Airdronian looking for deep playoff run in rookie WHL season
Thursday, Mar 16, 2017 06:00 am
It’s been a little more than a year since Airdrie’s Gary Haden had his rights traded to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League (WHL) and the young forward finds himself ready for a lengthy playoff run with the Tigers.
With just two games remaining in the regular season and the Tigers locked in the Central Division lead, Haden and the rest of the upstart Tigers are looking to be among the favourites to come out of the Eastern Conference and contend for an Ed Chynoweth Cup.
“I have been on a previous championship team in midget. You can’t compare the leagues, but team-wise we have the same sort of makeup,” Haden said. “We have the depth and outstanding goaltending, so we’re more than capable of making some noise (in the playoffs).”
As a rookie on the Tigers this season, Haden struggled to maintain constant ice time and was in and out of the lineup early in the season. But in February, the 18-year-old started to get playing time more frequently with the Tigers.
With injuries and a case of the mumps breaking out in February, Haden played in a majority of the games for his team, appearing in 10 of the Tigers 12 games that month.
Over that span, Haden added to his season totals with a trio of goals and an assist, bringing his point total to eight on the season.
The Airdronian even found himself playing in a completely new position in a pair of games, playing the blueline out of necessity due to the team dealing with illness.
Although he played well in that position, Haden said he won’t be switching positions permanently anytime soon.
“That was more of a one-time thing,” Haden said. “I like scoring goals.”
The rookie added he believes he has received more playing time not only because of his team’s health issues but also because his team is starting to have more faith in him as a player, taking on more experienced players as the playoffs inch closer.
“I’ve really proven what I can do and I think coach has a lot more confidence in me,” he said. “They’re not afraid to play me in any situation now.”
The forward said he was able to learn a lot watching the game from the press box in the early stages of the 2016-17 season and it has benefited him greatly in his growth as player.
Despite not being drafted by Medicine Hat during the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, Haden has made himself comfortable as a member of the Tigers organization.
Haden and the rest of the Tigers are a team that has exceeded expectations and now expect to compete in the WHL post-season in pursuit of the team’s first WHL title in 10 years.
“I don’t think a lot of people have given us enough credit yet,” Haden said. “Hopefully in the playoffs we can show we’re the real deal.”