As some have described Tuesday's match up between the Ice Wolves and Broncos, it was kind of lackadaisical affair. Both teams seemed to be looking ahead to the playoffs and just kind of went through the motions.
A couple of weird goals were all the Broncos needed to stick around and eventually topple the Ice Wolves for La Ronge's second loss in three games, by a 4-2 score. Talking to Coach Bob Beatty after the game, he wasn't happy with the outcome but wasn't overly concerned about it either.
Read on for a recap of Tuesday's action.
For the second time in as many games, the Ice Wolves found themselves behind the eight ball to start out. On the powerplay, the Wolves got sloppy with the puck and gave Troy Gasper the chance to move in alone. With an Ice Wolves defender closing the gap, Gasper went down (on his own) but as he fell, he managed to flip the puck high and behind Ice Wolves' goalie, Myles Hovdebo. Make it 1-0 Broncos on a shorthanded goal, the eleventh the Ice Wolves have surrendered this season.
Just like they did in Melville, the Wolves would get back in the game late in the first as Rhyse Dieno sent a puck out front for Aaron Enns who slammed it behind Andrew Bodnarchuk and tied the game. Under three minutes later, Taylor Piller tipped in a point shot from Phil Belanger who was in his first action since suffering a concussion a couple weeks ago.
Ice Wolves led by the 2-1 score all the way until the last minute of the second period when a bouncing puck hopped into the slot and Brett Pisio slapped it out of the air through Hovdebo to tie the game. Just a weird play, but that would put the Broncos in position to pick up the win, and win they would.
The Ice Wolves and Broncos couldn't get anything going either way. So it took a nice individual effort to make it happen. The Ice Wolves were caught a couple times trying to make too much happen in bad situations, like trying to get through four Broncos on their own. Though Marc-Andre Carre has shown it can be done this season, it wasn't working tonight. When it's happening every few times down the ice, you know there's a problem. Ward Szucki had the right approach. He beat an Ice Wolves forward off the boards and drove for the net. He switched to the back hand and lifted it right over Hovdebo's shoulder and into the top corner of the net for the 3-2 lead with three and a half to go.
The Ice Wolves would get a couple solid chances to tie the game, but Bodnarchuk stood tall and sent the Wolves packing. Pat Tran iced it with an empty netter and the Broncos head into the post season as the hottest team in the Bauer Conference. Could be some bad news for Melfort, who already got some bad news on Tuesday.
I don't think Ice Wolves fans should be too concerned about the loss. It's nice to go into the playoffs on a winning note, but with all the players not in the lineup for La Ronge, some troubles were to be expected. It was good to see Belanger on the blue-line, but he looked rusty. A few weeks off will do that to you. Some good, hard practices should fix a lot of that. Ice Wolves are getting right to it as they're on the ice as I'm writing this.
On other injury fronts, Justin Ducharme is skating and will be ready to go for the playoffs. I don't think Lindensmith's injury is too serious and it seems he'll be ready to go March 4th. Steven Cook's arm is out of the sling so it looks like his recovery is progressing nicely, though it will still be a while before he's set for skating/game action.
The real season begins on March 4th when the Wolves face either the Battlefords or Flin Flon in the Conference semi-finals. The break comes at a perfect time for La Ronge as the Wolves need to get healthy for the playoff drive. They pressed down the stretch with a slightly cobbled together lineup that faired reasonably well, winning eleven games in a row until finally faltering in the last few days of the season. If everyone can get healthy, the Wolves have as good a chance as any team in the SJHL of winning the Credit Union Cup, but that's the kicker. As the Wolves proved last season... any team can win the Championship.
For La Rongians... La Rongites.... La Rongers... Umm, for readers in La Ronge, the Wolves have a fundraiser coming up on Friday. Coincidentally, it's called the T.G.I.F., seven bucks gets you chili, a bun, desert and a beverage. The important thing is the bar will be open. Also you can come hang out with some of the players. It runs in the evening from five to ten. Should be a pretty good time, and if it's the same recipe for the chili from the President's Tour press conference, you don't want to miss out.
Enjoy the Survivor Series'!