Taking on his hometown team

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

Talk about coming full circle.

Four months ago, Calgarian Mike Ullrich was about as far removed from the WHL playoffs as you can get.

The 18-year-old found himself toiling with the Vernon Vipers of the B.C. Hockey League before a January trade brought him east to the Lethbridge Hurricanes organization.

Now the rookie's on the eve of his first WHL post-season series, against his hometown Calgary Hitmen, to boot.

"It should be good. I played Calgary twice and both games were close and that's the way it's been, so it should be a good series," said Ullrich, a 6-ft. 2-in. centre.

It's also a good opportunity for the former midget Calgary Flames sniper who put up 47 points in 36 AMHL games last season.

Even though the Hurricanes have a ton of depth up front with the likes of Jonathan Filewich and Colton Yellow Horn, Ullrich has a chance to make an impression on head coach Lindsay Hofford for next season.

"Coming in halfway through the year has been a learning experience and I knew it would be," said Ullrich, who had two goals and three assists in 23 contests with Lethbridge.

"Guys have been there three months before and I had to come in and learn the system, create a job for myself and get to know Lindsay a little bit.

"But we have Filewich and Tyler Redenbach moving on and hopefully in the coming years I can take more of a role, expand my role and become a leader on the team."

Just how much action Ullrich sees against Calgary is up in the air.

"We have a few extra guys. There's been times here that I've played quite a bit and it also depends on how the game's going," said Ullrich, who got his first WHL point, an assist, Jan. 7 against Swift Current.

"Hopefully, I'll get to play and if I do, I'll make the best of it."

Ullrich's first WHL tally came Jan. 26 in an 8-2 thrashing of the Brandon Wheat Kings.

His parents, Brian and Sharon, will make the trip down to Lethbridge for Games 1 and 2 of the series, so he'll have some moral support from them.

It's the first time the 'Canes have been in the playoffs since 2001-02 and, after finishing second in the Central Division, they're favoured over the Hitmen, who finished third.


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