Medicine Hat vs. Kootenay Features Oilers' Prospects

The Medicine Hat Arena. No need to fancy sponsorship names, sponsors put their names all over the ice instead.


The Edmonton Oilers did not make it into the post season, but a long list of Oilers' prospects did. That list includes the Oklahoma City Barons and their AHL playoff run that was cut too short. Ryan Martindale and the Ottawa 67s suffered a similar fate in the OHL. Martin Marincin and the Prince George Cougars had a short playoff run, and the same can be said of Jeremie Blain and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the QMJHL. Curtis Hamilton and the Saskatoon Blades' playoff dreams came to a sudden end, but with enough time for the Oilers to sign him to an entry level contract and send him to play with the Barons in OKC. Kristians Pelss and Cameron Abney played with the Edmonton Oil Kings through their first round of WHL playoffs, but Drew Czerwonka, Tyler Pitlick and Tyler Bunz's respective teams are still in playoff battle mode. The last of Oilers' playoff hopes rests with these three players, soon down to one team it seems.

Drew Czerwonka is currently playing for the Kootenay Ice and was selected in the 6th round in the 2010 NHL entry draft. I will have more on Czerwonka this week. The Medicine Hat Tylers are Tyler Bunz (fith round pick) and Tyler Pitlick (second round pick). Bunz has been ranked very high on the list of the WHL's top goaltenders. In fact, he was ranked second overall. Tyler Pitlick is a centreman who has been playing the wing as well. Both Tylers were also selected in the 2010 entry draft and both are hoping to see their NHL dreams come true with the developing Edmonton Oilers.

This past weekend, my hockey options were to go to Grandma's for Easter and miss any and all forms of hockey, stay home and watch NHL playoffs on TV or head out to Medicine Hat to watch some Oilers' prospect playoff hockey. I think I made the right call, despite the lack of turkey, ham and eggs fried in maple syrup consumed.

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The city of Medicine Hat is the fifth largest city in Alberta with a population of 61, 000. The arena has a capacity of 4170. That building easily held that many and more for the game Friday and Saturday night, but don't tell that to the fire department.  In fact, the press box was even taken over by the fine folks from Shaw who broadcast the games. When I say press box, I should use the term loosely. The media section is along the rails that enclose the last row of seats. They have signs that say media only and give us some wooden risers to stand on so we can see over the fans cheering. This becomes especially important when you are filming or taking pictures. My position was right along a pillar. I leaned over the railing to watch the opposite end of the ice, or went down to ice level to stand by entrances when I wanted to get a closer look. You know what though, I wouldn't have had it any other way. It was great to be able to speak to fans passing by, and it made it easier to speak to the other members of the media covering the game.

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The fans are amazing, and loyal. They know their players, they love their team and they love clam in beer. I've never quite understood that myself. I usually find at least one way to embarrass myself each day and in Medicine Hat I saw all of the orange in the arena and I heard on the radio the call for fans to wear their orange. When I saw what looked like orange beer, I had to ask if they dyed their beer. You know, like green beer on St. Patrick's Day. The answer was of course that no, they do not dye their beer. I explained who I was, and the fan I asked suddenly responded that he should have told me they do dye their beer; it would have made for a good story. Yes my friend, it would have. Tigers beer vendors, if you're reading this, I want 10% and we can call it "Tiger Blood." The popcorn and pop vendors made me smile every time. I have to include at least one photo of that.

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The Medicine Hat Tigers have been around since 1970 and have produced their fair share of NHL players. Those players include but certainly are not limited to Lanny McDonald, Derek Boogaard, Jay BouwmeesterJoffrey Lupul and Tyler Ennis. There are a few players that are draft eligible on the Tigers' roster this season. Again, you will hear a little more along those lines in the coming week.

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Friday night's game started off with the Ice getting a strong, quick start. Drew Czerwoka scored his first playoff goal and took a penalty during the course of the game. Tyler Pitlick is still out with a lower body injury and so watched the game from the zamboni entrance. The Tigers relied heavily on their star goaltender, Tyler Bunz to keep them competitive. Before the night was over, the Ice would win 6-5 in overtime. It was a heart breaker for the locals and a thrill for the busload of Kootenay Ice fans that filled a section of the arena and were scattered throughout.

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Saturday night started out much like Friday, unfortunately for Tigers fans. The Tigers attempted to catch up to the Ice, but fell short. When the Tigers took a power play, the Ice shut them down before they even set up. The Ice covered the ice magnificently; they played a physical and defensive game. Try as hard as they could, the Tigers just couldn’t manage to score and it was thanks to their rock in net, Tyler Bunz that the score remained as close as it did.

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The Tigers will now drive to Cranbrook BC for two games, but down by the same number. As head coach Shaun Clouston reminded the media, they have been in this position before and he has faith that his team can do it again. I've found myself eager to get behind the Tigers' playoff run, they have two Oilers prospects after all. If the Tigers can make it past the Ice in these WHL Easter conference finals I may just find myself in Alberta's Orange County once again.

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