Man it's been a busy day, hence this post coming a little later than usual. Of course you don't care about my excuses so let's get to it shall we?
The Ice Wolves fell to the Bombers on Tuesday in a game that was clearly not a 60 minute effort. This team seems to go through 3 or 4 game winning streaks before a reset is needed for them to get to playing like Bob Beatty wants them to. For about half the game on Tuesday the Ice Wolves played their game and dominated. Very similar to their last meeting with Weyburn. Really, the Wolves controlled about 80% of that 3-2 loss in Weyburn, but fell to some solid goaltending and Jesse Ross victimizing La Ronge twice early in the second.
Read on for my preview of tonight's game.
The Ice Wolves need to show some urgency tonight. That's something that's been lacking since the holiday break, with a couple of exceptions. This team seems to be quite comfy at the top of the SJHL standings and now with Melfort right behind them, the heat is building. That's a good thing.
The Wolves played their best hockey of the season when they were chasing the Broncos and Mustangs earlier in the season. Chasing might not be exactly the right word because they were making up games in hand, but the fact remains that when the Wolves really hit their stride it was when they were in the process of catching those teams and putting some distance between 1st and 2nd.
The Wolves haven't been as hungry since the holiday break, and maybe it takes Melfort catching them to bring back that hunger, but as I'm sure goes for you, I would much rather they stay on top of the conference. The good thing is, the Wolves have been good enough this season to win games when they don't bring their A-Game so they're still on top.
Improvement starts with your next game (aside from practice of course) so it needs to begin against Weyburn. The Red Wings have a very solid team, and have been rolling in the Sherwood Conference, overshadowed only by the red hot Kindersley Klippers. Mitch Kilgore came up big in the last meeting holding the Wolves out of the net in the final minutes to take that one goal victory in Weyburn, look for him to get the start tonight. If not, back up Riley Hengen has played some good hockey this season and doesn't present an easier night for shooters.
Jesse Ross was a huge part of the win with his two goals, but he was also injured in that game and hasn't played for the Wings since. I'll have more information up on Twitter closer to the game regarding Ross's status.
Even without Ross, the Red Wings have lots of firepower to throw at the Ice Wolves' net, but the Wolves have done a reasonably good job of shutting that firepower done this season, only allowing six goals in three games against Weyburn. As to who will guard the net for the Ice Wolves tonight, that could be a little up in the air. With the back to back set, we could see Adam Bartko or Myles Hovdebo.
Bartko has been the shining point in the lack-lustre last couple weeks for the Wolves. His GAA is well under two in his last four starts and his save percentage has been very good. Hovdebo has beaten the Wings this season, a 6-3 victory on home ice for La Ronge. Hovdebo made 34 saves in the victory and looked solid. So the question for Bob Beatty becomes, do you start Hovdebo against Weyburn or Flin Flon? Or... does Bartko get both starts, which the team did earlier in the season before Hovdebo proved himself. I'll have the starter up on Twitter as we get near to game time.
Numbers and Notes time!
Ice Wolves vs Red Wings
(30-12-0-2 - 62 pts) Record (24-18-1-1 - 50 pts)
1st in Bauer Standing 3rd in Sherwood
24.4% PP% 23.6%
79.0% PK% 83.8%
Two of the Red Wings have multiple goals against the Ice Wolves this season, Brock Appleyard and Jesse Ross. Both of those players scored their goals in single games.
Adam Bartko has been strong in two outings against Weyburn. He shut them out one game, and holds a 1.51 GAA and 0.946 Sv% in 2 games against the Red Wings this season.
The Red Wings have only surrendered one goal to the SJHL goal scoring leader, Travis Eggum. That being said, he has five assists in three contests against Weyburn, while Marc-Andre Carre has taken the goal responsibilities with five in the three games.
Before Tuesday night against Flin Flon, the Ice Wolves top line had only been shut out twice... and only by one team. Carre, Eggum and Lindensmith failed to register a point in back to back games against Yorkton on October 29-30. These three games are the only times the big line hasn't registered at least a point.
Since being traded to Weyburn, former Ice Wolves defenceman, Taylor Desserre has only played four games. Those games however, are the Wings' last four. Could we see him suit up against the team that brought him to the SJHL?
Keeping an eye on the milestones,
Travis Eggum will once again attempt to set the franchise record for goals with his 43rd of the season.
Should Bartko start and win, he will tie the franchise mark he and Alex Gangon ('04-'05) currently share with 21 wins on the season.
For any of the big three to set the franchise mark in points with 100, here's what they need to do:
Doug Lindensmith: 78 points - 13 games remaining - 22 points needed - 1.7 ppg
Marc-Andre Carre: 77 points - 13 games remaining - 23 points needed - 1.7 ppg
Travis Eggum: 76 points - 13 games remaining - 24 points needed - 1.8 ppg
Yes, they are all pretty close to each other points-wise. On the season, Carre has the higher overall points per game because he missed three earlier in the season. He sits just shy of 1.9 points per game, while the other two sit right around 1.7. 100 points is very much in the realm of possibility for these guys, but more importantly, the Wolves rely on their scoring touch heavily to win games.
Tonight's game should be a fun one to watch. Lots of gifted offensive players against solid goalies. If you're in La Ronge, remember, I made your plans for you on Tuesday in my blog. Come on out to the game! For those of you living in the more southern reaches... HELLOOOO WEYBURN!! You can catch the game on Livesports.com. Curtis and I will have the call and be on shortly before the game commences.
I'll have a quick wrap and preview for Saturday's game in the Flon after the game.
Catch you then!