That's where we sit in all of the SJHL playoff series tonight. La Ronge is up on Flin Flon 3-1, Kindersley on Weyburn 3-1 and Yorkton has a 3-0 lead on Estevan.
Can any three of the teams trailing come back? Conventional wisdom says no, but who knows? The focus up North will be on, go figure, La Ronge and Flin Flon. After getting dumped the first couple games, the Bombers fought back into the series before getting sunk in the second period of game four. I feel they've improved in every game this series, playing a better 1st and 3rd on Wednesday than their average effort on Tuesday.
The Ice Wolves took a step back in Flin Flon, and really only played two periods of "Ice Wolves hockey". One of them was enough to get them a win and a chance tonight to close out the series.
This series has really featured 2 sets of different games. The two in La Ronge were characterized by a Bomber parade to the box for everything under the sun. The next two in Flin Flon were a parade by both teams for lots of calls, but a reasonably disciplined couple of games. I, along with many that I spoke to, found the two games in Flin Flon to be oddly called. Not necessarily poorly, just... odd.
To add to the strangeness, Ice Wolves forward, Nathan Boyer leads the team in penalty minutes with 13. Why's that weird? He had eight PIMS in 51 regular season games. Go figure...
The product from the two teams on the ice was excellent on Wednesday. A lot of fun to watch and really exciting in the third with the Bombers pressing. The Ice Wolves showed good composure under fire to hold on to the lead.
If games three and four are any indication, tonight should be a close game with plenty of opportunities for the powerplays to go to work. After scoring six goals in the first two games of the series, the Ice Wolves powerplay dried up over the next 120 minutes, going 1 for 12 in Flin Flon. That's something the coaching staff likely addressed with the team on the ice yesterday afternoon.
The Bombers don't need to change a whole lot from Game 4, aside from the second period. They didn't play poorly, but the Ice Wolves imposed their will much like in Games 1 and 2, and Flin Flon can't afford to let that happen or the series will end tonight. The pressure is surely resting with the Bombers tonight, and we'll get a real look at the character of Mike Reagan's team.
Here are tonight's players to watch:
Adam Bartko (G) - The Ice Wolves netminder hasn't been overly busy in any of the games so far and it's hurting his. Unable to get into the games, Bartko has actually done an admirable job of trying to keep busy with crossword puzzles in the net. In all seriousness, I'm sure the Wolves goalie would like more action and it would help him if the Bombers got more shots tonight.
Logan Herauf (F) - The 20-year old is rolling in the playoffs. Seven assists in four games has him atop the Ice Wolves scoring list. He's well up there on the league list too. He was flat out dominant in the second period of Game 4, if he brings that game back from Flin Flon, look out.
Brett Hope (D) - Not sure if the AP will see his first action tonight, but it is a distinct possibility. This is the perfect time to get him into a game and see his performance at the SJHL level. If he does draw into the lineup, can he provide a similar level of service as Franklin Cook already has?
Andrew Johnston (F) - Ryan Fox was the best Bomber in the first couple games, but back in Flin Flon, Johnston was on his game. He's tied for first among goal scorers in the playoffs and he's tallied at important times of this series. A game winner on Tuesday and got the ball rolling in the third on Wednesday.
Corey Tyrell (F) - One of the guys tied with Johnston for the lead in playoff goals. The Bombers second line has been up and down this series. They dominated the North Stars, but haven't been able to find the same success against the Wolves. The top line can't do it all, and Tyrell/Penner/Mychan will be called upon for offence tonight.
P.J. Musico (G) - Coming into the series with La Ronge, the Mel was Musico's building. He owned the Wolves in their home rink, but that hasn't been the case in the playoffs. Chased once and allowing six in another, Musico has played well, but he has also been human. Flin Flon needs MV-P.J. to be on his game tonight.
The game gets going at 7:30 at the Mel. Should be a great one with plenty of fans from either side present. Let's play nice shall we? No yelling at each other in the stands after this one? Sounds good to me.
As per usual, the webcast will get going a few minutes before puck drop for those of you unable to make it to La Ronge for the game.
Enjoy Game 5!