Monday, April 28, 2014

Tigers Season Comes to an End

The Tigers season officially came to an end Saturday night in Edmonton as they lost a 4-3 decision to the Oil Kings. The Oil Kings Take the Series 3-1.

Graduating Overagers
Congratulations to Dylan Bredo who on Saturday night played in his 400th career WHL Game. (including playoffs, all with the Tigers)

Congratulations to Curtis Valk who played in his 319th Career WHL game, again all with the Tigers. Watching the transition this kid made from getting stapled in the corner every game, to someone who could turn  signed WHL defenseman inside out and  put up massive points. It's probably the biggest improvement I have seen from a player in the whl with the Tigers.

Congratulations to Jake Doty who scored his first career playoff goal in his last playoff game, and put up big improvements in his last two years here as a Tiger.

Player Highlights
Cole Sanford - Went from 11 points to 73. He also led the Tigers in scoring during the playoffs.
Tommy Vannelli - The Tigers unexpectedly received a star 2nd round defenseman after he decided to not go the NCAA route.
Marek Langhamer - had a bit of an up and down season early, but turned into a star goalie and was a HUGE factor on why the Tigers made it to the 3rd round of the WHL playoffs.

Hunter Shinkaruk - Despite a season ending injury mid-season from Shinkaruk, the team was able to come together and play better overall.

Year in Review
This might not be a popular opinion but I thought that with the tools the Tigers had to work with this season it is a little bitter sweet. With how the season played off the Tigers had a good year with the roster they had making it to the 3rd round.

I thought they had the pieces to be a WHL contender. With the injury to shinkaruk, and the decision to keep Doty instead of Leier, those two players in the lineup could have given the Tigers a potent top two scoring lines instead of just one, and they probably didn't add players based on what they had.
It's just a little bittersweet knowing that the Tigers could have been more of a threat had the season played out differently.

Players To Watch For Next Season
Chad Butcher - Has last years Cole Sanford written on him. 3 Game Winners in the swift series, the 5'9 forward has been able to to win quite a few battles in the corners and could be a key cog in next years top 6.

Blake Penner - Every-time this kid gets on a roll he seemed to get injured. If he can stay healthy he is one of the Tigers better 2 way forwards. Like Butcher he wins a lot of the small battles. He should be able to play in a bigger role next season

Connor Hobbs - He looked like a veteran when he was called up at the end of the season. He threw a big hit every game, and his smarts looked like he had played a full season up here.

Trevor Cox - He doubled his point totals last season and scored 8 playoff goals. He will be looked on to provide a lot of offense next season

Cole Sanford - 11 points to 73 points. I thought Sanford missed about 4 chances for every chance he scored on. He is sneaky and smart. His 11 goals in the playoff tells us that he can put up big numbers again next season.

Next Season

100% Gone
Dylan Bredo - Graduated
Jake Doty - Graduated
Curtis Valk - Graduated
Hunter Shinkaruk - Pro's - Even though I don't think he is 100% ready for the next level, it is likely the Canucks will have him in their system for next season.

Tommy Vannelli - He quickly showed why he was a 2nd round draft pick, but over the course of the season showed a little wear and tear and became apparent that physically he is not ready for the next level. The Blues have signed him to an ELC contract. Since he was drafted out of high school he will be eligible to play in the AHL at 19. Its up to the blues on where they want to put him. They have a lot of Dman in their system, so I'd put the odds at a 50-50 chance he is back next season.

Tyler Lewington - I thought Lewington's game took off in the playoffs. He was consistently one of the top blue-liners every night. The intense physical nature of the playoffs seemed to spark his game up a notch. Prior to the playoffs I thought he was a candidate to back next season. We will have to see what Washington wants to do with him for next year they will still have to sign him.

Competing for Next Year's Overager's
Miles Koules - Likely to come back for his overage season.
Tyler Lewington - Questionable - He is not signed yet, but if he does sign he could play pro next season.
Kyle Becker -  Probable to be back
Marek Langhamer - Phoenix has already said it is likely he plays in the WHL as an overager. Based on his performance in the playoffs he is a lock.

Barring trades I think the top 3 are: Koules,Lewington,Langhamer, if Lewington doesnt return Becker is in there. (there is also an outside chance Koules could get picked up in the off-season)

Depth Charts (not estimated line combos)
Cox(19)  Sanford(19) Koules(20)
Ast(19) Owre(18) Butcher(18)
Penner(18) Eisenschmid(19) Broadhead(19)
Labelle(19) Mowbray(18) Bradley(17)


Vanelli(19)* Lewington(20)*
Stanton(19) Staples(19)
Hobbs(17) Queneville(16)
Schultz(17) Allan(18)

Marek Langhamer(20)
Nick Schneider(17)

Looking at the roster for next year a big factor will be the return of their experienced blue-liners.  Missing your #1, and #2 guy could be a big blow to the back-end if both move on to play pro's. If both (lewington/vannelli come back the Tigers defense with their goal-tending will be a strongpoint. It is looking like their will be a logjam back there.

Next year it will be Cox and Sanford who will be the guys who are targeted on offensively. It seems at first glance that they will have a similar Calibre team next year to this year if their blue-liners return, although they will miss a game-breaker like Curtis Valk, hopefully sanford, and cox can prove to be game-breakers next season.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

7th Heaven See ya in Edmonton!

Kootenay With Strong Start
Well the game didn't start out very well. Kootenay managed to score 51 seconds into the game from an unassisted slapshot that squeaked through Marek Langhamer's Pad's. 1-0 Kootenay

Kootenay came out very strong at the start and had the Tigers on their heels a little...That goal however was the only one Langhamer would let in, as he was a solid wall for the rest of the game.

Tiger Pushback
The Tigers responded with some pushback when Steve Owre squeaked a tip past Mackenzie Skapski. Miles Koules with some work along the boards fed the puck to Markus Eisenschmid who took an off-balance shot in the slot. Owre managed to tip the puck and it gave Skapski some trouble.

 The puck bounced off his pads and started trickling towards the net. Owre was right there and it almost looked like he was going to glove the puck in, however a kootenay defender tied him right up and it was just enough time for the puck to cross the goal-line and the crowd erupted!!!  1-1 TIE

Towards the end of the first period the Ice were pushing very hard and were locking the Tigers in their own end.

Second Period
The period flew by. I thought the Tigers won the second period they had a couple really good scoring chances, but they couldn't quite convert on. Koules had a partial open net but Skapski somehow got a pad on it.  The Ice are already down some Dman with 2 of their core guys out. Blake Penner put on a nice hit on Tyler King, and I'm not sure if he returned to the game.

Third Period
The third period is where the magic happened. 41 Seconds into the period the Ice had 3 forwards deep and Cole Sanford chipped a puck past a pinching Rinat Valiev. Cox had a partial break but fumbled the puck. It was one of those grip it and rip shots and it beat Skapski low to the far side, 2-1 Tigers

Kootenay later would miss a wide open net chance....and that came back to bite them as the Tigers sanford would again get a hold of a puck and chip it past a pinching Dman....They went up on a 2 on 0 break...he fed the Puck to Cox who buried his second of the game. 3-1 Tigers

Cole Sanford would seal the Deal with a Mid-ice empty Net goal. 4-1 Tigers Final
Tigers Take the Series 4-3!!!!!

The Tigers get One Day of Rest before they face the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday.

3rd Round Schedule
Medicine Hat
Friday, April 18
7:00 pm
Medicine Hat
Sunday, April 20
4:00 pm
Medicine Hat
Tuesday, April 22
7:00 pm
Medicine Hat
Wednesday, April 23
7:00 pm
Medicine Hat
Saturday, April 26
7:00 * pm
Medicine Hat
Monday, April 28
7:00 * pm
Medicine Hat
Tuesday, April 29
7:00 * pm

The Series will be Broadcasted Live on Shaw TV

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tigers Face Elimination Series Tied 3-3

Well Games one and Two were pretty similar, but exactly opposites with how they played out. In game One it was Kootenay tieing the game  and winning the third period. In Game two it was the Tigers tieing it up, and winning the third period.

Game One

It was a pretty tight affair. Kootenay started the game very quickly scoring 1:50 into the game. The Tigers were able to take the lead with 2 goals by the top line with Cox and Sanford scoring on the powerplay. After that the Tigers offensive chances really dried up, and it was a big battle to get out of their end. By the time they had the puck they were often gassed. Kootenay's Rinat Valiev would score the game winner with just under 7 minutes to play.

Jake Doty was suspended one game for his instigator and fight at the end of the game. It started when Tyler Lewington ran over a kootenay player at the end of the game fairly soon after a faceoff. Their were 3 Tigers right overtop of him and Ice player Austin Vetterl came to his rescue pushing into the scrum. Vetterl kinda took on the wrong guy though as it was Doty and Labelle pushing back.....  Doty dropped the gloves threw a couple punches and Vetterl dropped his gloves as well, but quickly turtled after Doty was feeding him shots.    

Even in the Swift series the Refs were watching Doty closely. Doty is one to step in and defend his teammates, or get on someones case after they become a nuisance and the refs are really pinpointing and cracking down on him for the 3rd man in.

Game Two
Was pretty similar to game one, except the Tigers started adjusting to some of the stuff Kootenay was doing to lock them in their own end. I thought it was a game changer and opened up the Tigers offensive chances..   

Kootenay sends that first forward in their as fast as possible, and his sole job is to lay a hit, and get the Dman to make a rushed pass. IF the kootenay attacker is successful the Tigers start their breakout from near or behind the net and Kootenay's "offensive trap" locks them in their own zone with guys in passing lanes, and the second attacker coming in puts strong pressure on the winger to turn the puck over. It resulted in a lot of grind them out board battles, and some Kootenay Chances in the slot area.  Marek Langhamer has been playing phenomenal hockey to keep the Tigers in it.   In Game Two in the third period we saw the Tigers able to breakout from this offensive trap.

I think the winner of the series will be whoever is able to outmaneuver the other team in this chess match. Kootenay gets quite a few offensive chances off of this, and if the Tigers can minimize that kind of damage it wouldn't hurt their chances. You can bet both teams will be working on these areas during the 2 days they have off.

A positive note is that the Tigers were able to hold Reinhart, and Descheneau to 0 points in the first two games. 

Up Next: The Tigers visit Cranbrook Wednesday and Thursday for Games 3 and 4. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kootenay Thoughts

In general the regular season doesn't mean much in terms of playoff success, however you usually can take the last 15-20 or so  games played as an indication of how the matchups will stack up. The Tigers played twice in Kootenay losing 5-2 both times, however over the course of the season neither team won in the other teams building this year.

Kootenay's Top scorers Sam Reinhart,  Jaedon Descheneau and Phillip/Franko did the Majority of scoring for the could compare that to the Tigers Valk/Sanford/Cox line who did the majority of scoring for the Tigers.

Kootenay's goaltender Mackenzie Skapski struggled a little in the Hitmen Series. He was pulled in games 3 and 4, and their backup Wyatt Hoffin finished the series with back to back wins. It will be interesting to see if they go back to Skapski or if they ride the hotter goalie in Wyatt Hoffin.. The Tigers faced Hoffin once back on January 29th with  a 6-2 win at the arena.

Injuries Edit: March 3rd
Gavin Broadhead, Anthony Ast, Hunter Shinkaruk weren't able to play a game in the first round. Steven Owre returned for the last couple games and saw lowered Ice Time.

Anthony Ast
The Newspaper had an article today which mentioned that Ast will likely be ready to go for Game 1.

Broadhead remains a bit of a mystery he may be out for a bit yet.

For Kootenay Tim Bozon has just been discharged from the hospital 4 days ago following a bout of meningitis. He will be flying back to France and entering a  sports rehabilitation clinic in the southwestern town of Capbreton.

Defenseman Tanner Faith is out with an upper Body injury who was listed as out for 3-5 months on the last WHL Injury Report, so it looks unlikely that he will be available.

Left Winger Ryan Chynoweth also appears out. The last WHL report says he was out indefinitely and did not play in the Calgary Series.

Kootenay Received Landon Cross back from injury In Game 3, and Landon peel back from injury in game 2.

Special teams
In round one Kootenay racked up 36 powerplay opportunities and scored 11 times on the powerplay, for a staggering 30%. The Tigers were 12.5% scoring twice in 16 opportunities. Going on past history the Ice always seem to score very timely special teams goals.

At the Arena I remember at times the Tiger controlled large parts of the play, but Kootenay somehow stuck around and timely goals made it close.  When the Tigers are playing well their game is spread out, with the defenseman jumping up if needed on the breakout, often able to carry the puck out themselves.....When they don't play well they bunch up and limit themselves to only 1 or 2 passing options in their own zone.