For the first time in nearly a week, the Ice Wolves will be back at it. Their opponents Friday, the Melville Millionaires. A lot of people saw the Mills faltering big time without Brayden Metz and Cody Hanson, but they've played reasonably well, they're over.500 in their last ten games.
That being said, Melville faces the very real possibility of being run down by Notre Dame. The Hounds beat the Klippers... yes the Klippers, last night and sit two points back. The good news? The Mills hold three games in hand on the Hounds. The bad news? Melville plays two against the Wolves this weekend, and next week, the North Stars and two against Yorkton before facing Notre Dame.
Can this desperate team pick up a win or two in La Ronge? Read on for a preview of tonight's game.
Before I get into the game, I would just like to mention I got a new battery for my car, so it should be good for the rest of the winter... provided I don't get stuck in the approx. 8 feet of snow we got last night. You can tell I'm a Calgary boy because man, I haven't seen a night of snow build up like that in a long time. Between global and city warming, it just doesn't happen... when's the next chinook coming through to clear out the snow? Oh... right...
Anyways, there is hockey to be played!! Not a lot of it left before we get to the playoff grind. Only 12 games for the Wolves to be more exact. That means 12 games for Travis Eggum to pick up 5 goals and become a 50 goal scorer. If he can reach that mark soon, and his near goal per game pace says he will, could he make it to 60? That would be pretty wild, just sayin.
Keeping an eye on some Ice Wolves milestones, thanks to some digging by Kevin Radloff, I don't have to go searching for some stuff. Like the fact that Doug Lindensmith is nine assists away from being the franchise career leader in that category, and ten away from the single season record. He also has an outside shot at Jordie Johnson's 197 career point mark, but to do that, he'll need 20 points over his last 12 games.
Setting the scene for both teams, the Mills are feeling the heat from the Hounds, and the Wolves are getting it from the Mustangs, one team though is in a little more worrisome situation though. The Millionaires need to capitalize on their three games in hand on Notre Dame. If they can do that, it should be almost smooth sailing to the post-season. If they lose both against the Wolves this weekend, there is the very real possibility they could be tied with the Hounds, albeit still with two games in hand.
It's not quite as complicated for the Wolves and Mustangs. The two teams have 46 games under their belt and La Ronge holds a three point edge. That being said, the Ice Wolves have four more wins on the season (32 vs 28). Melfort has the distinction of being tied with Notre Dame for the most 'loser' points in the league with 7 (3 OTL, 4 SOL). La Ronge and Melfort have been slugging it out at the top of the conference with brilliant records over their last ten (LR-8-2-0-0) (MELF-8-1-0-1). This could come down to A) neither team falters and La Ronge gets into first just by holding the Mustangs off, or B) one gives way to the other. One thing is for sure the two games remaining between the two teams will be pivotal. Not just for the standings, but a possible preview of the conference final if the two can make it through the rest of the Bauer.
So what does all of this mean for Friday and Saturday's games?
For one, the Mills are going to come out hungry and desperate. Look for a strong effort, especially in the early going. This isn't going to be a flash and dash team. The Mils are going to attempt to outwork the Ice Wolves and rely on some strong goaltending from Zach Rakochy. The Millionaires have a bright future with some of the young'ins they put on the ice, and it's that enthusiasm that can kill a team not ready to deal with it.
The Ice Wolves have been plagued by slow starts all season. The last couple of games they've gotten off to good starts but haven't been rewarded as they haven't brought a lead into the second period. The impressive thing is what the Ice Wolves did after those first periods and that's gain control of the game from the drop of the puck in the second. To be sure, the Wolves will need a good start against Melville if they want to get two or more points out of this weekend.
I haven't had the chance to talk to Coach Beatty today, so I don't know about any of the lineup issues, but I'm guessing Lindensmith will make his return after sitting out the last two games. Phil Belanger may also be ready to go, which brings in the 20-year old question, who sits who plays?
Numbers and Notes time! I think Notes and Numbers sounds better, but it'd be weird since the numbers come first.
Ice Wolves vs Millionaires
(32-12-0-2 - 66 pts) Record (20-22-1-2 - 43 pts)
1st in Bauer Standing 5th in Sherwood
24.6% PP% 18.9%
79.5% PK% 80.0%
Travis Eggum leads the league in points with 84. This passes Travis Janke's league leading number of 83 from last season. To cross the hundred point plateau Eggum needs 16 points in his last 12 games. Which equates to 1.33 points per game. Eggum is rolling at a 1.83 points per game.
The Mustangs and Wolves are neck and neck. So are their starting goalies. Adam Bartko and Charles Corsi are tied for the league lead in wins with 22. Bartko's 22 wins and counting are an Ice Wolves franchise record.
The Millionaires are not a high powered scoring team. Even when they had Brayden Metz. Now, they lack a 20 goal scorer Lucas Froese leads the way with 33 points.
The low scoring numbers wouldn't be a problem, but the Millionaires have allowed the fourth-most goals in the league (177).
How young are the Mills? They only have four 20's on the roster and they have four 17's. In between that, six 19's and seven 18's. To say this team is set for the future is an understatement.
In their last five games the Ice Wolves have only given up 1 goal three times, 2 goals once, and more than that once. As a result of the stingy defence, the Wolves have given up the second fewest goals in the league and hold a +60 goal differential.
The game gets going tonight at 7:30 at the Mel. Curtis and I will have the call starting a few minutes before puck drop.
Saturday night's game will be a neutral site (sort of) played at the JRMCC, same game time for the game. The last time the Wolves played at the JR, it resulted in a 6-1 win for La Ronge and Adam Bartko was 40 seconds away from a shutout.
You'll notice I've added a new feature to the blog, and that's the poll on the side bar. I'll try and have a new one up for every game, or pair of games and reveal the results during the game and in the blog.
Enjoy your weekend!