What a night for the Ice Wolves organization. After wrapping up a five game series with Melfort by a 4-2 score on Friday night, the Wolves have some time to get ready for their greatest challenge to repeat as Credit Union Cup Champs.
The Mustangs gave the Wolves everything they could handle as they fought for their playoff lives. Adam Bartko kept them at bay while the Ice Wolves worked ahead to a three goal lead. That would be all the offence the Wolves would need, but things would get dicey.
Read on for my recap of Game 5.
It only took 1:26 for the Ice Wolves to score the games first goal for the fifth straight game. Travis Eggum made a fantastic second effort on a puck from his knees to get it by a sprawling Charles Corsi for the opening goal.
A five-on-three powerplay would result in Skyler Hladun stretching his goal scoring streak to four games in the Bauer Finals. Like so many of his goals in the regular season and playoffs, he snagged a rebound and popped it into the net for his sixth of the playoffs. His emergence as a force on the powerplay was a great thing for the Wolves in this series. Even when Lindensmith is back in the lineup, and I imagine he'll be ready for Yorkton, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hladun remain on that top unit to plant himself right in front of Devin Peters.
In the second period, the Ice Wolves continued to roll, but it was Charles Corsi's turn in this series to put on a show. He made a few outstanding saves keeping the game close as it could have easily been 6-0 after two. He was, however, beaten once. After making a fine save on a Nick Keller and Taylor Piller hook up, nobody took Nolan Souchotte in the slot as he barrelled towards the net. The Ice Wolves Captain ripped his fourth of the playoffs and gave the Wolves a three goal lead. They would need it.
The third started out pretty well for the Ice Wolves, killing off a penalty that carried over from the second. Then Brendon Wall took a shot from the point that squeaked through Adam Bartko. Make it 3-1. Talking to Bartko after the game, apparently Sean Aschim tipped it on the way, but he said he should have made the save. The goal gave the Mustangs life. They pressed the attack playing with the fury of a team in danger of ending its season. With just under four minutes left, Brody Haygarth pulled the Mustangs within one on a powerplay goal after he found himself with a rebound and a relatively open net. Valiant effort by Bartko, but no real chance.
The Mustangs kept bringing the pressure, but started to get sloppy on their breakout in their desperation. With the Ice Wolves top line on the ice... not a mistake you want to make. Phil Belanger knocked a pass down and started it right back the other way for Travis Eggum. He charged into the zone and it was quickly a 2-on-1 as Marc-Andre Carre joined the rush. Eggum found Carre with a pass right across the crease and Carre made no mistake putting it behind Corsi and going for a seal slide back to centre ice. The goal sealed the Mustangs fate.
Watching the handshake line after the game, there are a lot of classy players on that Mustangs team that won't be back. Guys like Brayden Metz, Brody Haygarth and Owen Roschuk were gracious in defeat. Speaking of Roschuk, he played with a separated shoulder and had himself a fantastic game. Amazing resilience from the Mustang Captain, who displayed exactly what it means to be the leader of a team.
One person missing from the line was Mustangs Coach, Darrell Mann. He was ejected from the game earlier and continued to encourage his team from a corner of the rink. After the game, he wasn't allowed out on the ice to join the line. I imagine it has something to do with a rule, maybe a referee can explain that in the comments section if a current/former reads. I found it to be pretty unfortunate that he couldn't be a part of the series-closing tradition. What was great to see was a few Ice Wolves players that noticed the situation went over to the gate at the end of the rink to shake his hand followed by the Ice Wolves coaching staff. Kudos to the Mustangs for sticking on the ice while players and coaches went to shake Darrell's hand.
It was a pretty solid game for the Wolves to round out the series. Sure it wasn't truly dominant, but they were the better team through about 50 minutes of the game and I would expect desperation in the final ten minutes. The Wolves didn't lose their composure in the face of the sudden Mustang charge and they got the big goals when it mattered.
1. Marc-Andre Carre - LR - 1 G, 2 A - For maybe the first time this series, Carre was truly on his game. He looked more comfortable with the puck than he was in the first four games. He scored the big goal to put that final dagger into the Mustangs and now looks to the Yorkton series as a chance to do a little bit of running and gunning.
2. Adam Bartko - LR - 35/37 Svs - This series was a statement by Adam Bartko. He has always had his detractors and his play against Melfort was sensational. He was unbeatable through two periods, and it took a tipped puck and a rebound goal in front to beat him. His greatest goaltending duel challenge lies ahead in Devin Peters.
3. Owen Roschuk - MELF - He didn't factor on the scoresheet, but he was, in my opinion, the best Mustang on the ice in Game 5. He did it all with basically one arm. A courageous effort from the Mustang Captain should not go unheralded. A big time salute to you Mr. Roschuk.
It was a bitter sweet night as the series is over, so is this season's webcasting run. On behalf of Curtis and Elaine, thanks for watching the broadcasts. I hope you enjoyed watching them as we did working them. If you have any suggestions (that don't go beyond our technical abilities) I would love to hear them. I'm always looking to improve and we're here to provide you with a product you feel comfortable paying for. Send me an email through the Contact Page if you have any ideas and suggestions on how we can make the product better.
Don't fret, there will be online webcasting because Access 7 will be providing the feed. It's looking like I'll have some involvement with that, so you don't get away from me that easy.
The series should get going on Friday, April 1st. Though I have heard that since those dates are not set in stone/confirmed, there could be some wiggling of the start date. Stay tuned.
Once again, to all the Melfort Mustangs moving on within hockey or on to other challenges and pursuits, it was a pleasure watching you on the ice, and good luck down the road.
With that, I'll close the book on the Bauer Conference Final.
Bring on Yorkton...