April 11th, 2010, fans at the Farrell Agencies Arena and watching and listening live saw and heard the La Ronge Ice Wolves raise the Credit Union Cup for the first time in team history. Now, one day shy of a year later, both the Terriers and Ice Wolves prepare for Game 6 again.
The parallels are easy to draw. A couple of overtime games, other close ones, a couple of more stretched out scores, the Ice Wolves winning Game 5 to set up this opportunity in Yorkton.
The series has been fantastic, showing off some of the best skill the SJHL has to offer. When the skill hasn't come through, it's been the unsung guys like Aaron Enns and Nathan Murray who have come through for their teams.
The only question remains, will the hero be from La Ronge or Yorkton in Game 6?
One thing's for sure, special teams is coming to the forefront of this series in the late stages. It took awhile for the Ice Wolves to get a powerplay goal, but now they are flowing. The Wolves went 4 for 9 in Game 5, scoring all of their goals on the powerplay, taking advantage of some very undisciplined play by Yorkton. The Terriers will need to keep their emotions under wrap tonight, which could be tough. It will be absolutely rockin' at the FA Arena tonight, with the Terriers and their fans desperate for a victory while the Ice Wolves faithful in the stands are so close to a second consecutive cup, they can taste it.
The Terriers played a very strong first period and half of a second before they gave way to undisciplined play. They'll need an effort similar to that first half to force a Game 7. The Ice Wolves came alive after scoring their first goal on Friday. While they had played a pretty decent game to that point, they were on fire after that goal. Once they had the lead, it was a picture perfect example of how to hold onto it, minus Craig Eisenhut's breakaway in the last couple minutes. More of the same for La Ronge is key tonight.
I don't have the advantage of being around the Terriers like I do the Ice Wolves, but what I've seen from the Wolves, I've liked. I mentioned it briefly in my Game 5 Recap, just the hunger evident. There's a focus with the Wolves today as they go through a brief game day skate that I haven't seen this series. They look poised and ready to go. Nobody is taking anything for granted. They're not looking at the MJHL series looking for an opponent past Yorkton. The Terriers are the only thing on their minds, as you can bet the Ice Wolves are the only thing on the Terriers'.
First goal has been critical in this series, though for the first time, it didn't determine the victor in Game 5. With what will be such an emotionally charged atmosphere, that first goal could be the determining factor in how the game rolls along momentum wise. I would say first goal tonight is more imperative for Yorkton than it is La Ronge. Especially for the collective psyche of the team after giving up three straight goals in Game 5.
Taking a quick look at the goalies, after allowing the third goal in Game 5, Adam Bartko found the form he showed against Melfort. He shut the Terriers down, eliminating rebounds by holding them or clearing them. Obviously his big moment was stopping Craig Eisnhut's penalty shot in the third. Something like that can be a huge confidence booster and when Bartko plays with confidence, he can be truly dominant.
The Terriers need a big game from Devin Peters. He was excellent through the first two games, but hasn't been as strong as we're used to seeing. He was fighting the puck in Game 5, expect a lot of shots from La Ronge early to test him and see where he's at tonight.
Players to Watch
Justin Ducharme (F) - While he hasn't had a stand out series, Ducharme has scored some big goals for the Ice Wolves. They tying marker in Game 3 along with the winner in Game 5. He's a threat every time he's on the ice and could be 'that guy' for La Ronge.
Aaron Enns (F) - He's been impressive all playoffs, but not for his scoring. Enns was rewarded with a three point night in Game 5, helping La Ronge to the win. He was playing with a ton of confidence in that game, and I expect it to carry over to tonight.
Byron Sorenson (D) - He was out of the lineup as a game-time decision on Friday. It's unclear whether he'll be back in the lineup tonight, though he is going through the full skate and looks up to speed. He's one of the anchor points of this La Ronge defence and the Wolves will need him for the desperate offence the Terriers will bring.
Clarke Breitkreuz (F) - I'm not sure how many times Breitkreuz has made this list, maybe every time, but he's that important. He created offence out of nothing a couple times in Game 5 and is Yorkton's MVP so far in this series. He'll likely be relied upon tonight to do what he's been doing since Game 3.
Blaine Tendler (D) - The Terriers' Captain was here a year ago for the Terriers Game 6 defeat and he will do everything within his power to make sure his teammates don't go through that same hurt. He's been solid all season, but the Terriers need him to be dominant tonight.
Craig Eisenhut (F) - He had the chance to even up Game 5 with a penalty shot, but couldn't beat Bartko. He hasn't been a huge factor in the series thus far, and he could be one of the guys flying under the radar that makes his presence felt in the big game tonight.
Tonight's game goes at 6:00 with the pre-game show on at 5;45 on MBC Radio and MBCRadio.com. Once again, there is bingo at 9:00 and we will have to cut away to that no matter what, hope for a regulation finish folks.
It should be a great one tonight, and here's something to get you goin' for it. Not hockey, but still one of the great movie locker room speeches.
Enjoy the game!