By Ryan McCracken on February 17, 2017.
They may not have realized it until they left the rink Wednesday night, but the Medicine Hat Tigers are bound for the post-season.
Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Victoria Royals pushed the Tabbies 33 points in front of the Calgary Hitmen — who have 16 games left on the docket — and mathematically cemented their place in the playoffs after missing out in a devastating tiebreaker loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings last year.
“Initially after the game in the room no one knew. After the game a couple of us went to get a bite to eat and we found out there so we were pretty pumped,” said Tigers forward Mason Shaw, adding they don’t plan on slowing their pace despite the 41-16-1-0 record. “Last year every game mattered for the last 15. So now it’s nice to have that comfort that we’re going to get a little bit more time together, but the foot doesn’t come off the gas pedal at this point.
“It would be easy for us to just coast into the playoffs, whatever happens, happens — but that’s not the outlook we’re taking.”
While Shaw is in his third season with the Tigers, knee surgery ended his rookie year in November of 2014 and kept him off the team’s playoff roster. Now the draft eligible playmaker is staring down his first opportunity to battle for the Chynoweth Cup, and needless to say, he’s excited.
“To get my first taste of WHL post-season hockey I’m super fired up about,” said Shaw, adding he’s looking forward to an amped up atmosphere at the Canalta Centre. “Obviously being in Medicine Hat and seeing some playoff games in the old arena, the town gets right behind you. Coming to the rink and getting prepped up for playoffs, it also adds that extra spark too.”
While Medicine Hat’s sophomore and rookie players join Shaw in itching for their first taste of the post-season, veterans like Steven Owre simply can’t wait for a return. Last year marked the first time since 2002 that Medicine Hat was held out of playoff contention, but Owre says the experience only galvanized this year’s very similar roster.
“You play with the same core group of guys for a while and you build some chemistry. There have been a few pieces moving in and out but it’s been good so far,” said Owre. “We’ve got a good group of guys and we’re jelling this year. It’s really fun to be a part of.”
The Tigers continue their regular season campaign tonight at the Credit Union iPlex against the Swift Current Broncos. The puck drops at 6 p.m.
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