The Medicine Hat Tigers have enjoyed a few days off this past week after a four-game home stand that saw the team come up with three wins.
A pair of the victories came against two of the top teams in the Western Hockey League’s eastern conference – the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Prince Albert Raiders.
Through 24 games, Medicine Hat is 16-7-1, good for third place in the central division. The Tigers trail both the Lethbridge Hurricanes (17-7-0-3) and the Oil Kings (15-6-4-2), although Medicine Hat has three games in hand on each.
When the Tigers get to work with back-to-back games this weekend – Friday in Moose Jaw and Saturday at Canalta Centre against the Saskatoon Blades, it marks a run of nine games – five on the road – that will test the mettle of the group as the WHL approaches the annual December break in the schedule.
The tilt in Moose Jaw serves as a return engagement of sorts, as the Tigers toppled the Warriors a week ago by a 3-1 count. The victory was important as Moose Jaw enjoyed success last season against Medicine Hat, winning three of four games – two of those at Canalta Centre. The Tigers only win against the Warriors last season was a 6-5 overtime decision at Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw.
The Warriors played last week in Medicine Hat without high-octane forward Brayden Tracey, who was serving the second game of a two-game suspension. Tracey, who signed an entry level deal this past week with the Anaheim Ducks, was a thorn in the side for Medicine Hat with five goals and four assists in the four meetings. Tracey will be in the lineup tonight.
In fact, the Warriors will ice a roster with a new look tonight.
Overage forward Jadon Joseph is gone, sent to the Kelowna Rockets in exchange for forwards Kyle Crosbie, Kobe Mohr and goaltender James Porter.
Southern Alberta trade winds
The Tigers have also been busy on the trade front, consummating two deals this past week. Neither move impacts the current roster in terms of any player departures, but a pair of newcomers will likely play this weekend.
The first deal saw Medicine Hat acquire 19-year-old Cyle McNabb from the Blades for a sixth-round pick at the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft. McNabb, from Winnipeg, has appeared in over 150 WHL games.
“Everybody’s in a different boat on where you are with your team,” said Tigers assistant coach, Ryan Smith. “For us, we figured we needed another forward.”
With Bryan Lockner and Nick McCarry nursing a few bumps and bruises lately, adding some depth up front would seem to make sense. Added to the equation the impending departure of forward Jonathan Brinkman, who will represent Denmark at an IIHF tournament in early December.
“It’s not just the injuries but also, you know, like you said with Jon leaving,” Smith said. “So, bringing Cyle in made sense to us and it’s a good fit for us.
“We think that he adds a little something we don’t have – a little bit of a bigger body. He’ll jump right into the games here. We are we’re always trying to get better, always looking to improve.”
Go east young man
The Tigers also acquired defenceman Nick Perna, 18, who will travel east from the west coast via the the Portland Winterhawks, in exchange for a 2020 fourth-round pick. Perna, from Dallas, Texas, checks in at 6-foot-three and 180 pounds.
On the surface, it looks like a good fit, adding depth and size to a blueline brigade that probably deserves more respect than it gets.
According to Josh Critzer of DUBNetwork.ca, Portland was flush with defenceman with eight players on its roster and a ninth already signed. Critzer’s take on the deal is right here.
“If we can improve our team with the moves,” Smith said, “we will do it without disrupting the culture that we’ve created. That’s quite important to us. We like our guys. We like what we’ve done so far.
“We like where we’re heading so the move has to make a lot of sense, sport-wise and culture-wise.”
The players speak
Veteran Ryan Chyzowski has played over 200 WHL games, all with the Tigers. It’s fair to say the 19-year-old has seen a few things during his junior career.
“I think it throws things off a little, but it gives guys opportunities, moving up the lineup,” Chyzowski said, when asked about player movement and calls to duty for international events. “And you know, those players usually do well, so it’s exciting for them and I don’t think it’ll be too drastic that we will have to change our game plan again.”
Chyzowski, who has been outstanding this season with 10 goals and 13 assists in 23 games, finds himself in a unique position as a veteran WHL player. He confirmed to DUBNetwork that his brother Nick, who appeared in 359 WHL games over five seasons, was never traded. And, his father Dave played 189 games over three seasons in the WHL and was also never traded. Both Nick and Dave played with the Kamloops Blazers.
This means the Chyzowski crew are players used to seeing teammates leave an organization, while also welcoming those who arrive mid-stream.
Ryan admits he is comfortable in the Tigers room these days, a player responsible within the leadership group.
“I think it’s huge for us guys that have been here awhile,” Chyzowski said, when asked about welcoming players who arrive in Medicine Hat. “We have to help these guys come in and gel into the team as quickly as they can.
“It’s just a matter of getting them into the flow of things. We want to keep the team rolling. Getting new guys is exciting, adding assets to our team.”
Tigers Tales…The Tigers are among the top scoring teams in the WHL with 95 goals, tied with the Raiders. Lethbridge (109) and Kamloops (101) lead the way…James Hamblin leads the team with 15 goals and 20 assists. Brett Kemp is next with seven goals and 19 assists…Goaltender Mads Sogaard will join Brinkman at the IIHF tournament as Denmark looks to win its way back into the 2021 World Junior Championship. Denmark lost in relegation play at the 2019 WJC. Both import players depart Dec. 9…The Tigers are tough to catch, sporting a 7-1 record in games when leading after 20 minutes. Medicine Hat is 10-0 when leading after two periods…The Tigers have the fourth best power play production in the WHL, scoring 24 times in 99 opportunities for a 24.2% efficiency. If there is a downside, the Tigers have surrendered five shorthanded goals…The penalty-killing unit is ranked 17th…Cole Sillinger is third in rookie scoring with 10 goals and 10 assists in 19 games. The 16-year-old trails Winnipeg ICE forward Michal Teply (23) and Kelowna Rockets Pavel Novak (21)…Saturday night is the Tigers annual Teddy Bear Toss Game. Puck drop is 7:30pm…According to the WHL, the Tigers drew an average of 3,121 per game during the 2018-19 regular season. Through 11 home dates so far, the average population at Tigers home games is 2,923.