May 20th, 2019

One last time: Tigers set for final game in Cranbrook

By RYAN MCCRACKEN on March 15, 2019.

Medicine Hat Tigers winger Corson Hopwo is stopped on a breakaway by Kootenay Ice goaltender Jesse Makaj during a Western Hockey League game on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 at the Canalta Centre.

The Medicine Hat Tigers will reach the end of an era tonight at Western Financial Place.

For as long as Medicine Hat Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston has been behind the bench in the Western Hockey League, Kootenay has been a regular rival. But when the puck drops between his Tabbies and the Ice tonight at 7 p.m., it will be the last time.

“I haven’t, as a coach, known anything but going into Cranbrook,” said Clouston, who has been behind the Tigers bench for 15 seasons and head coach for nine. “Some great teams, some really tough teams to play against over the years and some great playoff series against Kootenay, so it’s a little bit sad.”

Clouston’s ties to Cranbrook extend past his team’s rivalry with the Ice. His brother Cory spent seven seasons behind Kootenay’s bench – five as head coach – and still resides in Cranbrook today. Cory went on to coach the NHL’s Ottawa Senators for three seasons.

“He coached (in Cranbrook) for lots of years,” said Clouston. “I know lots of people are excited about a new team in Winnipeg, and the division changing – we’re going to get Swift in our division – but for the community I think it’s sad. I hope they enjoy the final game and I hope there’s lots of great memories for the town.”

Tigers centre Ryan Chyzowski – a product of Kamloops – says it’s been a treat to have a B.C.-based squad in the Central Division during his three seasons with the Tigers.

“It’s a pretty unique little building there and a unique city to play in – especially for us B.C. guys, it’s kind of the closest we get to home,” he said. “Going back into the mountains, it’s always special to go in there. It’ll be pretty cool to play there for the last time. It’s kind of the end of their legacy they’ve got there in Kootenay, but it’s pretty promising and exciting looking forward to them moving to Winnipeg.”

The Ice will play its final game at Western Financial Place on Saturday against the Red Deer Rebels, capping off a 21-year legacy in Cranbrook. Over that span, the team hoisted the Ed Chynoweth Cup three times, lifted the Memorial Cup in 2002, and made the playoffs in each of its first 17 seasons in Cranbrook before missing the playoffs the past four years.

The Tigers and Ice crossed paths in the playoffs four times. Kootenay won in four games in 2011 and five in 2008, while Medicine Hat won a six-game series in 2010 and a seven-game thriller in 2014.

The Ice – who have been ruled out of the playoffs this year with a 12-44-7-3 record entering tonight’s game – are slated to play out of the University of Manitoba when they make the move to Winnipeg next season.

Medicine Hat’s Jaeger White – Clouston’s stepson who was traded from the Tigers prior to this season – leads the Ice with 27 goals.

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