By Ryan McCracken on October 5, 2017.
The Medicine Hat Tigers cut their import count down to two on Tuesday with the release of German forward Mick Kohler.
The move makes room for the return of Latvian blueliner Kristians Rubins, while officially giving Swedish defenceman Linus Nassen full-time status in the Gas City.
“With losing so many players from last year I think that shoring up the back end became really, really important,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston, adding Kohler just didn’t stand out the way Rubins and Nassen do. “He had four pre-season games and four regular season games and he didn’t look nearly as good in the regular season. It’s always challenging. We were in a situation where we had an extra guy and it was just our decision that Rubins and Nassen at this time were a better way to go.”
Rubins will start his overage season in Friday’s home game against the Regina Pats after recovering from shoulder surgery. The evening will likely also feature the debut of 19-year-old goaltender Jordan Hollett — who has been recovering from a case of mono for the past six weeks —and with near-impeccable timing to boot.
On top of the fact Hollett would be making his debut in orange and black against the team that traded him away nearly five months ago, adding him to the lineup alongside Rubins would allow for overage forwards Zach Fischer and Mark Rassell to remain in action, while netminder Michael Bullion would be cycled out, says Clouston.
“If Hollett is ready to go — which we believe he is but he’s got a couple more days — we’ll get him in, which means Bully will come out,” said Clouston, adding the team will decide which of its four overagers to cut after the weekend. “I think (Bullion) has done a tremendous job, but it’s just one of those situations where eventually we’ve got to get down to three guys. We’ll have to see how that plays out after this weekend.”
Clouston added Rubins will likely be paired up with Redcliff product Dylan MacPherson for Friday’s contest. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Latvian spent the majority of last season in a pairing with Clayton Kirichenko.
“I don’t know what order or how it goes, but if you look at Rubins and (David) Quenneville and Nassen, we’ve got a pretty solid top three,” said Clouston, adding he’s looking to MacPherson to round out the top four. “If we can do a good job there it’ll help out all over the ice.”
As the oldest player on Medicine Hat’s back end, Rubins says he will be tasked with providing a leadership role for the team’s young defencemen while maintaining the steady blue line presence that earned him a place on this year’s roster as an overage import.
“It’s huge but it’s a lot of pressure too at the same time. I have to be at my best every day and show myself as best as I can to the younger guys to help the team get to where we want to be,” said Rubins. “It’s really an honour to be a leader here.”
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