By RYAN MCCRACKEN on March 15, 2019.
Brett Kemp has found his groove in the Gas City.
The 18-year-old Yorkton product became a member of the Medicine Hat Tigers at the trade deadline in early January. While he admits it took some time to acclimatize to the transition, with four goals and five assists in the past five games, it’s safe to say Kemp is reaching his potential with his first career post-season on the horizon.
“Obviously it takes time,” said Kemp, who scored his first career hat trick and added an assist in Wednesday’s 7-4 playoff-clinching win over the Red Deer Rebels. “Everyone here is a good player so I knew I was going to fit in some way, and I think I have now. It’s just starting to pay off now and we’re just going to keep going strong.”
Kemp recently missed three games with an upper-body injury, but after returning earlier this month, the 6-foot, 162-pound forward has been slotted between a pair of new linemates in Ryan Chyzowski and Ryan Jevne, and the trio has built chemistry.
“I think we’re all pretty smart and skilled players,” said Chyzowski, who assisted on two of Kemp’s goals Wednesday and scored two of his own. “We kind of got back to our foundation and the work ethic that we kind of got away from there for a little bit. We’re kind of having it all come together at the same time and I think that’s just leading to some success right now.”
Kemp added he, Chyzowski and Jevne all bring a similar approach to the ice, which has made meshing their styles of play together an easy task to accomplish.
“I think we kind of just play like each other,” said Kemp, who has nine goals and nine assists in 22 games since joining the Tigers, bringing his season totals to 31 and 26, respectively. “We kind of know where we’re going to be and the spots we’re going to be in. It just makes everyone’s game a little bit easier and it’s starting to pay off.”
Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston says Kemp seems to have been on the edge of a scoring surge for the better part of a month, and to see him finally get over the hump with the playoffs in sight bodes well for the future.
“He wasn’t playing poorly ever, he’s played well, but you could see him getting more and more comfortable, understanding the way we want to do things,” said Clouston. “It takes a while. You’re in one spot for a while and you’ve got billets and teammates and friends, and then you move to a different city with different billets and teammates and you’ve got to make new friends. I think it took him a little bit, but he’s fit right in.”
Clouston added the Tigers went through a harsh test of adversity at the right time, and they seem to have become a stronger unit as a result. After gathering seven of a possible eight points on a demanding U.S. Division road trip, the Tigers fell into a tailspin – dropping nine of 10 games – before finally righting the ship and punching their ticket to the playoffs.
“I think that a lot of the hard work went in during that stretch, and we didn’t have Kemp for a big chunk of that, or Jevne or (Elijah) Brown. We believed that we were going to get healthy, that it was going to help,” said Clouston. “It’s nice to be rewarded.”
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