Hay River’s Gavin Broadhead and the Medicine Hat Tigers have just pulled off an enormous upset in the first round of the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference playoffs.
The seventh-seeded team was the underdog heading into the first-round series against the Saskatoon Blades, which finished 19 points ahead of the Tigers in the overall standings.
The Blades even had an 18-game winning streak in February and March, and beat the Tigers in all four of their meetings this season.
Against all odds, the Tigers found a way to win all four games and send the Blades packing.
Broadhead, who plays centre on a high-octane energy line, just finished his first full regular season in the WHL.
No one had predicted the Tigers could pull off a victory in the first round, he said on March 29. “We weren’t expected to sweep them, let alone beat them. We knew we had to be strong defensively, and that they had a lot of guys who like to dance around on the ice and do fancy plays. We kept it simple and our goalie was unreal.”
Broadhead played 47 games this year for the Tigers, the team that drafted him in 2010.
He scored three goals, including one that made it onto the Davis Buick GMC Plays of the Week, a highlight video posted on the team’s website every week.
Playing on the fourth line doesn’t guarantee him a lot of minutes each game. His role is to keep things simple and give his teammates an emotional boost with his physical play.
“I had a good season this year and I learned a lot,” he said. “I learned how hard I have to work to play at this level. Being around older, successful guys has also taught me a lot about the game.”
Playing in front of almost 4,000 fans was a real thrill for Broadhead, but the 18-year-old got even more of a boost by knowing his parents were in the crowd for all four playoff games.
“That means a lot to me because my dad hasn’t seen me play a lot in this league,” he said. “He knows a lot about the game and just told me to keep things simple. That’s when I play my best.”
Broadhead’s father, Curtis, was also drafted by the Medicine Hat Tigers and played for them from 1977 to 1981.
The Tigers will face the Edmonton Oil Kings in the second round of the playoffs, which begin April 5. The Oil Kings are the defending WHL champions.
— Myles Dolphin