Former Wolverines set to face off in WHL Final

The Waywayseecappo Wolverines will have two former players facing off this weekend in the WHL Final, as Aiden Ziprick and the Moose Jaw Warriors take on Ryder Thompson and the Portland Winterhawks.

Ziprick and Thompson, both from Russell, Manitoba, played with the Wolverines for at least a season during their younger junior years, before graduating to the Western Hockey League.

Thompson, 19, played with the Wolverines in his 16-year-old season, for only eight games in 2020-21. He had three points in those eight games, during the shortened COVID season in the MJHL. He later that year went on to the WHL bubble, playing with the Winterhawks for 14 games. Since then, he has been a mainstay with Portland, putting up 59 points in 183 games in the last three seasons. Plus he was involved in three long playoff runs, lasting at least two rounds each season.

“This year we just had the right group to get over that hump, and it’s been pretty surreal getting to where we are,” said Thompson.

For Ziprick, 18, he played a full season with the Wolverines in the 2021-22 year, helping the team get to the playoffs. He suited up for 33 games that year, getting 12 points. He also played one playoff game.

The next season, he was a regular for the Wolverines, playing in 23 games, getting 12 points, before being called up to the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes for the rest of the season. This year, after playing two games with the Hurricanes, he was traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors, where he has gotten 7 points in 52 games the rest of the way. He has played in all 16 of Moose Jaw’s playoff games so far.

“Getting traded is always a difficult thing, but looking back I think it was good for me,” said Ziprick. “Over the year we have started to look more and more like a championship team.”

The Warriors swept the Brandon Wheat Kings, beat the Swift Current Broncos in five games and then beat the Saskatoon Blades in seven games, with six of them coming in overtime, to get themselves into the WHL Championship.

“To be a regular guy on this team is pretty special, and I consider myself pretty fortunate to be in the spot that I’m in right now.”

The two players are separated in age by one year, but still managed to play on the same teams throughout minor hockey all the way up to bantam.

The fact that two players from Russell, MB are playing against each other in the WHL Final, isn’t lost on the two of them.

“It’s pretty cool for both of the families, and pretty cool for the Town of Russell,” said Thompson. “I’ve gotten a lot of support from the community over the spring on this playoff run.”

“As small as Russell is, it’s crazy to think there are at least two players in the league from the town, let alone both of them making the league final,” says Ziprick. “For the opportunity to battle (Thompson) in the series, it will be a unique experience for both of our families and the community.”

For Ryder, playing his entire junior career in Portland, 2050 kilometres away from Russell, playing against Moose Jaw will give his family a chance to come to a few games that they might not have had the chance to before.

“I don’t think it could have been scripted any better,” said Thompson. “I know plenty of friends have texted me saying they’re gonna be on their way down for it. I’m sure there will be a split in the rink for sure.”

Even though both players congratulated each other after the team’s progression to the final round, the two don’t think they will be talking much to each other during the playoff series.

“I think we may just have a quick wink in warmups or an extra shove in the corner,” joked Thompson.

“At the end of the day, it’s the WHL Final, and we have a job to do, and they have a job to do,” said Ziprick.

WHL Final Schedule:

Game 1 – (May 10th) Moose Jaw @ Portland 9:00PM

Game 2 – (May 11th) Moose Jaw @ Portland 9:00PM

Game 3 – (May 14th) Portland @ Moose Jaw 9:00PM

Game 4 – (May 15th) Portland @ Moose Jaw 9:00PM

Game 5 – (May 17th) Portland @ Moose Jaw 9:00PM

Game 6 – (May 19th) Moose Jaw @ Portland TBD

Game 7 – (May 20th) Moose Jaw @ Portland TBD

All Games will be broadcasted on TSN