The possibility the Ice Wolves and Mustangs could meet in the conference semi-finals is very real. That being said, the Wolves aren't looking that far ahead. So I won't get ahead of myself either.
The Wolves were in Nipawin on Tuesday to face the Hawks for the final time of the 2010-'11 season. It was a game with a bit of an offensive flavour on a high scoring night in the SJHL. The combined twelve goals fell decidedly in the Wolves favour by an 8-4 score
Read for a quick recap of Tuesday and a preview of Wednesday.
The game got started early with Travis Eggum and it was really his night. It was Eggum's 200th game in the SJHL, an impressive feat considering in four seasons, there is a total of 232 games. Only 24 seconds in, Eggum put up his 53rd goal of the season. The Wolves jumped all over Hawks netminder Brody Hoffman scoring on three of their first five shots.
Eggum picked up an assist on another one of those goals, tying him with Justin Rohr for the Ice Wolves' single season points record. That would set the stage for Eggum to notch his 54th goal of the year and his 100th point. Make Eggum the first Ice Wolf to reach the century mark in the team's history.
With three points on the night already, Eggum would strike again in the last minute of the second period for his fifth hat trick of the season. He's also rolling at over a goal per game (55 in 54). The four point night gives Eggum 101 points on the year. Marc-Andre Carre would assist on two of Eggum's goals and pick up one more to also reach the hundred point plateau.
Overall it was a dominant performance by the Ice Wolves' big line. They imposed their will on the Hawks and if not for some great saves from Stephen Klein and a very nice defensive play by Scott Bollefor to poke a puck away from Eggum as he deked to the net, this game could have been into the double digits.
The secondary scoring is heating up as well. Skylar Hladun had two in the contest while Logan Herauf added a pair of his own. Herauf now has 5 points in his last two games.
One of the more impressive things in this game from the Ice Wolves was their physical play. Ben Bula had two monster hits along with two or three very solid checks. Byron Sorenson laid out a couple of Hawks, which is rare to see from a guy that tends to use positioning and stick work to separate the puck.
Rhyse Dieno even dropped the gloves after he didn't like the way Logan Herauf was treated on a play. Unfortunately Dieno's would be combatant, Grant Jensen looked ready to go, then just didn't put the gloves on the ice and did his best to get away from the 17 year old. Dieno received five and a game for his efforts, but I don't think you'll find anyone that would criticize his decision. He also picked up a point on the night, put him tied for 12th in rookie scoring with only Justin Ducharme and Calder Neufeld with a higher points per game average in the top 20.
Three Stars as selected by Lorne Hill
1. Travis Eggum - LR - 3 G, 1 A - Who else could get it on this night? In his 200th game, he breaks the record for a single season output by an Ice Wolf, crosses the 100 point mark and gets another hat trick. As always, Travis' effort game in game out is nearly unmatched on the ice.
2. Marc-Andre Carre - LR- 3 A - If Eggum has a big night on the score sheet, you'll likely see the Ice Wolves' MOP in the assist column. Though his finish wasn't quite there, Carre always finds a way to be deadly. The resulting three points gets him to triple digits as well.
3. Logan Herauf - LR - 2 G, 1 A - His point production may not be as high this season as some were hoping, but that will happen when you're on the second line. Both his linemates (Ducharme, Cliche) are out right now and he's helping out Aaron Enns' and Rhyse Dieno's game big time. Three points on the night puts him to 51 on the season.
It was a should win for the Ice Wolves that they did win, and now they move on to a greater test.
The Mustangs couldn't hold onto their one goal lead against the Klippers last night, and fell in the shootout to Kindersley. I will be talking to Darrell Mann about it tonight, but from the game sheet, Melfort was shorthanded nine times in this game, including once in overtime. Their penalty kill had to be fantastic as did goalie Jessie Ehnisz (45 svs) and the Mustangs got two shorthanded goals.
There have been some rumours floating around of some dissent in the Mustangs locker room. Take that for what you will, but it remains a fact that this team added a lot of pieces at the deadline. That means new personalities and egos and the like. It takes time for that to sort itself out, and it may have been glossed over early when the team was winning. Now they're on a rough patch having only won four of their last ten. This is when a locker room that hasn't been together all season can start to fracture and it's up to the leaders on the team to step up and get it back together.
With all that said, it would go a long way for Melfort to take La Ronge off their ten game winning streak. The last time these two teams met, it was a fantastic game. Both teams seemed a little nervous in the battle for first overall, but once the pace picked up you would be hard pressed to find a better hockey game.
The Ice Wolves need to play every minute, every second of this game. With a timid start in the last meeting, it would have taken a couple bounces going the other way for the Mustangs to have won the game. The 'Stangs have also shown a knack for coming right back after a goal against and returning the favour to get a lead back or tie the game.
As usual the spotlights will be firmly locked on the goalies. Adam Bartko and Charles Corsi are integral to their team's success. It will likely come down to which goalie can out duel the other, much like the last meeting.
I really can't wait for this one to get going, with a game in Yorkton on Friday as well, this could be a set of games to call. Tonight, Leonard Strandberg, the head scout for Team Canada West, will join me in the broadcast booth for colour commentary. I'll sit down with CK750's Gino De Paoli in the intermission to talk a little Mustangs and Broncos. The pre-game show from the Northern Lights Palace will be at 7:15 with the battle commencing at 7:30.
Enjoy the game!