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TUULOLA EAGER FOR FIRST WHL PLAYOFF EXPERIENCE

After a strong rookie campaign with the Everett Silvertips, Eetu Tuulola is ready for the postseason

by ALEX MEDINA @alex_medina5 / CalgaryFlames.com

In his first season in the Western Hockey League, Flames prospect Eetu Tuulola has settled into the North American game just fine.

After spending his entire hockey career playing in his native Finland, Tuulola has found success both individually and collectively with the Everett Silvertips.

The Silvertips finished first in the Western Conference with a 44-16-9-3 record, and now look to translate their regular season success over to playoffs.

"We had a good team and it was a really good year for us," Tuulola said.

"We had a lot of fun."

Not only was it a great year for the team, but for Tuulola also as he was named the Silvertips Rookie of the Year.

In 62 games played, Tuulola had 18 goals to go along with 13 assists for 31 points on the year to earn the honours.

The 19-year-old was able to transition his scoring touch from Europe over to the 'Dub, a big factor in having a successful rookie season.

"It was an honour for sure," Tuulola said.

"A lot of credit goes to my linemates." 

With his first taste of WHL action under his belt, Tuulola has seen his game improve on a nightly basis since coming over.

The chance to play junior hockey in North America has been a change of pace but also has given him the opportunity to further expand on his arsenal of skills.

"I've become more responsible defensively," Tuulola said.

"I think more defence first and then the offence."

It's a state of mind that he will look to carry over as the Silvertips start Round One of the WHL playoffs against the Victoria Royals, with Game One kicking the series off tonight at 8:35 p.m. MT.

Despite the Royals entering the post-season winless in their last seven games to close the 2016-17 campaign, they still pose a threat with their dangerous ability to light the lamp. Flames prospect Matthew Phillips is a prime example of the Royals' potent offence - he was 10th in the WHL's scoring race with 50 goals and 90 points.

With the Silvertips being the favourites in the typical first versus eightth seed match-up and winning all four games of the season series, the message in the locker room is to not overlook the Royals.

"They have a good team so we have to respect that," Tuulola said.

"We just have to keep playing our own game and get everyone to do their job."

There is belief in the locker room that they can make a serious run for both the Ed Chynoweth Cup and the Memorial Cup, which would not be bad to accomplish for a rookie season.

Although the focus right now is strictly on the Royals, there is a buzz in the locker room that they're on the brink of something special.

"I want to help the team hopefully win the WHL Championship and then the Memorial Cup." 

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