The Ice Wolves solved a couple problems they've had with Humboldt this season in last night's 6-5 loss. They scored more than one goal, which is a plus. They were in the game right to the end, much better than out of it after the first twenty. However, it was still a loss against a divisional rival and a team the Wolves will need to figure out before the playoffs.
After a tentative first period that saw the Broncos lead 2-1, this game really picked up and was definitely worth the price of admission.
Brett Hope scored his fifth of the season early on in the frame. He was playing up front rather than his usual spot on the blue-line with mixed results. He was useful as a big body in front of the net, which led to his marker, but looked kind of uncomfortable in the role. It will be interesting to see if he remains up front for the remainder of the injury to Brodie Eisbrenner.
Louis-Joseph Sawyer notched his first SJHL goal with a wrister from the line and it looked like Humboldt goalie, Matt Hrynkiw never saw it on the way. The Wolves would enjoy that lead for about 2 minutes before the Broncos evened it up, and two minutes later Humboldt had the lead again.
The Ice Wolves still haven't nailed down just how quickly the Broncos can turn a play around. There were far too many odd man rushes heading into the La Ronge end and as a result, it allowed the Broncos to get in Alex Rajotte's face all night. The Wolves goalie definitely took some abuse during the game, culminating with Joey Davies ploughing right through Rajotte in the second period. That actually set up a brilliant opportunity for the Wolves with a near two minute 5-on-3 chance over the end of the second and beginning of the third. La Ronge didn't look good during the advantage and missed out on evening the game and possible taking the lead on the PP.
Jared Iron managed to pull the Ice Wolves even after some good work from the Tran/McNevin/Iron line. This was probably one of the Wolves most effective units on the evening because they kept everything simple. They got the puck deep and won battles along the boards. On the goal, McNevin helped create a turnover and tried to stuff a wraparound. On the ensuing scramble, Iron managed to get the puck past Hrynkiw.
A couple late miscues cost the Wolves, though, as John Lawrence and Joey Davies gave the Broncos a two goal lead. I was really impressed with Lawrence Tuesday night. He came in with only two points in eight games, and picked up two in the contest. Lawrence was a threat all night and it will be interesting to see if he continues to produce in coming games.
The Davies marker was pretty much the death knoll for the Wolves, but they didn't go away quietly. Nathan Boyer got the squad within one with some help from Alex Vandenameele who was strong in his first game back from injury. After going up two, the Broncos dropped into a shell, and it only got more constrictive after Boyer's goal. The Wolves couldn't get any real pressure going with time winding down and were hard pressed to get Alex Rajotte out of the goal. The Broncos just stuffed the Wolves for the last couple minutes.
What's worrisome for the Wolves is Alex Rajotte's play in the last week or so. In his last five periods, the Ice Wolves goaltender allowed ten goals. His save percentage has dropped seven points, and his goals against has bloomed by nearly .20. I would expect Myles Hovdebo to get the start on Friday and maybe even Saturday as well to give Rajotte a break. He faces a lot of rubber, having made the most saves in the SJHL (602), despite playing less games than Ty Reichenbach (ND - 22GP - 586) and Mitch Kilgore (Wey - 21GP - 506). Hopefully for the Wolves he can return to form sooner than later.
Next up for the Wolves are the Flin Flon Bombers Friday night. I'll be stepping in for Rob Hart on CFAR's radio broadcast which will also patched into the webcast. Always an adventure swapping sides and I'm sure it will be a fun night.