MEDICINE HAT, AB — A year after missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade the Medicine Hat Tigers are one of the best teams in the WHL this year.
The Central Division champs are set to play Brandon in the opening round of the playoffs, and from players to fans everyone is excited for their first postseason experience at the Canalta Centre.
It was an electric atmosphere Saturday night as the Tigers closed out the regular season with an 8-7 win over Lethbridge. David Quenneville scored the game winning goal with under 10 minutes to play, and the New York Islanders draft pick is ready for the playoffs to begin.
“First postseason game in the Canalta is really exciting,” said the 19-year-old during a Monday afternoon media availability. “We’ve kind of been waiting for the playoffs a little bit here and we’re all really excited to get the journey started.”
Fans are ready too, some of them lining up early Monday morning to be the first to get their hands on tickets. All of them, like decades long Tigers fan Wil Wikjord, eagerly awaiting the Canalta Centre’s first taste of postseason hockey.
“I think everyone’s pretty excited because of how they’ve played this year,” he said after grabbing his tickets. “There’s the possibility of them going a long way.”
Adjacent to those lining up to grab their tickets Monday at the box office inside the Canalta Centre was an empty rink. The calm before the storm perhaps, as Tigers Manager of Communications Ryan Plysuik expects a raucous crowd come Friday night.
“I think it’s going to be a really good atmosphere, hopefully like a carnival atmosphere where people are excited and rarin’ to go.”
By mid afternoon Monday Plysuik said around 300 fans had stopped by to grab their playoff tickets, and he thinks Saturday night’s regular season finale was a preview of what’s to come.
“Hopefully we can make it as loud as it was Saturday night, that was probably the loudest we’ve had it here in a very long time,” the communication manager said.
And it’s a view backed up by Tigers play-by-play legend Bob Ridley, who remarked “I haven’t heard this noise here since we opened this building” during his broadcast at the end of Saturday’s game.
Season ticket holders have until 6 pm on Wednesday before their reserved seats go into the pool of tickets available to the general public. But as the lineup Monday morning showed, quite a few aren’t in risk of having that happen.