Medicine Hat Tigers winger Hunter Shinkaruk went into his last game of the regular season against the Lethbridge Hurricanes four goals short of 50. This significant deficit made him think it would take a miracle for him to join the 50-goal club as a 17-year-old.
"I went into the game with the mindset to do my best and get shots on net. I did know it would be pretty hard to score four though," says Shinkaruk. "I honestly didn't think it would happen, but I kept a positive mindset."
Then the unthinkable happened. Shinkaruk notched three power-play goals against the Hurricanes before the game was half over. The next 33 minutes elapsed without the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder being able to find the back of the net. Nevertheless, with the Tigers up by one with just over a minute left in the game, the Hurricanes pulled their goalie. Shinkaruk had an empty cage at the other end. He got the puck and darted down the ice, but shot the puck wide. The Hurricanes added insult to injury by tying up the game just seconds later. Lethbridge went on to win the game in a shootout.
"It was tough to swallow to come that close to 50 goals," says Shinkaruk. "I can always say what if I did this, or what if I did that. But at the end of the day, I have to put it behind me."
Reaching the 50-goal plateau meant a lot to Shinkaruk. He dreamed and thought about the accomplishment nearly every day this season. He tried to motivate himself throughout the latter end of the season by writing the number 50 down repeatedly.
"Nearly every time I had a pen or sat down at a computer I would write the No. 50 down and just stare at it for a couple minutes," says Shinkaruk. "I got this idea from a book called The Secret. It's a novel about staying positive. I tried to keep that positive mindset to put up 50 goals. Like how many 17-year-olds can say they scored 50 goals in the WHL, it would have been really cool."
This has been a special year in the WHL, by recent standards, for stars putting up big numbers. Four players hit the 50-goal mark. Shinkaruk, who doesn't turn 18 until Oct. 13, is almost two years younger than the Portland Winterhawks' 19-year-old Ty Rattie, the youngest member of this season's 50-goal club.
Shinkaruk says he's not dwelling on his near miss and his sights set on the Tigers' first-round series vs. the Saskatoon Blades, which opens Friday.