Two Alberta rivals will go head-to-head in this week’s edition of the Sportsnet CHL Saturday Showcase as the Medicine Hat Tigers (21-15-1-2) head west to face off with the Calgary Hitmen (17-16-3-1) at 3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT on Sportsnet.
Entering Friday, the two squads hold down the top two spots in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference wild card. Both teams also enter the Saturday Showcase on the second half of back-to-back games, as the Tigers will play the Kootenay ICE at home Friday, while the Hitmen host the Red Deer Rebels at Calgary’s Saddledome.
The Tigers open Friday’s contest riding a four-game win streak, backed by big offensive contributions from captain James Hamblin, who has picked up six goals and two assists over the four-game stretch. Meanwhile, the Hitmen head into Friday having won their last two, including a 4-0 victory over the B.C. Division-leading Vancouver Giants in which netminder Jack McNaughton turned aside 25 shots for his second shutout of the season.
Saturday’s contest marks the third of six meetings between the Tigers and Hitmen this year. The sides have split the season series at one win a piece, as the Hitmen took the Nov. 2 contest by a 7-5 score, in which captain Mark Kastelic led the way with two goals and one assist, while the Tigers found the win column two nights later in a 5-4 victory thanks to a three-point effort from Swedish blue-liner Linus Nassen.
Key to victory for the Hitmen could be the team’s potent power play, as the Hitmen’s 28.2% proficiency on the man advantage ranks second in the WHL. Calgary has tallied at least one power-play goal in its last seven appearances. Kastelic’s 27 goals rank third league-wide, however he sits first in the WHL with 14 goals on the man advantage.
Meanwhile, the Tigers will look to push their win streak to five games led by a balanced scoring attack that is headlined by Hamblin, as well as forwards Ryan Jevne (19-19-38), Ryan Chyzowski (13-18-31), and Tyler Preziuso (13-18-31). Entering Friday, Preziuso has recorded at least one point in seven of his past nine outings.
Catch all the action Saturday on Sportsnet when the puck drops at 3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT.