The two conflicting ethos of the Western Hockey League — represented by the separate styles in the Western and Eastern conferences — clash Saturday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre
“There is a huge difference between the conferences,” said Gary Haden.
The Victoria Royals forward is preparing to meet his old team, the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Eastern Conference, tonight on Blanshard.
“The Eastern Conference is run and gun while the Western Conference is tight checking,” said the 20-year-old Haden, who has played for the Tigers and Saskatoon Blades in the East before coming to Victoria this season.
“The Tigers have always stressed playing smart and fast and have always utilized speed. Medicine Hat (9-4-1) is a
shoot-first team and we have to be prepared for that. I have a lot of buddies, lifelong friends, on the Tigers. But I want to stick it to them. You always get up for a game like this.”
Defenceman Jacob Herauf of the Royals (6-6-1) came across the Rockies in the off-season from the Red Deer Rebels and also knows the Eastern Conference well.
“It’s more run-gun in the East Conference and more systematic here in the West Conference,” said the 19-year-old blue-liner.
Herauf knows what it’s like having the shifty and quick Tigers forwards bearing down on you. He has faced them enough times when he was with the Rebels.
“There might be some beaking [tonight] but it’s all in fun because I have nothing but respect for the Tigers,” he said.
Royals head coach Dan Price said it’s not totally the hockey version of the Golden State Warriors in the WHL Eastern Conference.
“The physicality in the East is underrated,” he said.
“Maybe it’s not as heavy a game as when we play Kamloops or Kelowna, but Medicine Hat is physical and we expect to see that part of their game.”
Featured in the Tigers net is six-foot-seven Danish goaltender Mads Sogaard, a 2019 second-round NHL draft pick of the Ottawa Senators, selected
37th overall. Sogaard and Royals captain Phillip Schultz were Denmark teammates in the last two IIHF world junior championship tournaments.
“We have to get traffic in front of him,” said Schultz.
The trio of Islanders playing for the Tigers are forwards Tyler Preziuso from Victoria, Corson Hopwo of Duncan and Brayden Boehm of Nanaimo.
Returning as head coach of the Tigers is Willie Desjardins, who guided the club to two WHL championships in his eight seasons on the Medicine Hat bench from 2002-03 to 2009-10. Desjardins was head coach in the NHL for three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and one with the Los Angeles Kings and coached Canada to the bronze medal in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
“I have so much respect for Willie and it’s an honour to be coaching against him,” said Price.
ICE CHIPS: Missing tonight will be Tigers forward
Cole Sillinger, named WHL player of the month for October, and Royals rookie defenceman Nolan Bentham. Both are wearing the Maple Leaf in the World U-17 tournament.