Wednesday night's game against the Battlefords North Stars was a great opportunity for the Ice Wolves to prove themselves against a team they lost to earlier in the season. Riding their new found momentum and frame of mind, the Ice Wolves played just like they did against the Terriers for their first couple wins of the season and took a convincing 4-2 victory over the Stars.
The first twenty certainly belonged to the North Stars. If it wasn't for Johney Cormier's goal off ahard wrister from the top of the circles, the North Stars may have earned a different result. Battlefords picked up the first goal on the evening off a rare gaffe by Alex Rajotte in the Ice Wolves net. Rajotte kicked a rebound straight to Brody Luhning who made the Wolves netminder pay, notching his first goal of the season. Cormier's roof job evened the contest a few minutes later, but the Stars would take a lead to the dressing room after Brett Miller popped a loose puck behind Rajotte for the North Stars 2-1 lead.
That, however, was as good as it would get for the North Stars.
The North Stars did have their chances, which came in the form of a few odd man rushes, they just couldn't get anything on net. Ice Wolves defenders seemed to be in the way of everything, and when they weren't, they received a couple fortunate bounces or Rajotte was there. After allowing a whopping 18 shots in the first period, the Wolves cut that number down to 7 for periods two and three combined.
The Ice Wolves came out of the dressing room revved up and they showed it quickly as Graham Smerek and Jared Iron scored 1:38 apart to even the game and then give the Wolves a lead. The Wolves were all over the place, in a good way. Winning races, chasing down loose defensive assignments and hitting pretty much anything that moved was the theme of the night. Brett McNevin got back in the lineup after sitting the last game and two periods with an injury and he had a very strong game with a couple of chances to snag his third goal on the season.
The team effort from the Wolves over the past few games has been outstanding, and it will have to be that way every night for this team to be successful. If they can keep the work ethic at it's current level on a consistent basis, they'll definitely run over the .500 mark (4-5-0-0 at the moment).
Aaron Enns set the Wolves up for success in the Third when he scored only 33 seconds into the frame on a wrist shot from the high slot. Stars netminder, Graham Hildebrand had trouble with shots from that area, as it was a very similar play to Cormier's goal in the first. I have to apologize to webcast viewers and Hildebrand as I read the starting lineups wrong (I know, pretty tough to mess up, right?) and had Connor Creech in goal for the first. Since the goal is at the far end of the rink, I didn't know my mistake until the second when I thought they had subbed Hildebrand in for Creech. Despite a couple long range goals Hildebrand did make some fantastic saves to keep the Stars in the game until the late stages.
Battlefords put together the strongest push of the third with a couple minutes left. Kevin Hasselberg gambled, pulling Hildebrand for the extra attacker with 2:22 on the clock. The North Stars put the pressure on the Wolves for the rest of the game, as La Ronge couldn't clear the puck despite a couple of opportunities. The Stars manufactured a couple of shots, but the Wolves did a fantastic job of holding the Battlefords players to the outside and along the boards. At this point the North Stars really missed Brett Miller who already had a goal and assist in the contest. He was serving an instigator penalty for a fight that was really more of a bear hugging match followed by a heavy topple to the ice. Braeden Johnson was also out of the lineup for the Stars. I'm not clear on why he was out after playing the night before in Nipawin.
Overall, a very strong game from La Ronge, and I'm sure a game that left the North Stars feeling they could have brought more. I can't wait to see the next match-up between these squads.
Now the Ice Wolves look ahead to Flin Flon where they'll try to reach the .500 mark and keep this winning streak rolling.
1. Johney Cormier (F) - LAR - 1 G, 1 A
2. Brett Miller (F) - BATT - 1 G, 1 A
3. Brett McNevin (F) - LAR - Didn't tally a point, but had chances and was very strong coming back into the lineup.
Remember, since we'll be in Manitoba, the MBC Pre-Game Show gets going at 6:15 p.m. and puck drop is at 6:30.
Post Script: Disregard this if you didn't watch the webcast. Correcting another mistake from last night's webcast. The team isn't playing in Watrous on Wednesday. That was a misunderstanding on my part and the game will be in Wilcox (Notre Dame).