Not only is it the third game of this little 5/10 stretch between these two teams, but it is my third blog post of the day. Hat Trick! Booyah! You can't see it, but I just threw my hat at my computer, garnering some less than pleased looks from the newsroom.
On to the hockey game!
Coincidentally, Travis Eggum needs a hat trick tonight to score his 50th goal of the season at home. Well, if he wants to do 50 in 50 at home, it'll be an even more impressive 50 in 49 if he pulls out a hatty tonight which he's done on no less than five times this season (one of those was a 4 goal night). Eggum hasn't been prolific in the goal column against the Bombers, he kind of takes the roll of setup man with his six assists against Flin Flon this season. He does have three goals in 5 games against them, though.
I highly doubt the Bombers will want to oblige Mr. Eggum in his quest for 50 goals in 50 games. In fact I'm quite positive they'd love nothing more than to get in the way of him reaching the spectacular mark. The Bombers also have to know that there will be a lot of passes headed Eggum's way in the next two games.
P.J. Musico will likely be the man charged with stopping that destructive wrist shot from touching twine three times in the next 120 or more minutes. He's been nothing short of excellent (if you discount the first meeting) when facing the Ice Wolves. He's been even better at the Mel. Musico has a save percentage of 0.959 a goals against average of 1.92 in two wins in La Ronge. For some reason he just brings it that much more in LA... maybe he doesn't like seeing fish on the ice?
Adam Bartko has been no less brilliant against Flin Flon. In five games road and home, Bartko has a goals against of 2.27 with a save percentage of 0.926. While the goalies will likely decide the winner, penalties have been huge in bringing about the outcome of these games.
Last time out it was the 5 minute major and a couple of penalties during that time which sunk the Bombers. In the Bomber win before that, Tyler Mah was booted from the game and Dayton Fossum was gone for 17 minutes after a fracas. These teams do not really like each other to put it mildly. The northern rivalry is very much alive and well. A playoff series between these two would be nasty to say the least.
Right now, the important thing for the Ice Wolves should these teams meet in the playoffs is to win a game on home ice. The Wolves hold home ice advantage in the post season if these teams meet, so what does it say if they can't take one from Flin Flon on home ice? They've got to win at least one in the series to win the series... It's also important for the Ice Wolves to exert some dominance over the Bomb Squad. They've shown it in 5-1 and 10-2 wins but on home ice, especially last time out, the Bombers owned the Wolves. Giving a team like Flin Flon confidence against you in a playoff series is not a good idea.
With Nipawin's recent plummet the Bombers don't have to worry about the Hawks in their rear-view mirror as much. Now they can start looking forward at the North Stars and Broncos who sit 4 points and 5 points ahead respectively. Both are in action tonight against Yorkton and Kindersley (also respectively) so if the Bombers can get some help, the time is right to get right in the thick of that race. Even better for Flin Flon, they have games in hand on both teams.
It should be another playoff-type game at the Mel with the Credit Union Cup in the house for the President's Tour.
Numbers and Notes:
Ice Wolves vs Bombers
(34-12-0-2 - 70 pts) Record (21-24-2-0 - 44 pts)
1st in Bauer Standing 5th in Bauer
24.7% PP% 16.8%
79.1% PK% 79.4%
There will be 201 Credit Union Cups at the Mel tonight, one real Cup and 200 small replica key chains the first 200 fans in the doors get. They're nice, Adam Bartko showed me one today.
Phil Cliche has played well against the Bombers this season, six points (2 G, 4A) in the five games makes him second among the Ice Wolves against Flin Flon. Travis Eggum's nine points (3 G, 6 A) has him in first.
On the other side, Tyler Mah has five assists in five games against the Wolves making him the highest point getter for Flin Flon. Andrew Johnston has three goals in the season series to make him the leading goal scoring threat for the Bombers.
Back to Tyler Mah, he has 55 penalty minutes in 5 games against the Ice Wolves, simple math tells us that's 11 penalty minutes per game. His 29 minutes on Jan 18th definitely helped that along.
Should Travis Eggum reach the 50 goal mark tonight, decibel levels in the Mel are expected to reach the 'very loud' reading on a decibel meter.
The Ice Wolves have had trouble of late getting out of the first period with a lead. Teams must know how important it is to at least be tied with them after 20 minutes. The Wolves are 20-1-0-1 when leading after one period.
Curtis and I will have the call of the game shortly before 7:30 when the puck drops. SJHL President Laury Ryan will join us in the first intermission for an interview that will in part feature you! Post questions for me to ask in the comments section and I will select some (if not all) of your questions and use them on the webcast.
Tomorrow I will do a quick tee-up for the game as well as list my 3 Stars, but I will save a full recap for after the game in Flin Flon on Wednesday.