The Ice Wolves impressive run of two SJHL Championships came to a jarring halt Wednesday night when the Humboldt Broncos completed the sweep of La Ronge in a 6-2 victory. The game was closer than the score indicated, but the Ice Wolves didn't seem to have enough energy in their game to make a play for avoiding the loss on home ice. A lot of the Wolves hopes were resting on Tuesday night, and after that loss, a feeling of inevitability seemed to settle around the team. Not the mindset you want coming into an elimination game.
Despite coming out flat in the first the Wolves were held in it by Alex Rajotte who made sixteen saves in the opening frame. However, early in the second period, La Ronge got down by two and would be fighting to come back from that all night. The Wolves seemed to get a spark after pulling within one for the second time on the night late in the middle period, but couldn't even it up before the third and the Broncos quickly put any hope of a comeback out of reach and cruised to the victory and advance to the Bauer Conference Final.
The Broncos were very impressive in this series. There's a ton of speed and skill with that team, but the thing that stands out to me is how hard they work. Nobody seems to take a shift off, and it's great to see a team that was brought together like Humboldt really gelling as a unit. It speaks to the job that Dean Brockman did with the RBC Hosts this season.
Everyone knew it would be a longshot for the Wolves to knock off the Broncos, despite finishing as a strong fourth place club. Especially with the games La Ronge had faced off with the Broncos in the regular season, it was evident the Wolves would have to play a near perfect series to complete the upset. The Pack just wasn't able to put that kind of effort on the ice for sixty minutes a night. Game two of the series was probably the Wolves best, they made only a couple of mistakes and all of them ended up in the back of the net.
It was certainly a tough way to go out, but considering the way the season started, the massive turnover from last year, you can't help but be impressed by what La Ronge did accomplish this year. The team won 30 games for only the second time in franchise history, which is a fairly impressive mark. They swept through the Survivor Series earning their way to a third straight berth in the Conference Semi-Finals. The Ice Wolves certainly don't have anything to hang their heads about as they ran into the third ranked team in the country in the playoffs.
Enns and Weisensel (Photo Corey Ecarnot)
The end of the Wolves season marks the end of nine junior careers. Some were familiar faces when the season started, others joined the team just before things got going and still others joined the Wolves later on in the year. No matter the time spent in La Ronge, each left his mark on the organization and the fans of the team. The town, rink and fans all returned the favour in kind.
Many have a bright future ahead of them, and not just in hockey. Most will likely carry on their hockey careers next season whether it be through school or senior hockey. It will be exciting to see what opportunities lay ahead for the graduating Ice Wolves.
Here are the graduating players and their numbers as Ice Wolves
#4 Zac Ashdown - 30 GP - 11G - 14A - 25P - 13PIM
#7 Ben Bula* - 103 GP - 1G - 14A - 15P - 175PIM
#8 Matt Weisensel - 58GP - 4G - 22A - 26P - 69PIM
#10 Marc-Andre Carre** - 141GP - 70G - 121A - 191P - 114PIM
#14 Brennan Wright - 19GP - 3G - 2A - 5P - 22PIM
#18 Byron Sorenson* - 64 GP - 8G - 19A - 27P - 14PIM
#19 Aaron Enns** - 154GP - 41G - 55A - 96P - 299PIM
#25 Pat Tran - 58GP - 13G - 15A - 28P - 46PIM
#32 Alex Rajotte - 38GP - 17W - 4SO - 2.75GAA - 0.922SV%
*denotes member of Championship team
(From that picture on the home page, these guys can't wait to get into the broadcast booth.)
Good luck as you move on in life and with hockey! It was a pleasure spending the last season or two with you and to be able to call your games.
The Ice Wolves will return plenty of players next season, and it's sure to be an interesting summer with some young players coming up the ranks that will surely challenge for spots on the Wolves roster. We have plenty of time to delve into the returnees and rookies over the offseason, so stay tuned to the blog for all of your Ice Wolves info.
The Ice Wolves end of year banquet is tentatively scheduled for next Friday(16th). I'm sure further information will be released soon.
On a personal note, it was great to call another season of Ice Wolves hockey. Thanks to everyone for tuning into games both on the radio and webcasts. Curtis couldn't be at the last couple of home games, but he sends his thanks as well. To all the colour commentators who helped me out through the season, thank you for your contributions to our MBC Broadcasts. I rarely had to call a game on my own, and it raises the quality of the show every night to have you in. Thank you to everyone who took time to do interviews this season (including the players) I know some of the players would much rather not do them at all, but it's great to get you guys on the air. Thanks to all of our sponsors for the MBC broadcasts. We had more support this playoff run than ever before. It's your ads and sponsorships that get me paid, and that's a good thing. Thank you for reading the blog this season, I get a ton of hits which is great for my self-esteem and ego. Though my head may not fit through the door, I'm glad to see so many people getting their Ice Wolves fix here.
Finally, thanks to the Ice Wolves organization and the people around the team. Volunteers, parents, coaches and players give so much of themselves through the long grind of the season and it was a pleasure to work with all of you. I look forward to coming to the rink every night, not just because of the games, but the people at the games.
It was a great season and judging by how I already have a countdown to training camp running, I can't wait for next year.