Saturday, 8 April 2017

Estephan’s hat trick pulls Hurricanes even with Tigers

The Hurricanes celebrate Giorgio Estephan’s first goal.
    MEDICINE HAT, Alta. – Giorgio Estephan was the feature attraction of an impromptu 80s night at the Canalta Centre in Medicine Hat.
    The standout centre fired home a hat trick and collected an assist to help his visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes outgun the host Medicine Hat Tigers 7-4 before 4,513 spectators on Saturday night in Game 2 of a best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series. 
    With the win in a high-scoring 1980s style clash, the Hurricanes even the series at 1-1. Game 3 is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. Alberta time at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge.
    The setback was also a first in the 2017 post-season for the Tigers, who swept away the Brandon Wheat Kings in four games in the opening round of the playoffs. The Tigers took Game 1 of the series with the Hurricanes 4-0 on Friday night at the Canalta Centre.
    Estephan was pleased his Hurricanes were able to wrestle away home ice advantage from the Tigers. The Hurricanes have defeated the Tigers in six of the last seven encounters at the Enmax Centre over the past two seasons.
Giorgio Estephan had a hat trick and an assist for the Hurricanes.
    “It (the Canalta Centre) is a tough barn to win in too,” said Estephan. “Anytime that you can split a series (of two games on the road) in the playoffs, especially not having home ice advantage, it is a big thing for us.
    “Coming back into our barn with a lot of fans, I think is definitely exciting for us.”
    For a while on Saturday, it appeared the Tigers and Hurricanes were doing their best to burn out the scoreboard at the Canalta Centre.
    The Tigers stormed out to 2-0 lead, when right-winger Zach Fischer scored 20 seconds into the contest and added a second tally at the 2:23 mark of the opening frame. Overage left-winger Steven Owre picked up assists on both of Fischer’s goals.
    Before the nine-minute mark of the opening frame could roll around, Estephan netted his first goal of the game and right-winger Alec Baer scored 27 seconds after that tally to force a 2-2 tie.
    At the 11:10 mark of the first, Tigers right-winger Ryan Jevne scored on a backdoor setup on a power play to put the hosts up 3-2. Before the opening frame ended, Hurricanes overage captain Tyler Wong capitalized on a Tigers own-zone giveaway to tie things up at 3-3.
Tigers right-winger Zach Fischer takes a high shot from a Hurricanes player.
    “We struggled the first game, so we kind of knew that we had to come back stronger,” said Estephan. “We definitely did that today.
    “We didn’t really start the greatest we wanted to, but to kind of show the resiliency like we did to pull out this win, it is definitely something huge.”
    The Tigers jumped back in front 4-3 at the 6:03 mark of the second, when centre James Hamblin tipped home a shot from linemate Max Gerlach. Just over two-and-a-half minutes later, centre Dylan Cozens, who was selected by the Hurricanes in the first round and 19th overall in last year’s WHL Bantam Draft, potted his first career WHL playoff goal to force a 4-4 tie.
Captain Tyler Wong had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes.
    With 7:09 to play in the third, the Hurricanes took their first lead of the game, when Estephan scored on a power play to give the visitors a 5-4 lead. The Edmonton product said the key to that goal was staying focused when the play got in close on Tigers netminder Michael Bullion.
    “It was a great play from Tyler Wong in the middle to kind of get it out to me wide,” said Estephan. “I tried to get it upstairs.
    “I didn’t get it high enough, but there was a rebound. It kind of just poked through (Bullion’s) legs, and it was sitting behind him. I just tapped it in.”
    Estephan completed his hat trick scoring into an empty net with 1:25 to play in the third shortly after a Tigers power play expired. Tanner Nagel scored an empty-net short-handed goal with 48.6 seconds to play to round out the scoring for the visitors.
    Bullion turned away 19 of 24 shots to take the loss in goal for the Tigers. Stuart Skinner turned away 26 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Hurricanes.
Steven Owre picked up two assists for the Tigers.
    Saturday’s game also contained a number of elements that showed the Highway 3 rivalry is alive and well between these two clubs, which operate in cities that are about 170 kilometres apart from each other. Hurricanes defenceman Brennan Menell took a double minor penalty in the first period for spearing Tigers left-winger Matt Bradley, and that infraction will trigger an automatic review by the league for a possible suspension.
    Fischer engaged with Hurricanes right-winger Zane Franklin in a spirited fight late in the second period, and both sides threw a number of hard hits.
    “It is a rivalry,” said Estephan. “We’re only an hour and a half away.
    “There are a lot of fans coming back and forth, and it is definitely exciting to play in front of them. It definitely gets you fired up to play in the next game.”

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