Jiri Patera skated out to move the puck ahead, but whiffed and watched as it trickled into the Brandon cage for the wild shorthanded goal for Medicine Hat.
Defenceman Chad Nychuk bailed out his netminder 30 seconds later though, as he ripped a shot from the point that beat Mads Sogaard clean to cut the Tigers lead to 3-2 with 6:38 left in the period.
It remained a one-goal game for most of the third period, that was until the 13:33 mark.
Circling from the boards back to the point, Hayden Ostir put a seeing eye shot on goal that managed to find its way through traffic and beat Patera for the insurance marker.
Sogaard was named the night’s third star with 28 saves in the win, while Patera stopped 30 of the 34 Tigers shots he faced.
Staying even with the Red Deer Rebels at 72 points, the 33-26-4-2 Tigers are now four points clear of the Wheat Kings for the final wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.
Medicine Hat could clinch a playoff spot as early as Wednesday night, as they host the Rebels another pivotal meeting at 7:00 pm.
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