Really, when you put together the words "Game" and "Seven", there should be a synchronized lightning bolt/thunder clap to go with a "Dun-dun-daaaaaah". Two of the most exciting and terrifying words in sports that use seven game series'.
Unfortunately, even in close series, Game 7 can be the one that gets out of hand. The emotion on the ice is just flying along with nerves and all those other fun intangibles. Players with visions of being the hero, or the goat overplay or play scared, it's a very tough environment to be a part of. It's also a place not too many of the Ice Wolves have been to over the last few years.
The Wolves never faced elimination in last year's playoffs until the Anavet Cup when a trip to the RBC was assured by facing Dauphin. So there are only a couple players for La Ronge that have been to the entirely different world that is Game 7, and they did it with different teams. The Terriers feature a few more guys that have been to Game 7, those that remain from last season's Sherwood Conference Championship team. Also, they're 1-0 in elimination games in these playoffs after winning in Game 6.
Do or die experience, edge Yorkton.
Home ice hasn't been a huge factor in this series, with all the games close and both teams having a win in the other's barn. That said, once the series moved past the first four games, the teams have won both of their home games and momentum was a big part of those wins. The Ice Wolves will likely set another attendance record tonight, and the Mel is every bit as loud, if not louder than FA Arena in Yorkton. It's not a slight against Yorkton fans (who've been awesome in this series, even up in La Ronge) it's physics. When you put 2/3 the people in 1/3 of the space, it's going to be freakin' loud. To take advantage, the Ice Wolves need to score early to get the crowd really pumping. What also can't be discounted is the Ice Wolves knowledge of all the weird bounces off the boards.
Home ice advantage, La Ronge.
For the game to game momentum people, the Terriers got a very good surge as they were resurrected after Justin Ducharme's 5 minute boarding major, and the subsequent win in overtime. There's no telling what that will do for the Terriers. People wondered, myself included, if the Terriers breeze to the final round would lead to a more fragile psyche, and that was compounded in Game 5. Sunday's contest showed the Terriers do have the character to deal with the pressure of being in a position to be Eliminated. On the Ice Wolves side, they used up their last 'Continue Game' quarter on Sunday. Lose tonight, and they go home from the arcade one ticket short of being able to get that shiny trophy on the top shelf. They weren't a happy bunch after the loss in Yorkton, who would be? This is where the coaching experience of Bob Beatty comes in to play to keep his guys focused. The Wolves are a team that never gets too high or low, expect a great bounce back effort. Also, Bob Beatty doesn't believe in game to game momentum.
Series momentum, edge Yorkton.
In goal, this series started out decidedly in Devin Peters favour. At this point, I would look at it more Adam Bartko carrying the play in net. Even though he allowed four goals in Game 6, he was fantastic to get the Ice Wolves to OT. Peters wasn't as busy in the third, though he did make some very solid saves. It isn't beyond either netminder to steal a game and if one of them can put on a show we may have our champion.
Edge in net, La Ronge by a sliver.
Up front these teams are very even, and they've proven it through the first six games. The Terriers feature probably the most valuable forward of the series in Clarke Breitkeuz. His game has gone up a couple levels through the series and his two goals in Game 6 got the Terriers to this point. The Terriers forward ranks have been improving over the last couple of games, and Game 6 was their best effort so far. There are some injuries in the forwards for Yorkton, but the AP's filled in very well for Game 6. The Ice Wolves top line was quiet through two periods on Sunday then ripped away for two goals in the third period. If they have a big game, it could be lights out for Yorkton. You also can't count out the contribution coming from somewhere else. Nolan Souchotte has shown his knack for scoring huge goals in the Wolves playoff drive. Justin Ducharme won't be in the lineup as he serves his suspension, I would imagine Phil Cliché comes in for the second line.
Forwards, pretty darn even. Breaking it down. 1st - Even, 2nd - Yorkton, 3rd - La Ronge (tough to go against the 20 year olds),
4th - La Ronge.
On the blue-line, the Ice Wolves have been very strong in this series. With Alex Vandenameele back in the lineup, they have options every night. The Terriers don't quite have those same options with Kurtis Decker out and Keon Vick possibly out as well. Sam Rockwell played quite well on Sunday, especially physically. Troy Dumais and Braeden Raiwet could step into that open defence slot for the Terriers. Your top defencemen through the series are Brant Remenda for Yorkton and Dayton Fossum for La Ronge. Fossum is regarded as one of the favourites for playoff MVP should La Ronge win tonight.
Defence, based on health of the group, edge La Ronge.
The special teams in this series have been all about the penalty kills. They've been fantastic. However, powerplay goals decided the last two games with the Ice Wolves getting all of their goals up a man in Game 5 and the Terriers getting the winner on the powerplay and back into the game on the 5 minute major. If the Terriers can control the Ice Wolves powerplay, which has a staggering 25 goals in 16 games, they will have a shot at winning. If their own powerplay which only had one goal coming into Game 6, can get on the board, it would go a long way to helping out. That's a couple too many "if's" though.
Special teams, edge La Ronge.
Here's something that came down the line today. Due to a conference at the hotel housing the Terriers, they couldn't get a late check-out and don't have rooms for all of the guys. Not just an inconvenience as it takes away nap-space from the players. While that may seem silly, hockey players have their routines and not sticking within that routine can muck with things later. On the flip side, I'm sure there will be some annoyed Terriers at the game tonight.
Nap-time, edge La Ronge.
Annoyance at lack of nap-time, edge Yorkton.
Edit: That last part, and I apologize for missing it when I originally posted, is by way of Mr. Craig Stein of GX94.
When it comes down to it, this series has been so tough to predict because it's been so close. While it would be tough to surprise me with any outcome of Game 7, I don't think we'll see overtime. Final score will likely be a two goal spread for whoever wins, likely on an empty netter. If a team is up in the late stages, it will be interesting to see when the goalie leaves the net. When is too early for a one goal game?
For fans headed to the Mel for tonight's game, get there early. Tickets will be at a premium. Maybe I'll pick up a few and make some bucks selling tickets... even for Terriers fans I suspect the Visitors Section will be quite packed so if you aren't on the fan bus, get to the game as early as possible.
Here's to a freakin' loud building tonight!