A few post-series thoughts from Medicine Hat:
I still can't quite get my head around the Cole Grbavac penalty in overtime in Game 4. In overtime after his stick broke, the Tigers captain just ripped Sam Fioretti's stick out of the Warriors' hands.
It had a "did I just see what I thought I saw?" quality that was compounded by the fact that the call was so delayed. Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston felt that the official was giving Grbavac a chance to drop Fioretti's stick which explained the delayed reaction. Grbavac (who had 10 goals and 17 points in 13 playoff games a year ago, only had two assists in the Tigers' eight post-season games this year) was in a post-season slump and Clouston chalked it up to frustration.
Grbavac, speaking to Sean Rooney from the Medicine Hat News, had no explanation:
"It's tough to describe, I'm pretty sad. I'm pretty mad with myself. That was a dumb penalty, I wish I could take that back but I can't and unfortunately it cost us.
“Our team deserved a better fate. I’m incredibly sorry for the guys. They put in so much work and they deserve better.”
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There probably won't be an announcement until after the Portland-Kamloops series wraps up, but look for Shaw to carry the Moose Jaw-Edmonton series in the next round.
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In case you were wondering, the Edmonton Rush have a National Lacrosse League game in Rexall Place on Saturday, April 21, which is why the Warriors and Oil Kings will take that day off before playing at 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The Rush are playing the Calgary Roughnecks in the other, other Battle of Alberta at 7 p.m. that night for any Warriors fans who may want to check the game out on the day off between games.
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The Warriors top four defencemen are an impressive plus-30 in the playoffs. Kendall McFaull (+9), Dallas Ehrhardt (+8), Dylan McIlrath (+7) and Joel Edmundson (+6) are all in the top-20 in the WHL in plus/minus.
Quinton Howden is tied for the WHL lead at +11 with Portland's Sven Bärtschi and Tyler Wotherspoon.
You could argue that those four Warriors defencemen are playing the best hockey of their junior careers to date.
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There's not much more to say about Brayden Point. I'm curious if he is the youngest player in WHL history to score two overtime winners in one post-season (or even a single OT winner), but I haven't been able to find anyone who has records that go back far enough to check. You would have to think that it hasn't happened since the WHL draft came in to play. It's rare enough for an affiliate player still a year away from their rookie season plays much in the playoffs, never mind making the impact Point has.
Compare Point to first overall pick from last year Jake Virtanen from Calgary. Virtanen is going to be a very good WHL player without a doubt, but he had no points in five playoff games with the Hitmen and was a minus-four. Which is about what you expect from a 15-year-old frankly. Point has five goals, three assists, three game winners, two in overtime and is a plus-six. He hasn't been on the ice for a goal against yet in his nine post-season games.
What speaks almost as loudly as his play is how much his teammates seem to enjoy and respect him. The smiles and cat-calls as his teammates past Point while he did post-game interviews after Game 4 said a lot.
And what's not to like? He's well-spoken, bright, under-sized, but remarkably adept at winning puck battles and finding space and he scores massively clutch goals for fun.
There was a nice contingent of Moose Jaw fans and family at both games. It was great to see the local fans take their support on the road for a pair of mid-week games. By the end of Game 3, the Warriors fans had drowned out the Tigers fans as the clock began to run down.
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It was nice to get a taste of the playoff atmosphere at The Arena in Medicine Hat. It maybe wasn't the normal level of noise given how the series went, but it's a great old barn and it's a fun place to watch a junior hockey game.
There are photos lining the halls of The Arena, but the history of the Tigers was also visible in the stands. There were plenty of Tigers jerseys being worn in the stands — which is normal in a dub rink — but the vintage of some of the names on the back was what was most striking.
There were some old names — Chris St. Jacques and Ben Thomson going back about 10 years — and some legends like Lanny McDonald and Tom Lysiak and tons of more recent players whose names were on display.
The Lysiak jersey made me smile. In part because Lysiak is a player I would think most people under 25 or maybe even 30 have never heard of. Which is kind of amazing because he helped lead the Tigers to their first WHL title, won two WHL scoring titles, was taken second overall in the NHL draft and was runner-up for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. He played nearly 1,000 games, but he's one of those players that isn't well remembered. Except in the Hat apparently.
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Lanny McDonald, the other key member of that 1973 WHL title team, is the only Medicine Hat Tiger to have his number retired. While there are plenty of banners in The Arena, it's kind of incredible that McDonald's No. 8 is the only jersey up there.
I'm from the less is more school of jersey retiring, but no one from the Tigers' back-to-back Memorial Cup championship teams from 1987 and 1988 deserve to have their number retired? That's even more surprising when you consider that Trevor Linden was on that team.