Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ice push Tigers close to extinction

In one of the most exciting comebacks in Ice history, Kootenay pushed the Medicine Hat Tigers to the brink of elimination with a 7-4 win in Game 4 Thursday night at WFP.

Highlites - up right away for fans to view once they get home - are right here.

1. For the second straight night the two clubs locked into a neutral zone-trap, defensive game in which very few chances were generated. Descheneau got the power play going. putting the Ice up 1-0, and his scoring touch going with a three-goal effort for his first three goals of the series. The building gave Valiev credit for the 3rd goal but clearly Reinhart deflected it for his 1st of the series.

2. It was only a matter of time before the big guns got going and tonight, at least in the last 24 minutes of the game, they exploded for 11 points (Philp 1 goal, 3 assists; Reinhart 1 goal, 2 assists; Descheneau 3 goals; Franko 1 goal).

3. Turning point? Luke Philp's push-back goal after the Tigers went up 4-1 and Skapski got the hook. Philp got a rebound in front of Langhamer and buried it to make it 4-2 before the end of the second.

4. The same team that had been frustrated by the lack of offense so far in this series found the spark in the third but I think it had just as much to do with the sudden change in the Tigers game that saw their intensive forecheck - that gave the Ice fits all night - disappear. I'll never understand how teams change their game - likely not on purpose but still, it happens a lot when teams get a healthy lead.

5. The injury - D Landon Cross got side-swiped after a Tiger came out of the penalty box in the second. His helmet came flying off after the collision and he never returned. If it's a concussion, it'll be his second in the last 6 weeks after the devastating fight against the Pats Zgraggen last month.

6. The Hook - Although Skapski got the hook in favour of Wyatt Hoflin - and again, dynamics change enough that Hoflin gets the win - I don't think you can fault Skapski on any of the goals save for maybe the Tigers 4th goal by Curtis Valk. He probably should have had that one but in his defense, everybody was standing around looking at Valk score. That and Ice radio voice Jeff Hollick was right, the Tigers were off-side. Watch the high-lite and you'll see it.

7. The decision - So, game five on Saturday night in Medicine Hat; who do you come back with? Skapski or Hoflin? I think Skapski. If not for his stellar play through the series first three games, this series is tied, at best, at worst the Ice are down 3-1. In this series he's been able to do what he couldn't against the Hitmen and that's steal a game, as he did in Game 3.

8. You'd think at some point the lack of healthy bodies are going to be this team's demise. But somehow they keep finding ways to get past it. With Cross likely out (hopefully not but I'm not confident), the blueline is as thin as it gets. You've got Dirk playing 32+ minutes and 16-yr-old Murray playing almost 30. I'm not sure as to D Tyler King's prognosis as he's been out since Game 1 of the Hitmen series with a knee injury. They list him as day-to-day but I don't think he's even close to returning.

9. Trying to find some combination that would get a spark going McGill benched F Matt Alfaro, 17, likely for the inability to get the puck deep on the Tigers' 3rd goal - yet another neutral zone turnover that the Hat capitalized on. Zak Zborosky took his place alongside Philp and Vetterl and seemed to provide a spark to that unit.

10. Crowd for Game 4 was 2578 which was loud and entertained thoroughly. Game 3 was 2461. Not great but not terrible. Hard to believe though that Game 6 against the Hitmen, on Tim Bozon's return and a series clincher, would draw 1500 more. The hard to believe part is the 1500 fans that either don't, won't or can't make it to this series.

11. Those there did get a chance to see two straight hat-tricks at home, which I don't think has ever happened here, at least in the playoffs. If the Ice go on to beat the Tigers I couldn't say enough about the play of Levi Cable who has six goals in the post-season and four goals and two assists in the series against the Tigers. I think he's been their best player and the most consistent along with that Martin-Cable-McPhee line. (For my money this unit's been the best line for the Ice in this series). This from a player that spent most of the season on the 4th line, as a 19-yr-old, never complained and took advantage of his chances.

12. Coaches downplay it but how important has it been for the Ice to get the top unit of Reinhart-Descheneau-Franko away from Valk-Sanford-Cox? It'll be interesting to see when they play head-to-head Saturday night when the Tigers have last change. Valk and Sanford were both minus-4, though they were both on for two empty-netters.

Lastly, had a chance to take in the game with Al Bieksa - Kevin's dad - who is in town instructing a Workplace Health and Safety course. A Millwright by trade out of the Steel Mills in Hamilton, Al - who has relocated to BC - is a lot of fun and has a ton of stories - both industry and hockey - that'll make you smile.

Game 5 goes Saturday night in Medicine Hat at 7:30PM. With Kelowna already through to the Western Conference Final, meeting a dream match-up with the Portland Winterhawks as the Hawks dumped the Victoria Royals in 5 games tonight, the Ice-Tigers could be the only series left playing. The Oil Kings are up 3-1 on the Wheat Kings and could/should wrap that up Friday night. Hopefully Shaw will televise the game.

1 comment:

ELL said...

Awesome results. I thought we had our best memories with the Calgary series, but the bonus reel keeps on turning. At 4-0 I think they are going to go with Hoflin in the Hat.