By Ryan McCracken on January 11, 2018.
Max Gerlach woke up Wednesday as a Medicine Hat Tiger, but a few hours later he was on the other side of the puck.
The 19-year-old Texan sniper was shipped to the Saskatoon Blades Wednesday morning — in exchange for 2000-born forward Bryan Lockner, a first-round bantam draft pick in 2020 and a second-round selection in 2021 — and made his debut against his former franchise that night.
“It’s been a hectic 24 hours for me. I had to pack up all my stuff and get in my car and head out,”said Gerlach, adding it was nice to start the new chapter in his career against so many familiar faces. “It was kind of nice being able to play my old team, just to kind of see those guys who were really great to me in my two and a half years and really great to me tonight.”
Gerlach is sitting on a point-per-game average with 16 goals and 20 assists through 36 games this season after collecting his first point as a Blade in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Medicine Hat. The 5-foot-9, 162-pound centre closed out his 180-game tenure as a Tiger with 80 goals and 62 assists.
“He scored an awful lot of goals in a Tigers jersey. We’re very appreciative he gave us a chance by moving up from Texas to Medicine Hat and we sure appreciate everything he’s done,”said Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston. “I think he’s going to have a great opportunity there with a bright upcoming team … I think the best trades are the trades that work for both teams.”
A perennial 30-goal scorer with Medicine Hat, Gerlach was in on his share of memorable moments. He was the first player to ever score a goal inside the Canalta Centre during Medicine Hat’s home opener in 2015 and went on to lead the team in goals with 30 goals that season, but the hardest thing to leave behind was the relationships he’s built with his teammates.
“It’s definitely a place that’s dear to my heart. It was tough hearing that I was moved. I’m obviously going to remember all the guys for sure,”said Gerlach. “Medicine Hat is really known for having tight teams and that’s definitely the truth. When I was there we got closer and closer every year. I was lucky to be part of it for a couple years and make some lifelong friends.”
One of those lifelong friends is Tigers defenceman David Quenneville. The pair of former teammates met in the corner at the end of Wednesday’s game and shared an embrace before parting the ice and heading to their separate dressing rooms.
“I think the cliché is hockey players can’t have feelings, but it’s tough. He’s a guy who’s been my best friend for a couple years,”said Gerlach, who will not return to Medicine Hat with the Blades in the regular season. “It was one last embrace, and off we go.”
Lockner has seven goals and five assists in 39 games with the Regina Pats this season, one point shy of his 13 points in 62 games last year. The 6-foot, 201-pound Windsor, Colo. product also comes with 23 games of playoff experience after going all the way to the final with the Pats last year.
Lockner was acquired by Saskatoon Wednesday morning — along with goaltender Tyler Brown and four draft picks in exchange forward Cameron Hebig and goaltender Ryan Kubic — just before being traded to the Tigers. He went on to record a goal in Medicine Hat’s win over Saskatoon.
The moves comes a day after Medicine Hat acquired another 2000-born forward in former Seattle Thunderbird Elijah Brown. Clouston says he believes Lockner and Brown will serve an important role with the Tigers for years to come.
“We believe they can help us now,”said Clouston. “For the rest of this year and at least two more years we expect those guys to be a big part of what we’re doing.”
Clouston added that with two players coming onto the roster and just Gerlach leaving, the Tigers have re-assigned forward Jaxon Steele to the Alberta Major Midget Hockey League’s Calgary Canucks.
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