Not too many people expected the two teams in the SJHL finals last season, the fourth and fifth seeds to meet in those finals. Maybe even less, did they expect Friday's game to be a meeting of the two number one seeds in their respective divisions and the first and second placed clubs in the overall standings.
While most found it more likely from Yorkton, many had the Ice Wolves not making the playoffs at all. Amazing what can happen over a 58 game schedule isn't it? The Ice Wolves have since clinched first and feature possibly the most deadly line in all of Canadian Junior-A hockey. With three players possibly reaching the 100 point mark this team has shown everyone they aren't to be taken lightly and seem to be really hitting their stride just in time for the playoffs.
The Terriers have gone through a lot this season. The fantastic start, a tragic loss over the Christmas break and a team shake-up that seems to have its definite pros and cons. Oh ya, and a slew of injuries that had the Terriers playing four affiliate players for a time.
The Terriers are in a position to beat the Ice Wolves in a season series, no other team has been able to do better than split the Wolves this year.
Read on for the full preview of tonight's game.
The Ice Wolves come into this game having won eleven straight. The streak looked like it could be in Jeopardy on Wednesday when the Wolves almost coughed up a 4-1 lead in the third period, but they held on and took their fourth victory of the season from Melfort. In their last visit to Yorkton, La Ronge came out with a 3-2 win over the Terriers. It was another game where they barely held onto a lead.
The Terriers took two from the Ice Wolves up in La Ronge. One, a 4-2 victory and the other a 2-1 shootout win after some fantastic play from both Adam Bartko and Devin Peters. These two teams have been very evenly matched this season and tonight's game will probably reflect that again. It could come down to who's healthier.
Though the Ice Wolves have four players out with injury, they can still put a very effective lineup on the ice as they showed in Melfort. With both Phil Cliche and Justin Ducharme out, Bob Beatty cobbled together a second line with Logan Herauf, Aaron Enns and Rhyse Dieno. After a few games to figure each other out, this line has been rolling and providing some healthy secondary scoring.
The Terriers, when healthy, feature one of the most potent lineups in the league. When they added Justin Buzzeo and Jeremy Boyer to the fold, it was a message to everyone, "We're winning it all this time." Though both Boyer and Buzzeo have been strong since coming over from the Broncos, their success, like in Humboldt, isn't necessarily tied to the Terriers' success. The fact also remains that in their games as Broncos against the Ice Wolves, they were largely ineffective.
Unfortunately my knowledge of the Terriers' injury situation isn't exactly clear, but I can speculate that we will see Warren Shymko in net tonight, not Devin Peters. I've also heard that Justin Buzzeo may be out as well. All will be revealed once I get to the rink. However, the very important one out of that group is Devin Peters. In three games against the Ice Wolves this season, he sits with a record of 2-1, GAA of 1.97, and a Sv% of 0.945. He's been nothing short of fantastic and with how many shots the Ice Wolves tend to put up, a fantastic goalie is important to the cause.
Make no mistake, this should be a great game tonight. If you're in Yorkton, get out to see a possible preview (if the standings hold up) of the SJHL Championship and if not you can always listen to the game with me on MBC!
Ice Wolves vs Terriers
(41-12-0-2 - 84 pts) Record (33-16-3-5 - 74 pts)
1st in Bauer Standing 1st in Sherwood
26.0% PP% 19.8%
79.0% PK% 80.0%
The Ice Wolves haven't had an answer for Clarke Breitkreuz (2 G, 2 A) so far. In three games, he has four points and scored a shootout goal to keep the Terriers alive for an eventual win. Robbie Ciolfi also sits with four points (1 G, 3 A)
In two games against Yorkton, Ice Wolves netminder Adam Bartko has been almost as good as Devin Peters. Bartko sits 1-0-1 against the Terriers and boasts a 1.44 goals against average and a 0.952 save percentage.
Getting back to just how many shots the Ice Wolves take, La Ronge averages just over 40 shots per game, and they sit 33-8-0-2 when outshooting their opponents.
After Marc-Andre Carre's three point night in Melfort, the SJHL scoring race is once again tied between Carre and Travis Eggum at 102 points. Coming up in their rear-view mirror is Doug Lindensmith, who looks set to cross 100 points as well with 97 on the season.
Comebacks haven't come easy to the Terriers. When trailing after two periods, Yorkton only has two wins in 18 chances.
Discipline is key for the Terriers. They have the second fewest penalty minutes in the league (1017). That's second only two Notre Dame who has only taken a paltry 885 minutes worth of penalties.
I'll have the broadcast on MBC Radio from Yorkton starting at 7:15 with the Pre-Game Show. The puck drops at 7:30. Braden Malsbury from CTV News here in Yorkton will join me for colour commentary. This is the last MBC Broadcast of the 2010-2011 season, thanks to all of our sponsors who make the broadcasts possible, and Kelly Provost who operates every single game!
Enjoy the game and have a great weekend!