By JAMES TUBB on January 26, 2024.
The Medicine Hat Tigers head into the weekend facing another team that was active at the trade deadline.
The Tigers have a home-and-home series with the Moose Jaw Warriors that gets started tonight at Moose Jaw. The Warriors added Wenatchee Wild and former Winnipeg Ice star Matthew Savoie, who represented Canada at the World Juniors after starting the season with the Buffalo Sabres.
The Tigers have split the first two games of the season against Moose Jaw, falling 4-3 at home on Oct. 7 and pulling out a 2-1 shootout win on Nov. 10. Both games came before the Warriors added Savoie and they have yet to lose a game since acquiring him on Jan. 10.
Medicine Hat heads into the weekend still with a shorthanded lineup. According to head coach Willie Desjardins, forward Marcus Pacheco is questionable for the weekend, leaving the Tigers with 10 forwards and eight defenceman.
He says it will be a tough weekend for his shorthanded group against a team like Moose Jaw.
“They have a good team, they’re really quick, they have all kinds of firepower and we’re going to have to have great structure and we’re going to have to work hard,” Desjardins said. “We’re still battling to get a lineup together and get guys back in their spots, so it’s going to be a tough two games.”
Last season the Tigers had the luck of being a relatively healthy lineup. Even when they did have injuries, which they only did at forward, there were multiple affiliate options in Gavin McKenna, Kadon McCann and Hayden Harsanyi either down the road with the South Alberta Hockey Academy or just up it in Calgary.
With how many players they’ve graduated to the WHL level and the long-term injuries at forward to Brayden Boehm and Cayden Lindstrom, there isn’t the same group of signed rookies able to step into the lineup. It’s a fluctuation of the roster Desjardins says he hasn’t seen before.
“It’s different this year because we’re really young, so we don’t have any call-ups, we have who we have and we have to play with it.” Desjardins said. “Later on we can go and bring in some 15-year-olds, but it’s kind of different that way.
“The good part is guys get to play. We don’t have anybody sitting out every night, guys are playing and that’s what we want. We want to keep developing guys, so it’s been good that way.”
Andrew Basha is expected to be back in the lineup, barring any travel issues, after playing in the CHL/NHL Top prospects game in Moncton, NB on Wednesday.
The weekend matchup will also be the first time the Tigers will be the opponent of goaltender Evan May, who was also acquired by the Warriors at the deadline.
May was 9-7-2 this season for the Tigers with a 3.46 GAA and .884 save percentage and two shutouts. In 40 games for Medicine Hat, May was 14-16-2 with a .886 save percentage and 3.44 goals against average after being acquired from the Everett Silvertips during the 2022-2023 season.
Coming into the weekend, he’s appeared in one game for Moose Jaw, making 22 saves in a 6-3 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Jan. 17.
Saturday’s game at Co-op Place is the Tigers’ special jersey night with the Re/Max Nickelodeon Night for Children’s Miracle Network.
They’ll be donning blue and yellow jerseys themed around SpongeBob SquarePants that will be auctioned off online, with proceeds going toward the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Editors note: An earlier version of the story said the Tigers have seven defencemen, they have eight.