At least for the moment, the Ice Wolves can enjoy some non-survivor series positioning in the Bauer Conference.  As teams catch up to them in GP's this week that will likely change, but you've got to enjoy the little things in a 58 game schedule.

So what were the stories from the weekend?  You could go with 
Louis-Joseph Sawyer's awesome four goal, five point week.  Ben Bula scoring his first SJHL goal a mere 91 games into his career.  Or maybe Alex Rajotte's return to form.  How about the Bombers' gutsy effort despite missing their top scoring unit?  There's also the Ice Wolves dipping into the trade market again, and you could even go with me being about 2.45 seconds away from singing O Canada.

There's also the whole Bombers being outscored a combined 14-2 whenever I do a broadcast on CFAR.

 
Sorry I'm running a little late.  Live blog should be up and running soon.
 
First post on the new look website, which means a lot of you may be seeing it for the first time.  Let me know what you think in the comments section and on the poll to the right.

Second order of business, MBC is hosting a Radiothon today in support of the Children's Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan.  Every dollar raised will be matched by the Cameco Corporation.  Your support is greatly appreciated, as Saskatchewan is one of two provinces without a Children's Hospital.  The Radiothon runs 10am-6pm today, and you can call 1-888-808-5437 to donate.  Thanks!

Okay, now to the game.  The Ice Wolves didn't fair too well in their first matchup up with the Bombers.  Losses to the tune of 9-5 and 6-2 sent the Ice Wolves back of the .500 mark earlier in the season and continued the team's road woes.  It wasn't a shining weekend for the Ice Wolves' goaltenders and the puck stoppers are likely to be in the spotlight this weekend.

 
If the Ice Wolves want to win their first ever Anavet Cup, they'll have to do it this year.  In 2013, the Anavet will be no more, replaced by a new Western Canadian Championship tournament featuring the champions from the four western leagues and a host team.  The top two teams from the event move on to the RBC Cup.

As Dan Marshall of 106.9 The Wolf out in B.C. reported, the 2013 WCC will be held in B.C. from April 26th to May 5th and the Nanaimo Clippers are hoping to host the event.

Here's a link to his interview with Clippers Owner Ken Wagner.
http://www.1069thewolf.com/pages/8834014.php

SJHL President Bill Chow is confident the Championship will provide solid sponsorship opportunities.

"Giving them (host team/league) more time to prepare for the tournament, they would be awarded the tournament there would be a bidding process similar to an RBC", said Chow in a phone interview, "So then they would be able to allow them to have time to solicit their corporate sponsors within the community and surrounding areas."

You can check out my interview with Bill Chow here.

I'm excited for this change for a number of reasons.  Yes, it's hard to top the excitement of a seven game series, but teams will be a lot less beat up when they get to the RBC Cup, giving Western representatives a better opportunity to present their best game.  It should provide better exposure for all Western Junior A players as well.  It will be a lot easier for scouts to attend this tournament than hitting up the Doyle Cup and the Anavet Cup. 

It could also be a more viable option for smaller communities to host than an event like the RBC Cup.  With less profile, no need for the standard Hockey Canada sponsorship, it can be an event held in places like La Ronge or Nipawin.  Of course those are examples of smaller centres not considering the facilities.  I think it's pretty easy to guess who will host the event the first time 'round for the SJHL (provided a bid is entered).

Those are just a couple of things I like about the change, but I'm curious and excited to see how it goes in 2013.

What do you think of the new path to the RBC Cup?

-D
 
The Ice Wolves solved a couple problems they've had with Humboldt this season in last night's 6-5 loss.  They scored more than one goal, which is a plus. They were in the game right to the end, much better than out of it after the first twenty.  However, it was still a loss against a divisional rival and a team the Wolves will need to figure out before the playoffs.

After a tentative first period that saw the Broncos lead 2-1, this game really picked up and was definitely worth the price of admission.

 
The sampling for the Ice Wolves against the Broncos this season is two games.  Two very unhappy looking games, if you're an Ice Wolf of course.  The Wolves have been, as Bob Beatty put it, "educated" by the Broncos and their fast transition game twice this season to the tune of 7-1 and 5-1 losses.  If not for the heroics of goaltender Alex Rajotte, the 5-1 could have easily been 8 or 9.  

That was a different time in the 2011-12 Ice Wolves' history, though.  In fact those games were the second and seventh losses in a row on the road for the Wolves early in the season.  Since the 5-1 loss, the Wolves are 6-1-2 on the road, but that's not really important tonight.  The Mel is definitely a different beast than the EPA, the Wolves are a different team on home ice and (oh, ya) the Wolves added three players since the teams last met.

 
If I could have thought of another 'W' word, you better believe I would have used it.

Anyways,  I was hoping the online scoring would have been updated by now, but it isn't so I will do my best to impart the goals and assists for you.  I left my summary sheet at home today so I won't be supplying the times of goals and may leave out an assist here and there or put them on different goals.  I'll touch it up once I have a chance to get my stats at lunch.

Here we go:

First Period
ND - Schwartzenberger from Millin  (0-1)
LR - Smerek from McNevin (1-1)
LR - Weisensel (PP) from Enns and Carre (2-1)

Second Period
ND - Millin (PP) from Grolla, Bruha (2-2)
ND - Schwartzenberger (2) from Grolla, Christian (2-3)
LR - Hladun (SH) from Boyer (3-3)
ND - Grolla, Unassisted (3-4) Time of Goal: 0:00

Third Period
LR - Cook from Smerek (4-4)
LR - Enns (PP) from Ritchie and Carre (5-4)
LR - Carre from Enns (6-4)
LR - Enns (EN), Unnassisted (7-4)

Goalies
ND - Ty Reichenbach (L) - 34 Svs on 38 shots - 58:30
LR - Alex Rajotte - 16 Svs on 20 shots - 40:00
LR - Myles Hovdebo (W) - 20:00

Powerplay
Notre Dame - 1/6
La Ronge - 2/6

*Note online scoring is now available for the game.

 
A solid win for the Wolves in a reasonably close game with the Mustangs.  Melfort came out hard in the first, but couldn't figure out Myles Hovdebo who played a fantastic game.

Notes:

Hovdebo came within four seconds of his first SJHL shutout.  Bit of a heartbreaker on a goal from Cole Horn.

Jesse Wilkins was very good in net for the Mustangs.  He can definitely carry the load for the 'Stangs.

Aaron Enns, Marc-Andre Carre and Zac Ashdown combined to score one of the prettiest goals you'll ever see.  Enns made a great move to gain the zone and fired to Carre who looked to be out of space before putting a gorgeous pass onto the stick of Zac Ashdown who finished it off.

Gavin Holcomb is making some solid trades.  Brandon Sloan looked dangerous in his first game as a Mustang.  Jerett Zentner looked good as well.

The Ice Wolves newest acquisition, Brennen Ritchie had a good game, was the evening's third star.  Didn't put up any points, but manufactured offence and was good in his own end.

With a goal in the first period, Skyler Hladun is on a nine game point streak.  Speaking of streaks, Zac Ashdown has a goal in every game since he joined the Wolves.

Three Stars

1. Myles Hovdebo (G) - LAR - 28 Svs
2. Jesse Wilkins (G) - MELF - 28 Svs
3. Brennen Ritchie (D) - LAR - Strong Game in first outing


 
Yeah, you read that title right, the Ice Wolves will play their last road games of 2011 this weekend.  After arriving back from Watrous some time Sunday morning, the Wolves will play at the Mel Heglund Uniplex until mid-January.  That makes this road trip a very important one for La Ronge.

Two wins would put the Wolves with a 7-8-0-2 record (currently 5-8-0-2) away from home.  That's a pretty respectable road mark.  It borders on  impressive when you consider the Wolves went on a tied for league high, seven game road losing streak early in the season.

Despite that record, the Wolves actually started their road season with a win in Melfort.

 
The Ice Wolves have completed their first 'real' trade of the season, acquiring defenceman Brennan Ritchie ('92) from the Steinbach Pistons of the MJHL.  Going the other way is forward Johney Cormier ('92).  Good luck in Steinbach, Johney!  It's unfortunate to see a player with Cormier's skill heading out, but you have to give something to get something.  From a statistical standpoint, the Ice Wolves picked up a valuable asset.

For a team that's so young on the back-end, especially with the retirement of David Greyeyes and an injury to Alex Vandenameele, experience is valuable.  Ritchie brings just that as he already has two successful MJHL seasons under his belt.

Here are Ritchie's stats from elite prospects.  Again, sorry about the headings.  I'll try and sort that out, headings are (Ssn, Team, League, GP, G, A, P, PIM).
As you can see, Ritchie had some fairly impressive offensive numbers in his first two seasons.  He's a little off of his traditional points per game, but there are any number of reasons for that.  I would expect he'll get work on the second powerplay unit as the Wolves don't have a ton of offensive depth in their 
blue-line and it would be great to have a secondary option to Brett Hope on the point.

The Ice Wolves are in Melfort tomorrow night.  I'll try to get a post up in the morning, probably just a quick hit.  

Talk to you then!

-D