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.
For the Ice Wolves, it's definitely a case of 'who do you go to?' Alex Rajotte has had iffy games back-to-back for one of the first times this season (coincidentally Flin Flon was his only other real blip), so does Bob Beatty go to his goalie and let him work out of the funk? Or does he go to Myles Hovdebo, who after a slow start is really making strides numbers and wins-wise. He was stellar in Melfort almost snagging a shut-out and settled the team down in the third period of last Saturday's game against Notre Dame. The downside, he got chased from the goal by the Bombers in their last meeting. I spoke to Bob Beatty before posting this blog, and the coaching staff hadn't decided who would get the call this evening.
Goaltending is far from a problem in Flin Flon. Devin Buffalo shut the door hard on the faces of the Humboldt Broncos Wednesday night, stopping 50 of 53 shots his direction. With that heavy body of work, don't be surprised to see Andy Desautels get the call for the Bombers tonight. Both played reasonably well against the Ice Wolves in Flin Flon, but Desautels had the better night only allowing two Ice Wolves goals.
Offensively, the Bombers bring some serious firepower to bear on the opposition. Riley Storzuk continues to produce with 41 points on the season. There's a sharp drop off from Storzuk, but the Flin Flon still features five more players with more than twenty points (and one knocking on the door). The Bombers can come at you with two lines of strong attack and it's a toss up as to which one could get you on a given night. Prime example are the meetings in Flin Flon. While the top unit did pick up points it was the second line (at the time) of McCombie/Blair/Penner with a combined 13 points on the night. The next night, Storzuk/Balaski/Young combine for 7 points. Not a fun situation for the defence.
The Ice Wolves can look at themselves now and say, "we have two scoring lines." With the Ashdown/Carre/Enns line and Billet Line (Boyer/Hladun/Smerek), the Wolves have the tools to put up strong offensive numbers. That said, the top unit had a forgettable evening against the Broncos and could use a bounce back performance. Enns and Carre picked up assists, but they were on Skyler Hladun's fluke goal off the glass. Zac Ashdown doesn't have a point in his last two after tallying in his first three, the Ashdown was clearly under the weather on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see how the Wolves' forward ranks respond.
I enjoyed watching the line of Brett McNevin, Pat Tran and Jared Iron on Tuesday. They brought plenty of grit and added some clutch scoring for the Wolves late in the game. It will be interesting to see if that line sticks together for this weekend's series.
The return of Alex Vandenameele gives the Wolves more options on defence. Against Humboldt, that resulted in Brett Hope moving to forward and scoring a goal. The pairings shifted around a few times in the game and I imagine they'll solidify a little more against the Bombers. The defence looked out of sorts, and unfamiliarity could have been a part of that. Brennan Ritchie has only played three games with the team, and Vandenameele was out for an extended period. Their additions may be a reason for the hiccup that was Tuesday's game.
The Bomber defence is as solid as they come with David Roper and Brandt Weldon patrolling the defensive zone. They're also no stranger to putting up points. Tanner Clark sits with 19 points which is good enough to put him in third for scoring from the blue lines. While the defence isn't exactly counted on to lock down teams for 2-1 games, they're definitely proficient enough to keep the Bombers from giving up that all important momentum goal.
I'm excited for tonight's contest at the Mel. It should be a pretty good crowd for the opener of an important set of games. I'll have the game with Curtis on the webcast which will be patched in from the CFAR broadcast tonight. Yes, Curtis and I will be calling Bomber hockey for Rob Hart who couldn't make the trip. We did a game last year, and I don't think we angered anyone too much. At least I didn't hear about it or have any moose legs thrown at me on the next trip to the Forum. So hopefully, Bomber fans, we can provide you with at least a similar quality broadcast to which you're accustomed.
Have a good weekend, enjoy the hockey games and the Grey Cup. I'm sticking with my pick of the Lions from when they first started to heat up. Should be a good game!