Slightly misleading title as the Ice Wolves snapped their seven game road losing streak at Notre Dame two nights prior, but the trip still could have gone either way on the weekend. With a game against Weyburn, who the Wolves hadn't seen yet and the toast of the league in the Hawks; the Wolves could have been right back into trouble.
Instead, La Ronge jumped back into the mix in the Bauer Conference with a 5-2 win over the Red Wings and in what was the best game in the first half of the weekend, a 3-2 OT win over Nipawin.
I'm not going to spend much time on the Weyburn game as you can check out a recap on that one by reading the replay of the live blog I did during the action. Thanks to everyone who checked it out. It's definitely something I'll look into doing again for non-broadcast games. Maybe as early as this week when the Wolves play the Bruins at the JRMCC here in La Ronge (internet willing).
The game definitely looked like one being played at eleven in the morning, sleepy. Both teams had to travel to reach the game (1.5ish hours for La Ronge, 45ish minutes for Weyburn) so it was an even earlier morning than it would have been at a home rink. The Wolves jumped on the Red Wings early with a pair of early goals and looked to be off and running after a very strong first. The second period wasn't a shining example of Wolves hockey as they hit the 5-10 minute lull they've been prone to and gave up two goals in just over a minute. The Wolves regained their composure, though, and Aaron Enns gave them back the lead on a shorthanded odd man rush.
The Wolves iced the game in the third, not giving the Wings any real chance to battle back in, especially after Jared Iron made it a two goal game again just a couple minutes in. The main story of the Weyburn contest was the penalty kill. Some interesting calls had the Ice Wolves bench infuriated, and down a man
five times before their first powerplay.
Since allowing four goals on the penalty kill in two games in Flin Flon, the Wolves have shut down opposing powerplays only allowing 1 ppg on 19 opportunities in four games. Now they just need the powerplay to be similarly efficient.
Aaron Enns was named the in-house player of the game with his two goal effort. He was very strong on this road trip and came up big for the Wolves when they needed him to. A shootout winner in Wilcox followed by a shorthanded winner against Weyburn, it was an impressive weekend for Enns as he put on a solid showing for the scouts in Estevan.
The game against the Nipawin Hawks was not sleepy at all. Still an early game for both sides, the intensity was definitely there from two teams that are playing very strong games against each other (Wolves home opener exempt). The Ice Wolves did a very good job of containing the Hawks skill, which continues to impress everyone around the league. The first period was dominated by Nipawin, with the play mostly in the Ice Wolves end. That said, the Wolves did a great job of limiting the Hawks scoring chances. The shot count after one period was 5-4 La Ronge, but I don't think the Wolves did THAT good a job limiting chances.
The Wolves got on the board first after some nice passing work by Skyler Hladun to set up Pavlo Zerebecky in front. Great patience and skill just outside the blue paint netted Zerebecky his second in as many games and third of the season. I felt Zerebecky really made great strides on this road trip and was one of the better Ice Wolves at the showcase. He's got solid skill and great work ethic, and can be a regular contributor for La Ronge.
The Wolves couldn't escape the second with a lead, and despite playing a stronger second were outshot, 11-5. Adam Reichert evened the game on a breakaway ripping one top shelf on Myles Hovdebo late in the frame. The Hawks then made it two unanswered seven minutes into the third with a powerplay goal by Tad Kozun who's already running away with rookie of the year with 18 points in 13 games.
Falling behind the Hawks with thirteen left to play puts the Ice Wolves in a tough position. Taking those extra chances will undoubtedly create extra opportunities for the Hawks and the Wolves know how quickly that can get ugly. Luckily for La Ronge, Brett Hope took care of it just a few minutes later. The Wolves rookie d-man gloved down a puck at the blue-line and chucked it onto his stick. It was definitely a borderline glove pass with how far Hope moved the puck, but arguments could be made either way and the ref chose not to call it. Hope then ripped a shot to the near top corner of the net that suddenly opened up as goalie Stephen Klein shifted to try and see around a screen in front.
The teams battled it out for the remainder of the third with neither team grabbing a lead. It definitely looked as if the Wolves were content to battle to OT rather than take a chance. They were into a defensive stance after grabbing the tie. Can't argue with that choice as snagging even just a single point would have been a big pick up for the Wolves coming off the road swing with 5 of 8 points.
In OT, the teams traded a few chances with both goalies coming up with a couple saves (not reflected in the shot totals). Then Brodie Eisbrenner made a great solo effort to drive to the Nipawin net. He got help there from Brett McNevin as both whacked away at the puck. Eisbrenner was able to push the puck over the line and the Wolves celebrated their second extra time win in three games.
Myles Hovdebo was great in the game. Actually, the Ice Wolves goaltending was great overall on the road trip. As mentioned before, Alex Rajotte could have been the first start in a 5-1 loss and Hovdebo was the first star in his two wins. After a sub-par weekend in Flin Flon, this road trip was especially huge for the Wolves backstoppers and they did a fantastic job.
1. Myles Hovdebo (G) - LR - 29 Svs
2. Adam Reichert (F) - NIP - 1 G, 1A
3. Brodie Eisbrenner (F) - LR - OT Winner
After two games in Estevan not facing the Bruins, the Wolves welcome Keith Cassidy's troupe this coming weekend. The B's will be at the Mel Friday and the teams will head down the road Saturday for the first of four games at the JRMCC this season.
Enjoy the week off!