The Ice Wolves came into their game Sunday needing a bounce back win for two reasons. They hadn’t played like we know they can since the holiday break and needed to break the out of it, also, the Melfort Mustangs rolled on by the Notre Dame Hounds earlier in the day and sat within two points of the pack in the Bauer Conference.
They fulfilled both purposes and more importantly, it was a character win in overtime. This was the game that should have been on Access 7, because it was a good one. Unfortunately there was only a couple hundred people to see the game, though I’m sure the listed attendance will be much higher (season tickets).
Read on for my re-cap of the Ice Wolves’ 3-2 overtime win.
Just like they have in every game since the holiday break, the Wolves struck first. The powerplay connected on its first opportunity of the evening, with Travis Eggum notching his 40th of the season as he continues his amazing season. That was the only time the powerplay would connect on eight opportunities. A big part of that was Joel Danyluk. The former Bruins netminder was on fire against his old team and he was the reason this game stayed close.
The Wolves would pick another marker before the end of the period. Logan Herauf pushed the puck towards the net off a draw deep in the Estevan zone and Justin Ducharme finished the play off to give the Ice Wolves a two nothing lead. The Wolves suffocated the Bruins in the first period, holding them to only 4 shots, and it looked like the B’s were in for a long night.
Fortunately, the Bruins righted the ship in the second period and came out of the dressing room a completely different squad. They got on the board only a couple minutes into the second period. Ryan Anderson played a puck off the boards that skipped out in front, Adam Bartko’s attention was on Anderson and he couldn’t see the puck come into the danger zone. He made a valiant effort, but Ryan Ostertag put the puck into the Ice Wolves cage cutting the lead to one.
The Bruins and Wolves would trade chances, but both goalies came up big for their teams. It became clear that goals were going to be tough to come by tonight, making each one so precious.
The third period opened much the way the second did, with a Bruins goal. Dominic Perrault launched one from the point that found its way through the crowd in front and over a surprised Bartko’s shoulder bringing the game even. The third period was excellent hockey. Fast, physical and the scorers on each team had numerous chances to give their respective teams a lead. The game made it through regulation, which is amazing considering the Ice Wolves had a 5 on 3 opportunity and the Bruins had a powerplay to close out the 60th minute.
If you listened to the broadcast, you’ll probably remember me talking about the Ice Wolves 5 on 3 chances this year. They’ve had them, but have only managed a couple of goals this season with a two man advantage. I distinctly remember a 5/3 goal against Kindersley at the beginning of the season, but can’t think of one since then. My memory is pretty good, but I’m probably forgetting one or two, but the point is they need to connect on these chances. For one, it’s a great chance to take control of a game, and second the killing team gets such a boost in momentum after surviving. I think the Wolves just get too cute. They need to get pucks on net because that is when their powerplay is successful. They have great shooters and great puck pursuit to get to rebounds and pucks cleared to the boards so it serves to spread the penalty killers out and uses the Wolves’ numbers to their advantage.
Overtime brought the tension of this game to critical mass. It was early playoff hockey in Estevan on Sunday… exactly what the doctor (or in this case Coach Beatty) ordered for La Ronge and quite frankly, Estevan as well. A win would be huge for either team going forward, and they played like it. The Ice Wolves survived the final seconds of the Bruins powerplay and went to their own.
As the penalty wound down, the Ice Wolves entered the zone offside. I saw it, the fans saw it, I was talking to some players after the game and they saw it… but the linesman didn’t. No whistle. The Wolves couldn’t score on the powerplay as the seconds ticked off, but a shot made its way through to Danyluk and a scramble ensued. The puck found Marc-Andre Carre’s stick and he poked it past the sprawled Danyluk giving the Ice Wolves the win.
Like I said in the pre-amble, this one was a treat to watch. I’m glad it finished in OT because this game had a playoff atmosphere and playoff games don’t end in a shootout. The Ice Wolves played a great game, their best in awhile. It was that customary blend of grit and skill that has made this Wolves team so unique and fun to watch this season. If the Bruins can keep playing like they did tonight, they will start picking up wins in a hurry. Chad Leslie won’t have to wait too long before he gets his first win behind the bench of the Bruins and they could get back into the hunt for the top three. At least they picked up a point tonight for their efforts.
1. Adam Bartko – LR – 33 saves – After managing only four shots in the first, the Bruins peppered the La Ronge net for the rest of the game. Bartko was dialed in tonight and it looked like November all over again. If he can consistently play like this, the Wolves look to be in good shape.
2. Joel Danyluk – EST – 37 saves – If the former Ice Wolf had gotten one more goal from his teammates he likely would have been the first star. He was a big reason this game was close after one period and he made a couple ridiculous saves.
3. Marc-Andre Carre – LR – GWG – Marc wasn’t getting many bounces in the past couple games. He had his point streak snapped against Weyburn and had a couple chances hop over his stick in this game tonight. The goal moved him into second in goals and more importantly gave his team the win.
Honourable Mention: Ok, so he wasn’t on the ice, but Ice Wolves President Terry Helary stepped up and did colour commentary for me tonight. It was his live radio debut, and he did a fine job on the mic and hopefully I’ll have him on again.
We’re on the bus home from Estevan and should get home in the wee hours of the morning. It’s a rough schedule for the guys. This three in three is followed by a home game on Tuesday against the North Stars then another quick back to backer on Thursday and Friday in Humboldt and the Battlefords. If they can take all three of these games it would be a testament to the team’s conditioning and intestinal fortitude. Six games in eight nights… we’ll see if my voice makes it.
Curtis and I will have the Battlefords game in La Ronge on Livesports.com. Just follow the links here on the site and have your credit card ready (I think its like five bucks). Of course if you’re in LA, you can just come out to see the game. It gets going at 7:30 in the Mel.
See you there!