By Ryan McCracken on September 30, 2016.
Chad Butcher is riding high after the first weekend of his final WHL season.
The 20-year-old playmaker opened the 2016-17 campaign the way he finished the previous one, racking up assists on a line with Mason Shaw and Zach Fischer. Butcher feels they’ve all upped their game since missing out on the post-season this past spring.
“Fischer has a bigger body and he’s got some touch in front of the net and me and Mason like to move the puck around so it’s working well,” said Butcher. “We ended the season off together last year and had a lot of good games, we put up some numbers and I think it’s working well.”
Butcher’s seven-point weekend, which included a goal and five assists in Saturday’s 9-3 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes, earned him the title of WHL player of the week and a place on the top of the league’s points and assists leaders. While it’s only September, it’s never too early for a boost of confidence.
“It feels pretty good,” said Butcher. “More importantly we were able to bounce back and get a good win (Saturday) but it’s always nice to be recognized individually.”
Fischer, coming off 13 points in 35 games last season, connected on three Butcher passes for his first career hat trick, while Shaw â€” entering his first season of draft eligibility â€”recorded two assists on the night.
While the trio spent some time on a line together to close out last season, all three return to the ice this season sporting more muscle. All three tacked on at least 10 pounds of muscle over the summer, and Shaw says it’s a sign of things to come.
“All three of us worked really hard in the off-season and we have big expectations for ourselves,” said Shaw. “Working hard in the summer definitely has shown the preparation we’ve put in and we’re excited to get things going.”
Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston says Saturday’s success was brought about through a shift in the team’s attitude. After dropping Friday’s season opener to the Hurricanes, Clouston says the Tabbies embraced a system of trust among teammates, which paved the way to a blowout bounce-back.
“I think that was the difference between Friday and Saturday. On Friday we worked hard but didn’t execute very well as a team and we chased the game a little bit. I thought on Saturday we really trusted that everybody else was going to do their job. Sometimes it’s a bit of a leap of faith, but if you can trust that your teammates can do their job you don’t have to hesitate. You don’t have to wonder and worry.”
The Tigers (1-1-0-0) continue their season Friday at the Canalta Centre against the Saskatoon Blades (1-1-0-0). The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.