By Ryan McCracken on November 10, 2018.
Max Gerlach and Gary Haden had a return to remember on Friday night at the Canalta Centre.
It was the first time either of the former Medicine Hat Tigers returned to the Gas City since being traded separately over the past year, and they combined for a tide-turning impact by scoring in succession to erase an early deficit and lock up a 3-1 victory for the Saskatoon Blades.
“When you come into games like this, when you’ve played for this team, you want to be the guy that kind of sticks the knife into them,” said Gerlach. “I’ve scored a lot of goals in this rink, but obviously not any for this team so it felt really good in my first time back.”
Haden admitted he fell victim to the early jitters, but the 19-year-old forward shook them off and followed up Gerlach’s tally with the eventual game-winner early in the third.
“Honestly, I felt like I was 17 again when I came in here,” added Haden. “I was really nervous in the first period, even in the second. Going into the third I finally just said, ‘OK, it’s just a hockey game.”
Saskatoon pushed the pace off the hop but it was Tigers winger Josh Williams who broke through with the opening salvo. The 17-year-old Langley product was driving the net when he picked up a feed from Linus Nassen and tapped it behind Blades goaltender Nolan Maier to extend his budding point streak to five games with three goals and three assists in the span. Tigers captain James Hamblin pushed his own point streak to nine games with the second assist, his 15th point of the stretch.
“I thought we had a pretty good game,” said Hamblin. “We played pretty well, I think it just comes down to bearing down on some clears, on some chances in front of the net. I think if we do that, it’s a different outcome.”
Medicine Hat carried the momentum into the second and hemmed the Blades into their own end for the majority of the frame, but they were unable to squeeze another puck through Maier and then Gerlach pushed back for Saskatoon on a late power play.
The overage Texan — shipped to the Blades at least season’s trade deadline — knotted things up after creeping down to the circle and beating Tigers goaltender Jordan Hollett off the shoulder with Eric Van Impe in the box for tripping —setting up a winner-take-all third period.
“I was pretty pumped up (after Gerlach’s goal). Then Max said, ‘Now it’s your turn,'” said Haden. “Lucky enough I go to the net and get a greasy one and we get a big win. That’s all that matters.”
Haden potted the game-winner just past the five-minute mark of the third when he crashed the net and jammed a rebound through Hollett. The goal stood as his fifth of the season, and fourth since being traded from Medicine Hat to Saskatoon on Oct. 25.
“I’m really happy for Gary,” said Gerlach. “I’m glad he’s here. He’s really been great for our team since he’s gotten here and he’s just going to keep getting better.”
The Tigers pressured for an equalizer, but Maier held the door closed and Riley McKay iced the game with a late empty-netter.
Maier collected the 35-save victory to lift Saskatoon to 11-7-2-0 on the year.
Hollett stopped 28 in the loss, dropping Medicine Hat to 9-8-0-2.
“They got some good, quality shots and Jordan made some really good saves,” said Hamblin. “We don’t want to depend on our goalie, but we do have confidence in them.”
Hat winger Tyler Preziuso had a nine-game point streak snapped in the loss.
The Tigers return to Canalta Centre Saturday to host the Edmonton Oil Kings (11-7-1-1) at 7:30 p.m.
“We’ll take today and learn from it,” said Hamblin. “It’s a quick turnaround but we’ll come back ready to go.”
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