MEDICINE HAT — No one can accuse the Calgary Hitmen of taking the easy road.
The WHL’s top-ranked team needed overtime to dispatch the pesky Medicine Hat Tigers with a 3-2 victory Sunday night at the Medicine Hat Arena.
Kris Foucault scored the OT winner with 1:43 left in the first period of sudden death as the Hitmen survived a second significant test in as many playoff series.
Foucault forced overtime late in regulation and then won it when Tigers goaltender Tyler Bunz turned over the puck to the dangerous sniper, who whirled around and scored the series-winner.
Joel Broda was the only other Calgary player to light the lamp behind Bunz in regulation time.
Emerson Etem and Tristan King replied for the Tigers.
The shots were 46-27 for the Hitmen.
Last spring, the Hitmen waltzed through the first three rounds, playing just 12 games. They’ve already played 13 tilts in these playoffs and the third round has yet to begin.
Calgary will host Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final (against the winner of the Saskatoon Blades/Brandon Wheat Kings series) Friday at the Dome (7 p.m., Fan 960).
Bunz nearly stole the show for the second straight game, kicking out 35 saves through 60 minutes.
The Arena crowd was chanting ‘Bun-zie, Bun-zie’ after their goaltender made a mittful of massive stops in the third period.
The Hitmen, who outshot the Tigers 14-4 in the opening frame, got into penalty trouble at the end of the scoreless middle frame and started the third down two men.
And the Tigers needed just 18 seconds to capitalize as King buried a rebound for the eventual game winner.
From there, it was all Bunz, who stoned Misha Fisenko from the slot and then reached behind him with the paddle to steal a sure goal off the stick of Tyler Fiddler.
And he wasn’t done there as he robbed Hitmen defenceman Giffen Nyren three times.
But Bunz and Tigers blueliner Thomas Carr had a miscommunication behind their own net. Foucault jumped on the loose biscuit, outwaited Bunz and potted the equalizer with 2:07 to play.
The Hitmen had the Tigers hemmed in during the opening minutes of the game.
But the home side made good on its opening foray down the ice.
Bengals captain Wacey Hamilton’s high shot hit Jones in the shoulder, bounced up in the air and landed next to the Calgary ’tender. Etem banged it home to set off the fireworks in the jam-packed Arena.
The Hitmen tied it on a fortuitous bounce of their own just 38 seconds later.
Broda tipped Matt MacKenzie’s point shot wide, but the but rebounded off the end boards, hit Bunz in the back of the leg and slid into the net.
The visitors thought they had the go-ahead marker just past the midway point of the period when Broda batted the puck out of mid air and past Bunz. After a lengthy review, it was ruled Broda made contact with a high-stick.