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.
Since then, it hasn't been a good year for the Mustangs and their fans. It was expected they would run into trouble this season, but nobody wants to see a
4-18-1-1 record on the board. At their current pace, it will be a stretch for the 'Stangs to win ten games this year unless they get it turned around. Despite their woeful record to go with a uninspired GF-GA (41-96), the Mustangs have been surprisingly competitive. Sure there have been stretched out scores, but they generally have a chance in most games. Half of their games have been decided by a margin of two goals or less (4-6-1-1) six more losses have been by three goals.
The interesting thing about that, is the Mustangs have allowed five empty net goals. Two on the three goal games, three in the two goal games. As a team that's 1-3 in two goal games, all of their losses by two goals have been off of empty netters. The point of all this is exactly what Bob Beatty said yesterday for my radio preview. Teams have to come in ready to play against the 'Stangs because it won't be an easy night. They have a good defence and have been getting solid goaltending, though one of those netminders won't be in action.
Melfort traded Jesse Ehnisz to the Olds Grizzlies of the AJHL along with forward Ty Morgan for Brandon Sloan. Ehnisz was having a strong season, despite lacklustre numbers. Brandon Crowe (CJVR) called him, "the Mustangs MVP to this point in the season." I don't know if Sloan will be in the lineup tonight, but he brings some grit and offence. He put up 25 points as a 17 year old in Olds last season. Offence is something the Mustangs need desperately at this point with their aforementioned 41 goals in 24 games (1.71 goals per game).
The Ice Wolves come into tonight's game after having made a move of their own. The Wolves sent forward Johney Cormier ('92) to Steinbach of the MJHL in return for defenceman Brennan Ritchie ('92). I'm not sure if Ritchie will be in the lineup tonight but the plan is for him to meet the Wolves in Melfort. I've heard that move isn't the only thing that went down with the Wolves roster yesterday. More on that around gametime if I can confirm.
I would expect Myles Hovdebo to get the start tonight with Alex Rajotte getting the call tomorrow. That said, my record picking the starting goalies is atrocious to say the least (though it has been getting better). For the Mustangs, the options are Jesse Wilkins and newcomer Patrick Johnson. I wouldn't be surprised to see either tonight.
Marc-Andre Carre is traditionally terrifying at the Northern Lights Palace, though he only had one assist in his last visit. It will be interesting to see if Carre plays like he did in Estevan where he looked like a professional player playing junior. If he keeps up like he did against the Bruins, Carre Version 2.0 will rack up some serious numbers. Along with Carre, Zac Ashdown was good for the Wolves in his first two games (2G, 1A) and it will be interesting to see what that line looks like assuming MAC and Ashdown still on the same line.
I'll have the call of tonight's game starting with the pre-game show at 7:15. With Branden Crowe in Yorkton tonight with the Broncos, I have a hunch the broadcast may be hooked into the webcast as well for all you web-watchers. I'll be joined by MBC's Keith Kratchmer, the host of Kratchmer's Korner, for colour commentary on the broadcast.
Last couple of broadcasts of 2011, so make sure you tune in!