In the end, the Tigers were able to claw back from extinction.
Facing a 3-1 series deficit, Medicine Hat won three in a row, clinching their second-round series with a 4-1 win over the Kootenay Ice on Wednesday night.
Trevor Cox scored the game winner 11 seconds in to the third period after the two teams held each other to a 1-1 tie after 40 minutes.
“We made a mental error on our pass, made too soft of a play and they come down and score a nice goal,” said Ice head coach Ryan McGill. “It was a bad play by a defenceman and, unfortunately, the puck went in the net.
Medicine Hat added another two goals for insurance before the final buzzer sounded.
The Ice threw everything but the kitchen sink at Tigers goaltender Marek Langhamer, who made 43 saves.
“I would say that we had some opportunities that we didn’t bury,” said McGill. “Probably a couple in particular that probably didn’t go our way, but their goalie was good, our goalie was real good and we made two mistakes that gave them great opportunities in our net.
“They didn’t make those mistakes we did.”
Mackenzie Skapski was equally as sharp, making 24 saves in 27 shots, turning away more than a few dangerous chances from the trio of Cox, Curtis Valk and Cole Sanford.
Landon Peel was the lone goal-scorer for the Ice.
The Tigers advance to the Eastern Conference championship, where they will face the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Early on, it looked good for the Ice.
Peel scored less than a minute into the game, beating Langhamer with a screened shot at the point.
That’s all the Tigers netminder allowed for the rest of the night.
Steve Owre found the equalizer six minutes later, collecting a rebound off a shot from the point to put it home.
The two teams held each other off the scoresheet for the rest of the period and throughout the next frame.
Medicine Hat had two chances with the man-advantage in the opening period, but Kootenay’s penalty kill kept them off the scoreboard.
The Tigers’ quick transition play—a hallmark of the series—created a more than a few odd-man rushes, and Skapski made a pair of big saves in the second period off Miles Koules and Sanford.
However, only 11 seconds into the final 20 minutes of the game, Cox potted the go-ahead goal to give the Tigers the lead.
Kootenay did everything to find that game tying marker, doubling up Medicine Hat on the shot clock in the period, but Langhamer was unbeatable.
Just after the halfway mark of the frame, a blocked shot from an Ice defenceman in the Tigers’ zone turned into a two-on-none rush for Medicine Hat, and Cox tallied again for a two-goal lead.
Skapski headed to the bench with over two minutes left in the game, but Sanford found an empty net to put it out of reach.
The team will return to Cranbrook on Wednesday night and hold exit meetings over the next few days before the players return to their respective hometowns.
WHL NOTES: The Kelowna Rockets and the Portland Winterhawks will duke it out for the Western Conference championship…Shaw TV will broadcast the series between Edmonton and Medicine Hat….The Calgary Hitmen announced on Wednesday that they are parting ways with head coach Mike Williamson and won’t renew his contract…