The Winnipeg Ice began what they hope is a long playoff run Friday night with a 5-3 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers at the Wayne Fleming Arena to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven, first-round series.
The Ice were led by forward Matthew Savoie, who picked up three goals and added an assist.
“We wanted to come in and build some momentum in Game 1 and I thought we did a good job of doing that,” Savoie said.
Head coach James Patrick says it wasn’t a masterpiece, but he was happy to open the series on a winning note.
“Both teams were off for a week, so I think that’s why there were some breakdowns,” Patrick said. “But at the end of the day, we did a lot of good things.”
Winnipeg wasted very little time opening the scoring, as Zack Ostapchuk potted a goal on the powerplay just 1:50 into the game.
Later in the period, the Ice added to the lead as Savoie converted a pass from Ben Zloty at the 8:22 mark to put Winnipeg up 2-0.
A goal by Medicine Hat’s Andrew Basha a couple of minutes later cut the lead to 2-1 and it would remain that way until just past the halfway point of the second period, when the Ice converted on another powerplay, as Evan Friesen lit the lamp at the 10:28 mark.
Savoie would strike again for his second of the game at the 4:55 mark of the third period on the powerplay, and after the Tigers cut it to 4-2 on another Basha goal, Savoie cashed in his hat-trick goal into an empty net. Rhett Parsons would score with 12 seconds left for the Tigers to make the final score a little more respectable.
“To win in the playoffs, you need your best guys to be the best on the ice,” Patrick said of Savoie. “And he was there tonight.”
Daniel Hauser made 33 saves in net for the Ice. Zloty picked up four assists, while Connor McClennon picked up a pair of helpers.
The Ice are the heavy favourites in this series, finishing with the WHL’s best record during the regular season (57-10-1, 115 PTS), and 46 points ahead of the Tigers (30-29-9, 69 PTS)
Game 2 goes Saturday night in Winnipeg with a 6:05 p.m. puck drop.