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MEDICINE HAT, AB – Speaking of facing adversity, the host SEAC Bantam AAA Tigers took their fair share over the course of the tournament.
In his first game since returning from a broken jaw suffering in his second game of the AMBHL season, Tigers star Dawson Seitz went down again with an upper-body injury in SEAC’s 4-4 draw with the Cariboo Cougars.
“Guys were excited for him to be back,” said Tigers head coach Brayden Desjardins. “They were pretty deflated after the first game, especially since we gave up one late. But, we rebounded really well. That would have been really easy for those guys to pack it in and feel sorry for themselves, but they went after it.”
With their top player out of the lineup again, SEAC was still able to finish the tournament with a 2-2-1 record with wins coming against Burnaby and Delta.
“It’s really hard when a guy like him goes down,” said Tigers defenceman Josh Van Mulligen. “But, we have a great group of guys in there, some character, and we just battled back. It’s really easy when he’s in the lineup, but we just got to work harder and bear down when he’s not in the lineup.”
It was a breakout tournament for Van Mulligen with Seitz out of the lineup, earning top defenceman honours and being named to the tournament all-star team as well.
According to the SEAC captain, his confidence with the puck was on full display.
“I felt like I played really good on the rush, I was joining the rush a lot,” said Van Mulligen. “It’s nice to help out your forwards sometimes because sometimes they have troubles. It’s just nice to chip in a little.”
Van Mulligen led SEAC in scoring with one goal and eight points in five games at the tournament, going alongside his team-leading 11 points in 13 games in regular season play.
Even in selection camp, Desjardins said the sizable blueliner was poised to take a big step forward in his second year with the bantam AAA program.
“You could tell from the start when we got in together as a group that there’s something special about him,” he said. “He loves to win, he’s super competitive, and he just doesn’t accept anything less.”
As for Seitz, he’s expected to be out with his upper-body injury until at least after the Christmas break.
Desjardins is hoping that SEAC’s experience at this year’s Hockey Hounds tournament will serve them well while dealing with another stretch without their biggest weapon.
“We put a lot of emphasis on Dawson sometimes and kind of feel he maybe has to carry the load a little bit,” said Desjardins. “When he went down, guys had to figure out that they had to do it on their own and we had some big performances.”
Prairie Storm forward Ben Riche was named player of the tournament and MVP, most outstanding goaltender went to Delta’s Jonathan Hicks, while Pursuit of Excellence’s Byron Ritchie took home best coach honours.
The Bantam AAA Tigers return to league play on Sunday against the Airdrie Xtreme in Brooks, while SEAC’s Midget 15 Tigers will try to rebound from weekend losses to Okotoks and Lethbridge on Saturday with a road game in Red Deer.
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