by Lisa Brown on 01/19/12 at 05:00 AM ET
All good things have to come to an end, including winning streaks. Wednesday night, The Calgary Hitmen’s winning streak had to end at 8 after an emotional 5-1 loss to central division rivals the Medicine Hat Tigers. With a total of 8 fighting majors, 114 penalty minutes and 33 infractions, both penalty boxes could have used revolving doors.
The Medicine Hat Tigers trailed in shots, but never on the scoresheet through the first two periods. Brendan Hurley was the first Tiger to score and the only goal scorer of the first period after being in the right place at the right time for a rebound off of the pads of Hitmen netminder Brandon Glover.
Glover saw more shots than Oilers’ prospect and Tiger’s goaltender Tyler Bunz, but both worked equally hard in a game that saw plenty of end to end action.
Through the second period, the Tigers really opened up the scoring. With an additional three goals and only allowing the Hitmen a single goal, emotions for both teams seemed to set in.
Emerson Etem, who struggled in scoring during the World Juniors, had no trouble scoring both his 38th and 39th goals of the year. His first goal of the game came on a shorthanded breakaway a mere 11 seconds into the second period. The Tigers added to their total with an unassisted goal by Curtis Valk and of course Etem’s second goal of the game, also unassisted.
The Hitmen didn’t give up and if not for the near perfect play of Bunz, the Hitmen may have had a different story to tell. The lone Hitmen game came with a slapshot from Jimmy Bubnick, just barely beating Bunz with the one shot that Bunz wishes he could have had another attempt at.
Through the goal scoring, the teams began to increase the physical and emotional intensity. Slashing, roughing and fighting penalties saw a steady stream of players in and out of the penalty boxes, opening up the ice, but increasing the frustration level for the Hitmen especially.
As the horn would blow to indicate the end of the second period, the fighting really erupted with 3 fights at one time in the Hitmen end. The referees could be heard shouting at the Tigers to leave the ice as they tried to sort out who would receive what penalties to start the final frame.
Neither team would begin the third period with a man advantage, but the frustration, anger and fighting from the second for both teams would continue. At one point, the Hitmen couldn’t possibly have fit a sixth player in their penalty box.
Through the third period, the Tigers would score the game’s final goal as Cole Grbavac, Tigers’ team captain fired one home. This goal also meant the end of the game for netminder Brandon Glover and Chris Driedger came in in relief.
“We gave up 30 shots and most from the outside, not much we couldn’t handle.” Said Tigers’ netminder Bunz who stopped 29 of 30 shots while his team finished with 45 shots themselves.
“If we play this way, I don’t think that many teams in the league are going to beat us. We’ve just got to play like we did tonight for the rest of the year. I don’t think that it’s too much to ask for, just a simple game. Guys are sweating but it was a pretty easy game for the guys to just chip pucks out and get pucks to the net and the best things happened.”
For the home team, “Tonight maybe took for granted how we accomplished that eight game winning streak and we didn’t have it tonight.” Assessed Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson. “We weren’t ready to play. Obviously they came with a work either tonight.”
“We knew that if we could shut down their top guys, play good in the d zone and make sure that we found our guys just play a simple game we knew that we could get the win.” Reflects Bunz. “And it’s great to beat a team like this that was on a roll. But you can’t get too high.”
This game had plenty of fireworks from both teams, “When you’re frustrated you tend try to take things out in certain areas,” says Williamson. “We did lose our composure at times and we’ll have to address that. But for the most part at the end when they weren’t in the tangles they were sticking up for one another which is what we wanted.”
Williamson isn’t sure that the emotions from this game will carry through to the next meeting between the two teams, but for Bunz “People don’t forget. We’ve got a big two points coming up against these guys again. These are central division games where we need these points heading into the playoffs. We want home ice advantage and these are the games that carry into that goal.”
Games from this point on will have bigger playoff implications, especially between division rivals. These two teams will meet three more times during the regular season. If this game is any indication, the next ones could get interesting.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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