MEDICINE HAT, Alberta — The Medicine Hat Tigers were something of a mystery to the Everett Silvertips going into the Western Hockey League Championship Series. The teams met just once during the regular season, and that was nearly six months ago.
Now the Silvertips know exactly what they’re up against, and they know they have a daunting challenge in front of them.
Steve Regier scored twice in the third period to break a tie, and the Tigers defeated the Silvertips 4-1 Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Hockey League Championship Series.
"I thought Medicine Hat was very talented," Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. "We haven’t seen much of them so we don’t know much about the team, but they’re very talented. They played a very good first period against us. We got into the game a little bit as it went, but they were the better team."
Before a sold-out crowd of 4,006 at The Arena — the Tigers’ 57th straight shutout — Regier broke a 1-1 tie 10 minutes, 36 seconds into the third period, giving Medicine Hat first blood in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is tonight in Medicine Hat.
With the Tips down 1-0, Riley Armstrong scored Everett’s lone goal late in the first period. Then it was a defensive battle until Regier got hot.
Billed as a duel between Medicine Hat’s potent offense and Everett’s determined defense, it was offense that won out in Game 1. But it wasn’t until the middle of the third period that the Tigers offense broke through.
With the score tied 1-1, Regier took the puck behind the Everett net and tried to throw it out front. The puck deflected off a skate to Darren Reid along the backboards. Reid popped it back to Regier sitting at the post, and Regier put it in off Everett goalie Jeff Harvey to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
That opened the floodgates as Regier scored again at 15:33, beating Harvey between the legs for his fifth goal of the playoffs. Chris St. Jacques scored his 11th of the postseason, flipping the puck the length of the ice into an empty net with 55.6 seconds remaining.
"We can’t play Everett’s game," Regier said. "We have to stick to our game. They’ll play their game, we’ll play our game and I’m confident that our systems can get it done. We did that in the third. We got it down deep. We worked them down low and that caused our goals in the third. If we keep doing that we’ll be successful in the series."
The Silvertips, looking a little drained from their seven-game Western Conference finals victory over Kelowna, never got on track offensively. The Silvertips were held to 19 shots on goal — including just a single shot in the second period — and had barely a sniff at a quality scoring chance.
But despite the lack of offense, Everett was in the same position as it was in the final three games of the Kelowna series — outplayed in the first two periods, but in sight of victory in the third. This time it didn’t work out.
"We like those games," Armstrong said. "We like the 1-1 games. We felt pretty comfortable going into the third period with the score 1-1. But once they score their second goal there, it’s kind of hard for us to battle back because we’re not that big of a powerhouse for scoring. We usually like to win games 2-1, 1-0, so this is going to be a tough series for us to play against them."
The Tigers took the lead 4:18 into the game with a power-play goal. Clarke MacArthur’s shot from the right circle for the far post forced a reaching kick save from Harvey. However, the rebound came back across the crease to Ryan Hollweg, who tapped it in to make it 1-0 with his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Everett struck right back 1:10 later. The Silvertips broke on a three-on-two, with Chad Bassen carrying the puck down the left. Bassen skated into the corner and although his centering pass was tipped, it still reached Armstrong at the far post. Armstrong redirected it in to tie it up. It was his fifth of the playoffs.
Slap shots: Everett general manager Doug Soetaert voiced his displeasure with the series format of playing two games in Medicine Hat, two in Everett, then alternating sites for games 5, 6 and 7. Soetaert said the original arrangement was for the series to be played 2-3-2, but he received a call from Medicine Hat general manager Rick Carriere on Wednesday saying the Tiger coaches wanted to alternate the final three. As a result the series could require six 12-14-hour bus rides. "The series should be played on the ice instead of on the bus," Soetaert said. … Everett left wing Tyler Dietrich continues to be plagued by the hit suffered to the head against Vancouver in the second round. Dietrich, who played for Medicine Hat last season and has been listed as day-to-day ever since the hit, was scratched for the sixth straight game because of the injury. However, defenseman Ivan Baranka, who suffered a side injury near the end of Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, was back in the lineup. … WHL Championship Series tickets are now available for season ticket holders and individuals who bought playoff packages. Tickets can be picked up at the Silvertips offices.
|At Medicine Hat, Alberta
First Period—1. Medicine Hat, Hollweg 5 (MacArthur, Reid), 4:18 (pp). 2. Everett, Armstrong 5 (Bassen), 5:28.
Third Period—3. Medicine Hat, Regier 4 (Reid, Marr), 10:36. 4. Medicine Hat, Regier 5 (Reid), 15:33. 5. Medicine Hat, St. Jacques 11, 19:04 (en).
Shots on goal—Everett 6-1-12—19. Medicine Hat 10-7-9—26. Power-play opportunities—Everett 0 of 7. Medicine Hat 1 of 6. Goalies—Everett, Harvey 11-6 (25 shots, 22 saves). Medicine Hat, Nastiuk 13-4 (19 shots, 18 saves).