First, Congratulations to the Ice Wolves on an absolutely fantastic season.  They fell just short of their goal of returning to the RBC Cup, but it was quite the ride to be on.  While many may have just smiled and nodded when the Wolves set their goal at returning to the National Championship, the Wolves went about doing it, how many teams can set a nearly impossible goal like that and come so close?

Second, congrats to the Terriers, they played a fantastic Game 7.  They shut down the Ice Wolves offence for two games and are very deserving of their trip to Camrose and the Anavet Cup.

Just a quick post today as I'm still digesting the series and the rest of the season.  I'll start on some of my thank you's today.

First I want to thank everyone at MBC for giving me the opportunity to chase my dream of calling games for a living.  Not only did they get me up here, so many people have helped me out along the way and I look forward to continuing my time with MBC.

The Ice Wolves Organization including the coaching staff have been absolutely fantastic.  Everyone's been welcoming and very understanding of my situation as a 'rookie'.  It was a great year doing webcasts and working with everyone around the club.

The Ice Wolves themselves.  It took a little while for us to get to know eachother, and they all thought I was in my thirties, married with kids or something like that.  Once they figured out I'm only a couple years older than them and a lot of stuff suddenly made sense we got to know eachother and it was a fun year.  Special thanks goes out to all the guys that did colour commentary for me.  You guys have my reference if you ever want to get into broadcasting, haha.

On the subject of colour commentators, thanks to everyone that helped me out this year with broadcasts.  Your insight was appreciated and it let me take drinks and have a moment to breathe which is always appreciated.  I look forward to doing it again next year.  Of course I need to give a special shout out to my 'wingman' on the webcasts, Curtis "the Burbot" Skalicky.  He stepped up from fan to webcast tech to colour in the span of a few games, you rock man.  

Mitchell Blair (SJHL Comms Director)  never did colour commentary for me, but he takes the time to send out stat packages for every game and I would be a little lost without those.  Thanks for all your hard work in your rookie season!

Of course, none of this matters without you, the fans.  Your support through the season has been nothing short of awesome and I thank you for that.  I hope you enjoyed reading and listening as much as I enjoyed bringing it all to you.  A special thanks goes to the parents of the players from the Ice Wolves and other teams.  It was great spending time with your sons and getting a chance to meet you when I did.

If I missed anyone, sorry.  You know who you are and you can ream me out for it later.

The Ice Wolves have their wrap up banquet coming up this Saturday, so I'll definitely have more after that and possibly before then as well.

-D
 
 
Just a quick post as I'm running out the door.  The game, a 6-3 win for Portage was actually pretty simple to analyse.

Portage - Came with the intensity and fire you would expect in Game 5 of the Anavet Cup, and now leads 3-2 in the series.

La Ronge - Came out flat for the second night in a row, but didn't recover, and now trails 3-2 in the series.

It was a flatteringly close game for La Ronge thanks to some very strong play from Aaron Enns with his beautiful dangle in the second and jamming the puck in later in the frame.  The Terriers played their best all around game of the series, and the Ice Wolves looked a lot more like the team that dropped two straight in Portage.

It's a tough series to talk about from the La Ronge perspective because I don't want to take anything away from the team up 3-2 in the series right now.  The Terriers are playing very solid.  Bus legs and discipline got them in Games 3 and 4, but other than that, they have their system and they are executing it very effectively.  They don't have that superstar like a Marc-Andre Carre, but that works well for them because the Terriers are playing a great team game.

The Ice Wolves have not played inspired hockey in this series.  As a group that played so well as a team through the season and playoffs, there are a lot more individuals on the ice right now.  I don't know why that is, maybe guys are getting tired, scouts are in the house are they trying to make that cute play to get noticed?  There are a lot of questions right now for the Ice Wolves as they head to Manitoba.  They need to answer them before the puck drops in Game 6.  I have no doubt the team I watched in the SJHL Final can come back from the precipice they find themselves at.

The Ice Wolves need to find that gear and shift to it right away or it will be lights out in Portage.  I would expect with their backs against the wall, the Wolves will be able to come out with some strong push back, but they need to do it together.

At the beginning of the season, the team said the goal was Camrose.  Not just an SJHL Championship and a visit to the Anavet Cup.  They want to be where they were last year.  Now with time running out, it's time for them to prove it.

See you in Portage.

-D
 
 
It was a convincing 6-1 win for La Ronge who sent fans at the Mel home smiling for the second night in a row as they tied up the Anavet Cup Series at two wins between the teams.

It looked like Portage was going to rebound solidly from their Game 3 loss as they controlled most of the first period with solid board play and a good cycle in the Wolves zone.  Adam Bartko played his best game of the series for the Ice Wolves and limited the Terriers to one goal that hit two sticks, a skate and one of those darn beach balls on it's way in.  Of course I'm exaggerating, but it seemed to happen in slow motion and I definitely saw it re-direct a couple of times.

The Terriers couldn't hold onto the lead though as Justin Ducharme made a nice play with the Ice Wolves on a powerplay to find Travis Eggum in front and send the game to the break tied.  Unfortunately for the Terriers, Eggum was just getting warmed up.
 
 
The Ice Wolves put forward a showing more what fans are used to in Game 3 of the Anavet Cup with a 6-3 win over Portage.

After La Ronge fell victim to bus-legs and travel weariness in Game 1 of the series in Portage, that seemed to be the case for the Terriers as they just ran out of gas.

Like in Portage, not all the credit goes to the long drive as the winning team, on this night the Ice Wolves, played a solid game and capitalized on their chances.
 
 
Sorry I didn't have anything on the site after Saturday's Game 2 loss.  I was late getting back to the hotel and early on the bus.  So I figured I would maintain some sanity and pass on a post.

All I have to say about Game 2 are these concise points:

-Great first half, dominant even.
-Problem was chances were going wide.  No rebounds to work with.  Fine tuning too much?
-Faceoff domination by the Terriers leads to three goals off of faceoffs.
-Powerplay effective once, but no more than that for La Ronge.
-Second half of the game... ouch.

That's some of it at least, but like the Ice Wolves and Terriers, I'm moving on to Game 3.
 
 
It wasn't at all friendly and there were no baked goods or any nice 'Welcome to Portage' gifts.  It was a down right beating in the first period of the Anavet Cup. The Ice Wolves definitely looked like the team that just came of a Game 7 victory that people are still talking about.  The Wolves stumbled through the opening minutes before getting behind 2-0 to the Terriers.  

This wasn't a strong night for Adam Bartko, one he'll want to forget.  A soft goal to start things out really set the tone for the Ice Wolves and then another weird goal when it seemed like Bartko just lost where the puck went.  That said, he did make some fantastic saves before being yanked in the second period after a puck went in off of his glove.  That would be then end for Bartko early in the second.

Myles Hovdebo got into the game seeing his first action since the final and after a shaky start when he forgot to take his skate guards off, Hovdebo was solid in net for the Ice Wolves.  His energy seemed to spark La Ronge, and a powerplay goal by Marc-Andre Carre seemed to get things rolling.  The Wolves scored three unanswered to even the game at three.  The winner would show up only a couple minutes later as Tyler Moore walked unimpeded around the slot and a mess of bodies in front to roof the Terriers' fourth of the night.

The Terriers would add another to win it 5-3 over La Ronge and take first blood in the series.

Make no mistake, Portage came out pumping in the opening minutes.  They were physical and very quick.  The Wolves were not ready for it and it took a toll on them very quickly.  The main problem for La Ronge are the Terriers forwards cutting into the middle.  While Yorkton would start middle and bust wide, Portage cuts in.  The Wolves looked like they were over-committing to an outside drive and it was creating opportunities for the Terriers.  That said, more back-check pressure from the forwards would relieve a lot of those chances.

I felt both teams were pretty sloppy, though the Ice Wolves were down right dirty in the opening frame.  It was a giveaway bonanza, mainly unforced.  The second and third periods looked quite a bit better in that regard with less giveaways and if the puck was turned over, it was a forced error.  While the Terriers dominated the physical game early, I felt La Ronge made pretty good strides in that department through the remaining time.  The Ice Wolves aren't used to a tough and physical game and I think Game 1 served as a pretty good wake up call.

Three Stars - As selected by Bill Burfoot

1. Tyler Moore - PORT - 1 G, 1 A - Moore showed why he is a leader on the Terriers and why this is his third trip to the Anavet Cup.  He was very solid through the game causing no small measure of grief for the Ice Wolves in the La Ronge end.  After the game was tied at three, he did his best work factoring in on both Terriers goals.

2. Myles Hovdebo - LR - 21/23 or 19/22 Svs - It kind of depends on which website you look at right now as the shot totals are different.  The joys of bringing together two leagues.  Hovdebo rescued the Ice Wolves in the second period playing a very strong game to keep the Wolves in it.  It was his first action since the Regular Season finale, but he looked sharp as per the norm for the Wolves' back-up.

3. Kirk Croswell - PORT - 22/25 or 19/22 Svs - It wasn't quantity, but quality for Croswell.  He robbed Nathan Boyer when the Ice Wolves were pressing in the the second.  That would have been an early tying goal, and he stoned Logan Herauf on the doorstep a couple of times in the third as the Ice Wolves looked for the equalizer.  I imagine Croswell will want a better game from himself though, after allowing those three quick goals in the second period.  If the Wolves can pick up their pressure and raise the shot count, how will he fair?
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Game 2 goes tonight at 7:30 local and 6:30 Saskatchewan time.  I'll have the Pre-Game show from the PCU Centre here in Portage at 6:15.  Once again, Bill Burfoot joins me on the broadcast, and who knows maybe I'll be able to say his name at the beginning of the broadcast.  0-for-1 so far, heh.

I'm expecting a much better Ice Wolves team tonight, as the veterans on the team weren't happy with that game, but were confident in their ability to bounce back.  The Ice Wolves only lost back to back games twice this season, and they don't expect to make it three times tonight.  The Terriers will be riding high after last night, so it's up to the Ice Wolves to quiet the crowd like they did in the second period.

{UPDATE} Justin Ducharme is done with his two game suspension from the SJHL Finals.  He should draw back into the lineup, which means either Phil Cliche or Rhyse Dieno will likely come out of that second line.  Robert Monfore is back with the team, but it remains to be seen if he will play tonight.  He's itching to get back on the ice, but may have to wait till the series goes back to La Ronge.

Enjoy the game!

-D
 
 
Yup, we rolled into Portage last night and enjoyed some late night pizza for some snackage.  Now the guys are on the ice as they prepare for tonight's opening game against the Terriers.  As they take care of that, I'm getting settled into my home (media room) for the next 2-4 road games.

Both teams are relatively mysterious to each other having never played eachother.  Some of the players know each other and both coaches managed to catch one of the others' games, but beyond that... mysterious! (add in some crime drama music there or something)

Read on for my preview of Game 1 of the 2011 Anavet Cup.