#WHLPlayoffs Roundup: Wong lifts Hurricanes to wild Game 7 win over Tigers

Lethbridge Herald Photo by Ian Martens


Lethbridge Hurricanes (5) at Medicine Hat Tigers (4) – OT
Hurricanes win series 4-3

No matter how beaten, battered and bruised his Lethbridge Hurricanes were, captain Tyler Wong was not ready to see his WHL career come to a close in the second round of the 2017 WHL Playoffs.

The veteran leader of the Hurricanes lifted his team on his shoulders, scoring shorthanded on an incredible individual effort 3:02 into overtime of Game 7, vaulting the Hurricanes into the Eastern Conference Championship series with a 5-4 win against the Medicine Hat Tigers Tuesday night.

With a Tigers power play up on the board, the 21-year-old product of Cochrane, Alta., skated the puck from inside his own blueline through neutral ice, entering into Medicine Hat territory where he backed off the defense before firing a wrist shot past the glove of Tigers goaltender Michael Bullion to end an incredible seven-game series between the two Highway 3 rivals.

Wong’s second goal of the night and 11th goal of the playoffs capped an unbelievably wild and entertaining Game 7 between the Hurricanes and Tigers.

It started essentially from the opening puck drop. Zach Fischer opened the scoring 8:47 into the first period, snatching a puck from goaltender Stuart Skinner behind the Lethbridge net before wrapping it around for a 1-0 Medicine Hat lead. What could have easily been a deflating goal for the Hurricanes was negated only nine seconds later. Heading in two-on-one, Jordy Bellerive took a pass from Giorgio Estephan before snapping a quick shot past Bullion to tie the game 1-1, resetting everything in the process.

The Hurricanes continued to press from there. With 3:38 to go in the first period, Wong lugged a puck from below the goal line and up into the left faceoff circle before rounding towards the net and wiring a wrist shot past Bullion to give the ‘Canes their first lead in Game 7. Shortly thereafter, Egor Babenko collected a puck in behind the Tiger net and made a quick move to the front of the cage, wrapping another puck past a bewildered Bullion to extend the Lethbridge lead to 3-1 with only 47 seconds to go in the first period and that’s where the two teams remained after 20 minutes.

While the Hurricanes had all the momentum heading out of the first period, the Tigers didn’t waste any time clawing it back to start the second period. Ryan Jevne made it a one-goal game 4:07 into the period, jamming home his third of the post-season. Little more than a minute later, James Hamblin’s shot from high in the zone ricocheted to Mark Rassell at the side of the net. The product of Calgary batted the bouncing biscuit to the back of the net, tying the game 3-3 as the rollercoaster ride continued.

Rassell kept the roll going from there. Less than five minutes later, he buried a power-play rebound past Skinner as the Tigers reclaimed the lead 9:26 into the second period. The hosts held on to that 4-3 lead through 40 minutes of play, but this game was far from over.

With time winding down in the third period, rookie Dylan Cozens snuck to the side of the Tigers net and found himself a little gift as a loose puck trickled between the legs of Bullion. The 16-year-old product of Whitehorse, Yukon, slipped home the game-tying goal with 2:43 to go in regulation. It was the second goal of the post-season for the Hurricanes’ 2016 first-round pick (19th overall).

After that, Wong took care of the rest.

Skinner finished the night with 36 saves for the win, while Wong stepped up with two goals and an assist. Bellerive and Cozens both finished with a goal and an assist.

With the win, the Hurricanes advance to the Eastern Conference Championship series against the CHL’s top-ranked Regina Pats. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Championship series is set for Friday, April 21 (7 p.m. MT) at the Brandt Centre in Regina.

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