Sunday, 31 March 2019

Future bright for Sillinger with WHL’s Tigers

Medicine Hat still eliminated from playoffs in OT heartbreaker

Cole Sillinger turned heads in the WHL playoffs with the Tigers.
    MEDICINE HAT, Alta. – The month of March has been a whirlwind to say the least for Cole Sillinger.
    The 15-year-old Regina, Sask., product started the month trying to help his hometown Regina Pats Canadians win the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League championship after topping the circuit with a 33-7-2-2 record in the regular season. 
    In helping the Pats earn a first place finish, Sillinger, who is a skilled forward, led the SMAAAHL in scoring with 31 goals and 45 assists for 76 points in 39 regular season appearances.
    The Pat Canadians were eliminated in a best-of-five SMAAAHL semifinal series dropping a 5-2 decision in a series deciding Game 5 at home on March 20 to the Notre Dame Hounds. The Hounds moved on to with the SMAAAHL title for a second straight year.
Cole Sillinger (#44) drives a shot on goal for the Tigers.
    After the Pat Canadians season game to an end, Sillinger was called up to play for the Medicine Hat Tigers in the WHL playoffs. He joined the Tigers on March 23 helping them earn a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of their best-of-seven first round series with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Alberta capital.
    On Sunday, the Tigers season came to an end as they dropped a heartbreaking 4-3 decision in overtime before 2,872 spectators at the Canalta Centre to the visiting Oil Kings.
    Edmonton netted the winner at the 2:43 mark of the extra session when captain Trey Fix-Wolansky fed linemate Vince Loschiavo with a perfect pass on a two-on-one break and Loschiavo buried the game and series winner.
    While the ending of Sunday’s contest was obviously tough to take for Sillinger, he was thankful he played in all six of the Tigers post-season games. 
Cole Sillinger scored his first goal with the Tigers in the playoffs.
    He believes he can hit the ground running, when he joins the team next season as a 16-year-old rookie.
    “I can kind of get into a routine,” said Sillinger, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 173 pounds. “I can just come in here with lots of confidence and just know that I can play. That will be huge for me.”
    Sillinger comes to the Tigers as a highly touted prospect. The Tigers selected him in the first round and 11th overall in last year’s WHL Bantam Draft.
    Of course, Sillinger’s father, Mike, played 17 seasons in the NHL from 1990-91 to 2008-09 with 12 different teams.
    As he wasn’t eligible to play full time in the WHL, Sillinger continued to lift his status with how he performed with the Pat Canadians. In leading the SMAAAHL in scoring, Sillinger collected a host of league awards.
Cole Sillinger, left, cuts to the net on an offensive rush for the Tigers.
    He was named the circuit’s most valuable player, rookie of the year, top forward and a first team all-star.
    In the final contest of the SMAAAHL regular season on Feb. 27, Sillinger score a short-handed overtime winning goal to give the Pat Canadians a 3-2 victory over the Blazers in Saskatoon to lock up first place in the league.
    While he played with the Pat Canadians, Sillinger was called up to play four regular season games with the Tigers, where he collected two assists.
Cole Sillinger jets up ice for the Tigers.
    In the WHL playoffs, Sillinger scored his first career goal netting the Tigers first tally in their 5-0 victory in Game 3 of their series with the Oil Kings last Tuesday in Medicine Hat.
    “It was just a huge goal for me, and I will remember it forever,” said Sillinger.
    Sillinger played significant minutes for the Tigers in the post-season, and Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston was pleased with how well Sillinger fit in.
    “He is a great player,” said Clouston. “He is a great kid.
    “He works hard. He is smart. He plays with confidence with the puck.
    “He understands how the game needs to be played. He was good for us in the games that we called him up.”
    Clouston was comfortable enough to call up Sillinger for a key regular season game at the Canalta Centre on March 9 against the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings. Sillinger finished that contest with a plus-one rating in the plus-minus department helping the Tigers pull out a 4-2 victory that really helped them get a lot closer to eventually clinching a playoff berth.  
Vince Loschiavo scored the OT winner for the Oil Kings.
    “It was great to see him score his first goal in the post-season,” said Clouston. “He has a bright future.”
    Sillinger said one of his biggest early hurdles in joining the Tigers for the WHL post-season was getting over the disappointment of the fact the Pat Canadians were eliminated from the SMAAAHL playoffs.
    “I was in the (Tigers) lineup, so I think I had to get that out of my head really quick,” said Sillinger. “I can’t sit on that loss (with the Pat Canadians).
    “I can’t wish that I was going to win a national championship with my midget team. I think that was just the biggest thing. I had to just get that out of my head and then just have the chance to extend my season with the Tigers and do something special with the guys.”
Captain James Hamblin scored a pair of goals for the Tigers.
    Sillinger believes he did a good job of quickly moving on to focus on what he needed to do to help the Tigers. He said he hasn’t even reflected on what it was like to win all the major individual awards he did with the SMAAAHL.
    “I can’t thank my teammates enough for those,” said Sillinger. “I haven’t really been thinking of those.
    “It has been all Tigers and all WHL and focusing on the Edmonton Oil Kings and focusing on what we have to do to win the series.”
    As for Sunday’s game, the Tigers fell behind 1-0 at the 4:09 mark of the first period, when Fix-Wolansky scored a short-handed goal with a backhand shot on a breakaway.
Captain Trey Fix-Wolansky celebrates his first period goal for the Oil Kings.
    Just 1:45 later, the Tigers evened things up at 1-1 on a goal from 17-year-old rookie left-winger Corson Hopwo.
    Early in the second, Tigers captain James Hamblin scored two goals 27 seconds apart from each other to put the hosts up 3-1.
    Just 25 seconds after that surge, Oil Kings defenceman Wyatt McLeod scored to cut the Tigers edge to 3-2.
    Offensive defenceman Conner McDonald netted the equalizer for the Oil Kings to force a 3-3 tie 31 seconds into the third period. That set the stage for Loschiavo to net the winner in overtime.
    Mads Sogaard made 33 saves to take the setback in goal for the Tigers. Todd Scott turned away 26 shots to pick up the win in net for the Oil Kings.
The fans at the Canalta Centre salute the Tigers.
    The result of Sunday’s game brought an end to the WHL careers of the Tigers overage players in Ryan Jevne, Dylan MacPherson and Linus Nassen.
    The Oil Kings finished first in the Central Division with a 42-18-4-4 record and were favoured to beat the Tigers, who placed fourth in the Central with a 35-27-4-2 mark.
    “I guess when you don’t win it is disappointing,” said Clouston. “I think we battled.
    “I think there were times where it looked like Edmonton was going to take the series right over early, but they didn’t. We were able to continue to battle. I’m proud of our effort and disappointed in the final outcome.”
The Tigers and Oil Kings engage in post-series handshakes.
    Sillinger said he learned how important it is to keep battling in the WHL playoffs no matter what was happening to his team.
    “One thing I am going to take away from it is just never give up,” said Sillinger. “That is one thing we did all series.
    “You can’t get too high with your emotions. You can’t get too low, when you are down. I think that is something that we did tonight.
    “I think that will be the biggest thing I’ll take away from the experience of playoffs.”
The Oil Kings celebrate their OT victory and first round series win.
    Edmonton advances to a best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference semifinal series to play the winner of the first round series between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Calgary Hitmen. 
    The series between the Hurricanes and Hitmen is tied 3-3 and will require a series-deciding Game 7 to be held on Tuesday in Lethbridge.
    Next season will be the Tigers 50th anniversary campaign in the WHL, and Sillinger can’t wait to hit the ice for that unique season.
    “That will be something special,” said Sillinger. “We’ll for sure have high goals for that.
    “We’ll have lots of these guys back. We’ll be really hungry.”

Ridley could reach 4,000 games next season

Bob Ridley called his 3,935th game as the Tigers play-by-play voice.
    When the Medicine Hat Tigers play through their 50th anniversary season in 2019-20, one of the biggest celebrations might revolve around Bob Ridley, who is the only play-by-play voice the team has ever had.
    Ridley, who will be 75-years-old during the 2019-20 campaign, is in position to call his 4,000th game as the Tigers play-by-play voice next season.
    In the 49 campaigns the Tigers have played, Ridley has called 3,935 of the club’s 3,936 games. That tally includes action in the regular season, standings tiebreaker games, WHL playoffs and the Memorial Cup tournament.
    Ridley has called 3,503 of the Tigers 3,504 regular season games, the one standings tiebreaker game the club has appeared in, all of their 411 games in the WHL playoffs and all 20 of their contests in the Memorial Cup.
    At the moment, the Tigers 65th game in the upcoming regular season would be Ridley’s 4,000th game.
    Of course, Ridley drove the Tigers team bus for most of that stretch.
    No one has called more games as the play-by-play voice of one hockey team at any level as Ridley has.

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