Quen­neville near­ing re­turn

Medicine Hat News - - SPORTS - RYAN MCCRACKEN rm­c­cracken@medicine­hat­news.com Twit­ter: MHNMcCracken

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.

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