The Calgary Hitmen didn’t make it easy on themselves in the last few minutes, but held on to pick up an important 3-2 victory against the Medicine Hat Tigers to kick-off a nine-game road trip.
With Zane Jones in the box for a boarding call, the Tigers had the opportunity with just over a minute left to tie it up. But a stymieing defence from the Hitmen wouldn’t allow the Tigers to set up in their zone and the time eventually ran out on them.
The win keeps Calgary (33-13-1-3) in third place in the Eastern Conference, and remain five points back of the idle Edmonton Oil Kings.
The Hitmen dominated play in the first period, but the score was not reflective. Instead, it was the home team who picked up an early lead after a weird play seemed to handcuff Hitmen goalie Mack Shields, and the puck slid in. Tigers all-star Hunter Shinkaruk was awarded the goal.
Shinkaruk, a top prospect in this year’s NHL draft, doubled the Tigers advantage about eight minutes into the second on the powerplay when he chipped his own rebound past Shields for his 30th of the season.
But a strong individual effort from Colten Mayor in the Tigers zone led to a snipe top corner from Victor Rask to end Tigers goalie Cam Lanigan shutout bid a few minutes later, and Calgary tied it up at the end of the second when captain Cody Sylvester tipped a wrist shot from Spencer Humphries with only 2.8 seconds left.
By the end of the period, Calgary held a 29-21 lead in the shot department.
In only his second game of the season following shoulder surgery, Hitmen forward Calder Brooks was the driving force in what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Picking up the puck in his own end, Brooks burst through the neutral zone and found Greg Chase just across the Tigers blueline. Chase then turned to a cutting Pavlo Padakin, who backhanded the puck past Lanigan for his 16th of the year.
Calgary had the chance to finish off the Tigers late, but Brady Brassart rang it off the post with about four minutes left, the fifth time a Hitmen play hit iron during the game. Chase followed that up with his own breakaway, but was stuffed by Lanigan.
By the end of the game, the Hitmen fired 48 pucks at the Tigers netminder, but only three made it through. Shields turned away 24 shots to pick up his ninth win of the season.
Calgary failed in their only powerplay opportunity of the game, but killed off four of five shorthanded chances.
The win evens out the season series between the Central Division rivals, with two more matchups left in coming up in March.
There is little rest for the Hitmen who now move on to play the Swift Current Broncos Wednesday night starting at 6 p.m. MT. Listen live on Sportsnet 960 The Fan.