Quenneville nearing return
A return is in sight for Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman David Quenneville.
The offensively gifted blueliner has resumed skating and practising in full gear after having his leg broken in a shot block against the Regina Pats on Jan. 3, and says with any luck he’ll be back in a little over a week.
“I still have a ways to go but it’s really exciting to be out there in full gear. It’s the closest I’ve been in a while,” said Quenneville, adding he plans on returning before the end of February, barring any setbacks. “It’s still kind of up in the air. Monday was supposed to be two weeks, so maybe next weekend.”
Quenneville added he’s been progressing over the past week. After dealing some serious pain in his first few times back on skates, he says he’s starting to feel a lot more comfortable on his healing leg.
“It’s coming. I’ve had two similar skates where we’ve done pretty similar drills and the pain has been significantly reduced and it’s feeling good. Now it’s just continuing to let it heal.”
The injury cut a career year short for Quenneville, though he still has a chance at making franchise history with a swift return to action. His 20 goals on the year put him in a class of just four other Tabby defencemen to break the 20-goal mark in a season, while 12 more would tie Kris Russell’s record 32 goals. What’s more, he’s still third in defensive goal-scoring despite missing 18 consecutive games. He’s fallen from first to eighth in the defensive point-scoring race — 18 points back of Regina’s Connor Hobbs — since having his leg broken, but Quenneville’s main priorities aren’t of the individual nature. The 19-year-old Edmonton native is itching to return, but only if he’s 100 per cent ready, which makes the success his team has been having of late all the more welcoming.
“It might give me an extra couple days, especially with how we’re playing,” said Quenneville. “We’re playing some great hockey and the biggest thing, I find, is the consistency in our game. We’re playing both ends, I know Shaun (Clouston, head coach) has been really preaching that lately and we’ve been doing a really good job following it. I’m really proud of the group.”
The Tigers are back in action tonight in Swift Current against the Broncos. The puck drops at 6 p.m.
They may not have realized it until they left the rink Wednesday night, but the Medicine Hat Tigers are bound for the post-season.
Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Victoria Royals pushed the Tabbies 33 points in front of the Calgary Hitmen — who have 16 games left on the docket — and mathematically cemented their place in the playoffs after missing out in a devastating tiebreaker loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings last year.
“Initially after the game in the room no one knew. After the game a couple of us went to get a bite to eat and we found out there so we were pretty pumped,” said Tigers forward Mason Shaw, adding they don’t plan on slowing their pace despite the 41-16-1-0 record. “Last year every game mattered for the last 15. So now it’s nice to have that comfort that we’re going to get a little bit more time together, but the foot doesn’t come off the gas pedal at this point.
“It would be easy for us to just coast into the playoffs, whatever happens, happens — but that’s not the outlook we’re taking.”
While Shaw is in his third season with the Tigers, knee surgery ended his rookie year in November of 2014 and kept him off the team’s playoff roster. Now the draft eligible playmaker is staring down his first opportunity to battle for the Chynoweth Cup, and needless to say, he’s excited.
“To get my first taste of WHL post-season hockey I’m super fired up about,” said Shaw, adding he’s looking forward to an amped up atmosphere at the Canalta Centre. “Obviously being in Medicine Hat and seeing some playoff games in the old arena, the town gets right behind you. Coming to the rink and getting prepped up for playoffs, it also adds that extra spark too.”
While Medicine Hat’s sophomore and rookie players join Shaw in itching for their first taste of the post-season, veterans like Steven Owre simply can’t wait for a return. Last year marked the first time since 2002 that Medicine Hat was held out of playoff contention, but Owre says the experience only galvanized this year’s very similar roster.
“You play with the same core group of guys for a while and you build some chemistry. There have been a few pieces moving in and out but it’s been good so far,” said Owre. “We’ve got a good group of guys and we’re jelling this year. It’s really fun to be a part of.”
The Tigers continue their regular season campaign tonight at the Credit Union iPlex against the Swift Current Broncos. The puck drops at 6 p.m.