June 12th, 2024

Next wave of Tigers ready for their opportunity

By JAMES TUBB on April 12, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Tigers prospect Markus Ruck lines up for his introduction ahead of his WHL debut on Nov. 25, 2023. Ruck has since switched to No. 18.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

While the Medicine Hat Tigers battled in their first-round series against the Red Deer Rebels, their future watched from the stands envisioning themselves on the biggest stage.

The Tigers had five black aces for their playoff run, with forwards Markus and Liam Ruck, defencemen Riley Steen, Koray Bozkaya and goaltender Jordan Switzer practising with the group and watching along during their five-game run.

It was an experience Markus Ruck wishes continued on longer but he says they learned a lot through the couple weeks.

“It was a great experience, also just having a bunch of young guys here and being able to workout with them and enjoy the experience together,” Markus said. “Just watch the team, they didn’t get the result they wanted but it was fun to see.

“It gives us motivation for the summer to be ready for next year because we want to get that end goal next year. Didn’t quite get it this year, but looking forward to that.”

Markus and his twin brother Liam got into WHL games this season, Markus suiting up in two regular season games and Liam dressing in three regular season contests, and he was in the Game 4 lineup in Red Deer. Liam only had a couple of shifts in that postseason contest and he says he realized how much quicker it gets come the second season.

“It was cool, it was quick but just to be there, be at ice level and be part of the group was really cool to experience that,” Liam said.

“It’s going to be a tough summer getting myself ready for (next season). We’ve got a great group and it should be a fun year next year.”

Besides Switzer who played in two regular season games, Steen and Bozkaya were the remaining aces still looking for that first taste of WHL action. Their next opportunity comes in the fall at training camp, their first chance at making the lineup full time.

Bozkaya says the atmosphere in Co-op Place was something he’ll remember and he is looking forward to working his way to being on the other end of those cheers.

“The environment here was awesome,” Bozkaya said. “The practices were intense, hard, it was great experience and a great little taste for next year for me.”

Watching along in the playoffs and practising with the team as they geared up for their most important games of the season only fuelled the fire for Steen as he gets ready for an important summer ahead of camp.

“I want to get there, I’m not someone that is satisfied with my game right now, I want everything to get better,” Steen said. “It’s not like a couple things I want to get better at, I just want to get better at everything. Overall, I want to have an awesome summer and just enjoy the grind.”

He’s already looking forward to the opportunity to prove himself in the fall as he tries to make the jump from the U18 level to the WHL.

“That’s one of the things I talked to Willie (Desjardins) about, was just looking forward to this,” Steen said. “This has to be a dream of mine and obviously it is, so I’m just super excited to get back here in the fall.”

The five black aces will be joined by forwards Avery Watson and Brayden Ryan-Mackay as signed prospects looking to make their mark at training camp this fall. While Desjardins is excited to see how the 2008-born class can improve over the summer, the Tigers head coach and general manager says it won’t be an easy task for them to crack a lineup.

“We have a lot of guys coming back, so it’s a tough roster,” Desjardins said. “If they want to crack it they’re going to have to work really hard this summer. I don’t think they were ready right now. You have to work hard and hopefully they do that.

“If they do, then they can be a good addition to our team.”

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