Sweet 16

Candice Ward/Photos

Age is just a number.

And the play of Luke Prokop, Ryder Korczak and Riley Fiddler-Schultz in the post-season proves just that.

During the opening round of the WHL Playoffs against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, the three rookies all took major strides in their play and thoroughly impressed so much that it was easy to forget they are just 16.

The younger Hitmen team were able to upset the ‘Canes in seven games with a 4-2 Game 7 victory to catapult them to Round Two.

“A lot of people from the outside looking in probably didn’t think we would pull off the upset but the boys knew that we could rally and do it,” Prokop said. “It’s a huge confidence booster and we know that we can keep this rolling.

“Not everyone gets to play in Game 7’s and it was an amazing experience. It was do or die where you had to give it your all but most importantly give it your all for each other.”

In the opening round against Lethbridge, the trio combined for 10 points jumping in on the offence while also playing a responsible game defensively.

For Korczak, the Yorkton, SK native was reunited with Riley Stotts and James Malm and responded with five points (2G, 3A) with the pair of goals coming in big time situations.

“It felt amazing being back with them again,” Korczak said. “They find me in the right spots and make it look so easy. It helps build confidence when you play with two amazing players. It seemed like the chemistry has built up more and they’ve really helped take me under their wing all year and playoffs was no different.”

“There’s no other group I would rather be with going on this run and Calgary is the best place to be.”

The younger Prokop brother chipped in with four assists while playing big minutes on the blueline alongside Jackson van de Leest. The pairing are the youngest duo for the Hitmen but they certainly didn’t look like it with their play.

“We don’t look 16 and 17 based on our heights,” he laughed. “We think the game similar and we read off each other well. It’s been awesome playing with him and I think being paired up together last season for a little bit really helped get us ready for this year and we complement each other well.

“The coaches have shown a lot of trust in me all season long and it feels great knowing that you have their confidence and be put out in any situation.”

And, Fiddler-Schultz may have scored the biggest goal in Game 7 to give the Hitmen a 3-0 lead in the first period, his first career WHL playoffs goal, to go along with his strong forechecking all series.

“It was a special moment to contribute and a goal I’ll always remember,” he said. “The intensity of playoffs gets jacked up but at the end of the day it’s still hockey and I’ve been looking to keep things simple and stay calm.

“You can’t take any shifts off. You have to give 100 percent every shift and have the mindset that there’s no tomorrow.”

And now, the mindset shifts over to Game One against the Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday night at Rogers Place.

It’s the Battle of Alberta playoffs style. It doesn’t get any better than that.

“They had our number in the regular season but we found out in the last series that all that doesn’t matter once playoffs start,” Fiddler-Schultz said. “It’s a whole new game and anything can happen and now it’s up to us to not look back.

“We have a lot of confidence headed into this series.”

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