Hitmen Start Home Stand With A Bang
A change of scenery was all that was needed.
Playing their first home game in eight contests and the second half of a home-and-home against the Medicine Hat Tigers, the Hitmen avenged a 4-0 road loss on Friday night with a 5-4 win Sunday afternoon at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Conner Chaulk scored the game-winner with 1:48 left in regulation, wiring it over Michael Bullion’s far shoulder and off the crossbar for his second of the night.
Nick Schneider made 44 saves, including 19 in the first period, as the Hitmen opened a seven-game homestand on a high note. Bullion finished with 42 stops.
“I think it’s just nice to be back. Friday was a real tough game for us, we faced a lot of adversity in that game and it was all about the response tonight,” said Chaulk. “We came out after a little slow start and we got after it in the second and if we play that way through all periods we’re going to have a lot of success.”
Chaulk scored from a sharp angle to make it 4-3 for the Hitmen at 10:09 of the third, backhanding it over Bullion from beside the net before saluting the crowd in celebration.
It looked like the game was headed for overtime when Tigers forward Mark Rassell made it 4-4 with less than six minutes left in the third, but Medicine Hat couldn’t keep up.
“We weren’t happy with our performance last game so we wanted to come back here and refocus and be ready to go on home ice,” said Carson Focht, who had two goals for the Hitmen. “I think we just came in after that first period and refocused. Obviously Nick played unreal all game and we needed to bounce back for him for sure.”
The Tigers struck first when David Quenneville fired a wrist shot from the point that beat Schneider through traffic near the 10-minute mark of the opening period.
Vladislav Yeryomenko had the Hitmen’s best opportunity of the frame with just over five minutes to play, getting to the net with a toe drag through the slot before Bullion made the initial save and stopped Jake Kryski on the rebound.
Dakota Krebs drew the Hitmen even with his second goal of the season 5:33 into the second frame, burying a slapper from the hash marks after the puck came to him off a scramble in front of the Tigers net.
Focht gave the Hitmen a 2-1 lead just 79 seconds later, jamming it past Bullion at the side of the net after Tristen Nielsen’s initial attempt was stopped.
The Tigers tied it 2-2 on a powerplay goal by Ryan Jevne near the halfway point of the second period. Medicine Hat reclaimed the lead with 61 seconds left in the second stanza when Bryan Lockner put it shortside past Schneider to give the Tigers a 3-2 advantage after 40 minutes.
Focht tied the game with his second of the night on a beautiful solo effort seven-and-a-half minutes into the third. The Regina native split a pair of Tigers defenders before going upstairs on Bullion, finding some room between the Medicine Hat ‘tender and the near side post for his ninth goal of the campaign.
The win moves the Hitmen to within 10 points of the Kootenay ICE for third in the Central Division. The Hitmen have one game in hand on the ICE and will try to capitalize on it when they host former Hitmen blueliner Jake Bean and the Tri-City Americans Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Scotiabank Saddledome.