The curtain rises on the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien Friday, March 31, and WHL.ca is previewing each of the eight First Round matchups. We continue by examining the series between the Winnipeg ICE and Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Winnipeg ICE and Medicine Hat Tigers have drawn one another in the First Round of the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien, with Game One of the best-of-seven affair slated for Winnipeg Friday night (7:05 p.m. CT, Wayne Fleming Arena).
The ICE put together a record-setting season with 57 wins and 115 points, while the Tigers were the most improved team in the Eastern Conference, posting a 43-point improvement from the 2021-22 campaign.
Winnipeg has been at or near the top of the WHL standings and Canadian Hockey League rankings all-season long, winning the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as Regular Season Champions for the second consecutive season. The ICE led the League with 325 goals for and were nigh on unbeatable on home ice, collecting a 30-3-1-0 record from their 34 contests at the Wayne Fleming Arena.
Medicine Hat faced a must-win affair this past Saturday to secure their post-season berth, rallying from a 2-0 first period deficit to knock off the Swift Current Broncos to secure the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Tigers improved their wins total by 19 over the 2021-22 season, proving last year’s playoff miss was merely a blip on the radar.
Winnipeg will enjoy home-ice advantage throughout their WHL Playoffs journey and come into the post-season with a high-calibre offence. Led by 2023 NHL Draft prospect Zach Benson (36G-62A), the ICE feature three skaters with 90 or more regular season points. Benson finished third in League scoring, while running mates Matthew Savoie (38G-57A) and Connor McClennon (46G-46A) were seventh and eighth, respectively. Defenceman Benjamin Zloty’s 81 points were enough to lead all WHL blueliners during the regular season as well.
Medicine Hat’s offence was paced by 18-year-old forward Oasiz Wiesblatt, who led the Club with 60 points (26G-34A). Seattle product Brendan Lee led the Tigers with 32 goals, 12 of which came on the power-play. The youth movement in Medicine Hat is in full swing, however. 2024 NHL Draft prospects Andrew Basha (20G-36A) and Cayden Lindstrom (19G-23A) were third and fourth in team scoring, and this series will also mark the post-season debut for 2022 first-overall selection Gavin McKenna; the 15-year-old recorded 18 points from his first 16 career WHL games with the Tigers.
In goal, Winnipeg features 18-year-old Daniel Hauser, who set a franchise record with 37 wins and earned an East Division First All-Star Team nod. Hauser’s running mate, Mason Beaupit, was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the fourth round of the 2022 NHL Draft.
Beckett Langkow has earned the bulk of the workload between the pipes for Medicine Hat, winning 25 games while also leading the WHL wih 3,084 minutes played.
Three of the four games during the 2021-22 season series were won by Winnipeg, including the most recent encounter March 7. The Tigers were 6-4 winners on home ice March 1. The trio of Conor Geekie, Connor McClennon and Zack Ostapchuk combined for 13 goals against Medicine Hat this season, with McClennon holding a share of the series scoring lead with six points (4G-2A). Wiesblatt and Reid Andresen finished as joint scoring leaders for the Tigers in the season series with five points apiece.
The two sides have met four times in the WHL Playoffs, though this series marks the first encounter since the ICE relocated to Winnipeg four years ago. Overall, both teams have won two best-of-seven affairs against one another, with Medicine Hat rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to win a seven-game, Second Round thriller in the most recent encounter in 2014. The ICE swept the Tigers in the 2011 Eastern Conference Championship en route to winning the franchise’s most recent WHL Championship.
|Winnipeg ICE||Medicine Hat Tigers|
|Record||57-10-1-0 (1st, East)||30-29-8-1 (4th, Central)|
|Leading Scorers||Zach Benson (36-62-98)
Matthew Savoie (38-57-95)
Connor McClennon (46-46-92)
|Oasiz Wiesblatt (26-34-60)
Brendan Lee (32-27-59)
Andrew Basha (20-36-56)
|Leading Goaltender||Daniel Hauser (37-4-1-0, 2.28, .917)||Beckett Langkow (25-20-7-1, 3.05, .888)|
|Power Play||23.8% (8th)||18.9% (18th)|
|Penalty Kill||80.5% (6th)||73.9% (19th)|
|2022 WHL Playoffs||Lost Conference Championship (Edmonton)||Did not qualify|
|Last WHL Championship||2011||2007|
2022-23 REGULAR SEASON SERIES
Medicine Hat (1) at Winnipeg (3) – March 7, 2023
Winnipeg (4) at Medicine Hat (6) – March 1, 2023
Medicine Hat (3) at Winnipeg (8) – January 14, 2023
Winnipeg (5) at Medicine Hat (2) – October 1, 2022
Winnipeg ICE: The ICE have plenty of top-tier offensive dynamos to choose from, but Matthew Savoie will be relied upon from the drop of the puck Friday night. The Buffalo Sabres prospect has collected back-to-back 90-point seasons with Winnipeg and has the speed and skill to turn any contest on its ear in the blink of an eye.
📽️ HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT 📽️
The pass from Benson, the finish from Savoie. Like AmPm, too much good stuff.@WHLWpgICE | #WHLHoN pic.twitter.com/eR1vyfsrpO
— The WHL (@TheWHL) November 9, 2022
Medicine Hat Tigers: Even at the age of 15, Gavin McKenna has been a catalyst in the WHL. The product of Whitehorse, Yukon finished the regular season by collecting 10 points over his five most recent WHL contests and was one of only two Tigers to average more than a point per game during their regular season work. If McKenna’s linemates can make themselves available in the offensive zone, McKenna will find them.
Who wants to watch Gavin McKenna score a goal?
We do!@tigershockey pic.twitter.com/AYOgHHnVr8
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 23, 2023
Winnipeg ICE: Daniel Hauser’s 37 wins are the most by any ICE goaltender in a single regular season and the product of Chestermere, Alta. has made winning a habit over his time with Winnipeg. He’s lost only seven times in regulation time over his 90 career regular season contests and has proven to be steady in post-season competition, going 8-2 with a .910 save percentage last spring.
Forget post to post.
Daniel Hauser went from Winnipeg to basically Kenora to make this stop.@WHLWpgICE pic.twitter.com/Cu2VqlJZNt
— The WHL (@TheWHL) December 12, 2022
Medicine Hat Tigers: Beckett Langkow will get his first taste of WHL Playoffs action in this series after performing admirably in his first season as the number-one netminder in Medicine Hat, posting a 3.05 goals-against average from his 53 games in 2022-23.
Beckett Langkow comes up BIG!@tigershockey pic.twitter.com/xvgCuA7Imh
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 26, 2023
Winnipeg ICE: The ICE made several mid-season moves to bolster the Club’s stock of NHL prospects, but Ottawa Senators draftee and two-time World Juniors gold medalist Zack Ostapchuk’s arrival might have been the most impactful. Ostapchuk helped author an historic upset last spring as captain of the Vancouver Giants, the team with whom he also experienced a deep playoff run as a 15-year-old in 2019. In 34 games with Winnipeg, Ostapchuk found the back of the net 21 times.
Zack Ostapchuk gets the… the… touchdown? @WHLWpgICE | @Senators pic.twitter.com/U8EUhPb9v5
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 11, 2023
Medicine Hat Tigers: Forward Cayden Lindstrom enjoyed a strong rookie campaign with Medicine Hat, finishing fourth in team scoring with 42 points. The product of Chetwynd, B.C. scored the game-winner in Saturday’s pivotal contest that put the Tigers in the post-season; he stands to be a key performer for Medicine Hat not just this year, but in years to come.
Cayden Lindstrom puts the Tabbies up two! @tigershockey pic.twitter.com/Hma2I15TGl
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 26, 2023
|1||March 31, 2023||Medicine Hat||Winnipeg||7:05 p.m. CT|
|2||April 1, 2023||Medicine Hat||Winnipeg||6:05 p.m. CT|
|3||April 4, 2023||Winnipeg||Medicine Hat||7:00 p.m. MT|
|4||April 5, 2023||Winnipeg||Medicine Hat||7:00 p.m. MT|
|5||April 8, 2023||Medicine Hat||Winnipeg||2:05 p.m. CT||*|
|6||April 9, 2023||Winnipeg||Medicine Hat||7:00 p.m. MT||*|
|7||April 11, 2023||Medicine Hat||Winnipeg||7:05 p.m. CT||*|
* – if necessary
Through WHL Live on CHL TV, fans can enjoy every single scheduled game throughout the 2023 WHL Playoffs presented by Nutrien with the purchase of a WHL All-Access Pass at the low price of $59.99 plus applicable taxes and fees.
WHL Live – 2023 WHL Playoffs Packages
Round-by-Round: $19.99 per round
24-Hour Access: $9.99
* all prices in Canadian dollars
+ does not include applicable taxes and fees
WHL Live on CHL TV is available to fans anywhere in the world, providing high-quality streaming of WHL games on Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV platforms, via mobile with iOS and Android, and on web using Safari or Google Chrome web browsers. Visit WHLLive.com for complete details.