Hitmen Claw Out Win Over Tigers

Candice Ward/Photo

The future is shining bright for the Hitmen.

Tuesday night saw the Hitmen defeat the Central Division leaders Medicine Hat 3-1 to finish the season series against the Tigers. In the six games, the Hitmen wrapped up with a 3-2-1 mark and ended the set of tilts with two straight wins over their rivals.

Tristen Nielsen, Riley Stotts and Conner Chaulk scored for the Hitmen, while Nick Schneider was outstanding in his final game in Medicine Hat. The former Tigers goaltender looked poised to leave his former home with a win and did just that with a 36 save performance.

The goaltender also broke the franchise record for minutes played in a single season eclipsing the previous mark of 3,371 set by Alexander Fomitchev in 1997-98. He also tied Fomitchev’s games played record with his 60th appearance this season.

Dylan MacPherson scored the lone Tigers goal and Michael Bullion ended with 20 saves on the night.

The Hitmen played the role of spoiler as Medicine Hat needed just on point to clinch the division, but failed to capitalize on the chance and will now have to wait till their next outing for another crack at it.

Both clubs couldn’t find the back of the net for the first 40 minutes, as Schneider was a large reason why the game remained scoreless. Medicine Hat would have a couple of powerplay chances, but Schneider was the best penalty-killer on the ice as he finished with 18 saves in the middle stanza alone, and 26 through the first two frames.

The Tigers would finally get one to go just 12 seconds into the final frame, as Schneider would stop the first two shots before MacPherson was able to capitalize on the third chance.

Down in the third period, the Hitmen did what they have made a habit of in a handful of games this season, and that’s make another comeback.

Nielsen kept the hot streak going, as he took the feed from Carson Focht and fired a wrist shot in the high slot that went off the crossbar and in five minutes after the Tigers goal for his 19th of the year. The goal extended his point streak to a career-high seven games (6G, 5A) with 11 points.

The Hitmen were then awarded a powerplay and made quick work of the man-advantage as Stotts would take the cross-ice feed from Focht and one-time it into the back of the net for the 2-1 lead with seven minutes left.

Schneider would then do his job in preserving the lead making key saves late in the game, and the Hitmen penalty kill shut down the Tigers attack with a big kill in the late stages. Chaulk would ice the game with an empty-netter and give the Hitmen their second win in three games.

The youth of the Hitmen took centre stage with Nielsen and Stotts providing the markers, and Focht chipping in with two assists. The Hitmen also kept a stretch of earning at least a point going, as the club has done so in their last nine games.

The Hitmen will now head back home to the Scotiabank Saddledome to take on the Kootenay ICE Wednesday night for the final meeting of the season.

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