Beware the Tigers

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

The world junior championship is over.

And the Medicine Hat Tigers couldn't be happier.

The Tigers struggled to a 3-4 record without Team Canada sparkplug Tyler Ennis.

And nobody's smile will be bigger than that of fellow Tigers sniper Brennan Bosch when he sees Ennis walk in the Tigers' dressing room.

"I think any time you lose a player like Ennis -- he's a real good player -- it means guys have to step up and fill a bit of a scoring role," said Bosch, who scored the 2007 WHL Championship-winning goal in double overtime of Game 7 against the Vancouver Giants.

"It's tough, but it's no different than any other team in the league that loses a top player. I think we've done a pretty good job so far, and we have a couple of more games to go through."

Bosch had been averaging .85 points per game prior to Ennis' Dec. 8 departure. Since then, he's had two goals and four points in eight games.

But Ennis, a Buffalo Sabres first-round draft pick, wasn't the only team member the Bengals lost to the world junior tourney.

Left-winger Zdenek Okal and defenceman Tomas Kundratek both suited up for the Czech Republic.

And Tigers GM/head coach Willie Desjardins was an assistant with Team Canada.

Tigers associate coach Shaun Clouston took over behind the bench, while assistant coach Darren Kruger accepted additional responsibilities.

"It's a little different, but Shaun and Krugs have done a great job," said Bosch, the 2007 Memorial Cup most sportsmanlike player. "They have different approaches, but they've prepared us well."

The Tigers were so short on players last week, they were forced to call up blueliner Dylan Busenius, 15 and the club's top bantam pick last spring, from the Sherwood Park Midget AAA Kings.

Busenius, whose Kings own the Alberta 'AAA' Midget Hockey League's top record at 16-4-4, said he was caught off-guard by the call-up, which came after his squad was eliminated from the Mac's tournament.

Fifteen year olds are allowed to play up to five games in the WHL before their midget team's season is over.

Busenius said he'll use the time as a chance to gauge how good major junior players are.

"They just called me right when we were leaving from Mac's, so I was totally in shock," Busenius told the Medicine Hat News. "I want to really get used to the speed here so I know what it's like and, in the next summer, get into the weights a lot and try and prepare for next year."

If the second-place Tigers, who trail the Calgary Hitmen by 24 points in the Central Division, weren't already in need of some warm bodies, they received even more bad news when overage defenceman Matt McCue recently signed a deal with the Anaheim Ducks and left for the AHL's Iowa Chops.

McCue's sudden departure leaves a big hole -- both literally and figuratively -- in the Tiger's lineup.

The 6-foot-5, 218-pounder led the WHL with 101 penalty minutes heading into the Christmas break and had discovered an offensive touch.

With McCue gone, Desjardins, who will return to the club today, will be busy on the phone prior to Saturday's WHL trade deadline.

"(McCue) did everything we hoped for and then some," Clouston told the Medicine Hat News. "He was a big part of our team, and now that he's gone, you really have to look at every option. (It's a) wish list, and over the next 10 days, we'll talk about it with our staff and management and try to make the best decision and find the best solution."


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