In the second half of the 2018-19 WHL Regular Season, the Central Division race proved to be an intense battle. It was anyone’s game and the Edmonton Oil Kings were the eventual winners, claiming the Central Division title. The Medicine Hat Tigers were also strong contenders for finishing in the top three positions in the Division but snagged an Eastern Conference wild-card position instead.
Meeting for the first time in the WHL Playoffs since the 2014 Eastern Conference Championship, where the Oil Kings eventually went on to capture the Memorial Cup that year, the two teams have a rivalry and history that will heat the series up pretty quickly.
During the season, Edmonton dominated the head-to-head series against Medicine Hat, tallying a 5-0-0-1 record. But, four of the six games ended with just a single goal difference proving the Tigers’ grit and resilience; characteristics they are well-known for.
For the Tigers, there are a few standout players, but for the most part, their strength lies in their ability to work together as a team. Bringing individual strengths together as one comprehensive unit provides Medicine Hat a strong foundation to build off of and makes them a difficult and sometimes unpredictable team to handle. Leaders such as captain James Hamblin, Ryan Jevne, Linus Nassen (Florida Panthers) and Jordan Hollett (Ottawa Senators) were able to guide up-and-coming 2019 NHL Draft prospects, Brett Kemp, Ryan Chyzowski and Mads Søgaard, as well as the remainder of the team, to work as a unit.
For the Oil Kings, a slightly more developed and talented roster may provide the upper hand. With four 2019 NHL Draft prospects including Matthew Robertson, Josh Williams, Vladimir Alistrov and David Kope, rookie standout Jake Neighbours and captain Trey Fix-Wolansky (Columbus Blue Jackets), the offensive power for the Oil Kings is promising for the WHL Playoffs. Dylan Myskiw has also stood out tremendously in the last half of the season, coming up clutch when the Oil Kings needed him most.
The series will get underway at Rogers Place in the provincial capital on Saturday, March 23 (7:30 p.m. MT) and continue with Game 2 Sunday, March 24 (6 p.m. MT). The series will then shift to Medicine Hat, Alta. and the Canalta Centre for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday, March 26 (7 p.m. MT) and Wednesday, March 27 (7 p.m. MT); respectively.
Game 1 – Saturday, March 23 – Rogers Place – Edmonton, Alta. – 7:30 p.m. MT
Game 2 – Sunday, March 24 – Rogers Place – Edmonton, Alta. – 6 p.m. MT
Game 3 – Tuesday, March 26 – Canalta Centre – Medicine Hat, Alta. – 7 p.m. MT
Game 4 – Wednesday, March 27 – Canalta Centre – Medicine Hat, Alta. – 7 p.m. MT
*Game 5 – Friday, March 29 – Rogers Place – Edmonton, Alta. – 7 p.m. MT
*Game 6 – Sunday, March 31 – Canalta Centre – Medicine Hat, Alta. – 6 p.m. MT
*Game 7 – Tuesday, April 2 – Rogers Place – Edmonton, Alta. – 7 p.m. MT
2018-19 Season Series
Sept. 26 Medicine Hat 2 at Edmonton 3
Nov. 10 Edmonton 4 at Medicine Hat 3
Jan. 12 Edmonton 2 at Medicine Hat 1 OT
Jan. 16 Edmonton 3 at Medicine Hat 4 SO
Feb. 18 Medicine Hat 0 at Edmonton 5
March 1 Medicine Hat 2 at Edmonton 4
|Edmonton Oil Kings
|42-18-4-4 (92 points)
||35-27-4-2 (76 points)
|First Place – Central
||Fourth Place – Central
|Did not qualify for playoffs
||Lost in Eastern Conference Round One
|Trey Fix-Wolansky – 37-65-102
||James Hamblin – 33-44-77
|Vince Loschiavo – 37-25-62
||Second Leading Scorer
||Ryan Jevne – 32-36-68
|Quinn Benjafield – 15-39-54
||Third Leading Scorer
||Brett Kemp – 33-27-60
|Trey Fix-Wolansky and Vince Loschiavo – 37 goals
||Top Goal Scorer
||James Hamblin and Brett Kemp – 33 goals
|Connor McDonald – 19-31-50
||Top Scoring Defenceman
||Linus Nassen – 7-39-46
|Dylan Myskiw (45 GP, 28-11-2-3, 2.53 GAA, .914 SV%, 1 SO)
||Mads Søgaard (37 GP, 19-8-2-2, 2.64 GAA, .921 SV%, 3 SO)
Key to the Series – Edmonton Oil Kings
As always, special teams are a major key to winning, and the Oil Kings have got to stay on top of their power play and penalty killing to capitalize against the Tigers.
Because Medicine Hat’s goaltending has been strong this season with Hollett and Søgaard, capitalizing with an extra attacker for Edmonton will be needed to ensure further success.
Key to the Series – Medicine Hat Tigers
Medicine Hat’s forwards will need to be defensively-minded against the Oil Kings to assist their defencemen and keep Edmonton away from the attacking zone as much as possible. While Medicine Hat’s goaltending is very strong, remembering responsibilities at both ends of the ice will be required in this series to keep the Oil Kings in check.
Forward to Watch – Edmonton Oil Kings
Trey Fix-Wolansky (37-65 – 102): After recently signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the 5-foot-7, 188-pound captain will be on a mission to help his team shine in the WHL Playoffs. Tied for fourth among WHL skaters in overall scoring, he proved to be a leader and the driving force as Edmonton claimed the division crown.
In six games against the Tigers, Fix-Wolansky recorded six points (2G-4A) in four of the games, demonstrating his ability to put up multiple points in one game. Also recording six points in the head-to-head series against Medicine Hat was Vince Loschiavo, who currently sits second behind Fix-Wolansky in scoring for the Oil Kings. Loschiavo is also leading the league in game-winning goals with 11 this season, two of them occurring against the Tigers.
Forward to Watch – Medicine Hat Tigers
James Hamblin (33-44 – 77): Similarly, James Hamblin, captain of the Tigers, is also an offensive driving force for his team. Finishing the 2018-19 WHL Regular Season with a six-game point streak, the 5-foot-9, 176-pound centreman has contributed four assists in the six games between the Oil Kings and Tigers.
As mentioned previously, the Tigers are stronger when they play together, making it only fair to mention the other contributors offensively: Ryan Jevne (32-36 – 68) and Brett Kemp (33-27 – 27) who have both been on the score sheet against the Oil Kings.
Defenceman to Watch – Edmonton Oil Kings
Connor McDonald (19-31 – 50): McDonald’s game has been steadily growing, earning more points each season, being put into more serious situations and being looked to as a leader on the blueline and in the dressing room as the alternate captain. After competing against the Tigers six times, McDonald has come out with a plus-three rating, proving that he may be more of a behind the scenes defender that contributes positively on and off the ice – a set of attributes that can come in handy in the grind of playoffs.
Defenceman to Watch – Medicine Hat Tigers
Linus Nassen (7-39 – 46): Nassen has been described as a defenceman with an ‘excellent first pass that hits the target with precision, both long and short-range’ and his assists tally shows it. Three of those assists have come against the Oil Kings this season and will surely be increased during this playoff series. As a graduating player, Nassen will also be looking to show his skills to hopefully earn an NHL contract with the Florida Panthers at the end of the season.
Goaltender to Watch – Edmonton Oil Kings
Dylan Myskiw (45 GP, 28-11-2-3, 2.53 GAA, .914 SV%, 1 SO): Myskiw has been a standout goaltender for the Oil Kings this season, helping them secure the Central Division title. Most impressively, Myskiw has been awarded a star of the game in four of the six games played against the Tigers; therefore, recording a 5-0-0-1 campaign against the Tigers. An important moment in Myskiw’s career, recording his first WHL shutout and subsequently achieving a position on the WHL Goaltender of the Week list on February 25, 2019, also happened against the Medicine Hat Tigers; giving him the boost of confidence he may need for this playoff series. Heading into the first round, Myskiw has won eight-consecutive games and will look to continue that effort for his team.
Goaltender to Watch – Medicine Hat Tigers
Mads Søgaard (37 GP, 19-8-2-2, 2.64 GAA, .921 SV%, 3 SO): Perhaps one of the brightest spots for the Medicine Hat Tigers is Søgaard, a 6-foot-7, 190-pound, product of Aalborg, Denmark. goaltender who is blowing away the Western Hockey League as the leading rookie goaltender. While Søgaard’s has had his struggles against the Oil Kings, you can expect to see the 2019 NHL Draft prospect step it up a notch as the draft approaches in June.
Playoff History – Edmonton Oil Kings
While the Oil Kings may have fewer Ed Chynoweth Cup titles than the Medicine Hat Tigers, their winning history is more recent. Enjoying WHL Championships in 2011-12 and 2013-14, which resulted in a 2014 Memorial Cup championship as well, the Oil Kings will be looking for a comeback as they return to the WHL Playoffs after missing the mark for the past two years. With a fresh start, new coaching staff and return to the playoffs, will the Oil Kings have a what it takes to become “Kings” of the WHL again?
Playoff History – Medicine Hat Tigers
The Medicine Hat Tigers return to the WHL Playoffs for the third year in a row, possibly giving their veteran players an upper hand with more playoff experience over Edmonton. The Tigers’ franchise has a solid track record battling to the WHL Championship as well, winning the league title in the seasons of 1972-73, 1886-87, 1987-88, 2003-04 and 2006-07. Could ‘third times the charm’ in the WHL Playoffs be it for the Tigers this year?
Head-to-Head Playoff History – Edmonton Oil Kings at Medicine Hat Tigers
2013-14: Edmonton Oil Kings defeat Medicine Hat Tigers 4-1 in Eastern Conference Championship
2012-13: Edmonton Oil Kings defeat Medicine Hat Tigers 4-0 in Eastern Conference Second Round