It's funny, when this series started, I expected the games at the Mel to be the low scoring, tight checking affairs and the scores at the Whitney Forum to be the high scoring run an gun games based on the ice surface sizes.
Man was I wrong. Ice Wolves put up a total of 22 goals in three games on home ice. Wow. Thanks in part mainly to penalties taken by Flin Flon. The Bombers had a shot at getting back into Friday's game, which finished up 9-3, until about the five minute mark of the third.
Then things got a little out of hand and that was the final nail in the coffin.
I'll start back in the first, because the Bombers actually held the lead to start this one out on an early Andrew Johnston goal. Great player, I'm sure Bombers fans will be excited to have him back next year. Actually, on that note, there is a lot for Bomber fans to be excited about as there are a lot of great young and returning players on that team. Future looks good.
Unfortunately for Johnston and the Bombers, the equalizer would come under a minute later with Justin Ducharme popping in a rebound. It would start a three goal run for the Ice Wolves, before the teams alternated goals and headed to the second with the Ice Wolves up 4-2.
In the second, a weird bounce off the back-boards would put the Bombers into a dire situation when Nolan Souchotte put the puck behind P.J. Musico to give the Ice Wolves a three-goal lead. The Bombers had almost come back from three down in Flin Flon a couple nights earlier, so they knew they weren't done yet.
The Ice Wolves had other ideas though, as Byron Sorenson picked up the puck in the slot after a scramble and slammed it home to give the Wolves a four goal cushion. Credit to the Bombers, they didn't stop coming and actually got a goal back when Deven Stillar scored four minutes into the period. Still time to make something happen. It would be as close as the Bombers would get.
Rhyse Dieno stripped one of the Bombers defencemen of the puck and found himself very alone in front of P.J. Musico. Not where you want someone of this seventeen year old's talents. He scored and that finished off Musico's night. An unfortunate way for MV-P.J. to finish his time in the SJHL, but this was in no way his fault. It would be tough to find a goal that he should have stopped. Maybe Souchotte's in the second period, but even that was a very tough position for Musico to be in. With that goal, any hope the Bombers had was down to a faint glimmer. The final nail was yet to come.
The Bombers late season acquisition, Ashton Bernard, was pretty invisible on the ice through the series. A minute after Stillar scored, he decided to change that, and not in a good way. Bernard was jawing with Aaron Enns trying to get him to fight, but Enns just skated away. Off the ensuing draw Bernard came up to the top of the zone, away from the puck and levelled Ice Wolves AP, Jared Iron. 2 Minutes for roughing. Bad penalty but not killing. The final nail was hammered home when he circled and punched Iron while he was on his knees. Good thing for Iron, he is only sixteen and had a full cage on. 5 minutes for Major Blow to the Head. Pretty damning for the Bombers, not a great way for Bernard to finish out his Junior Hockey career.
The Ice Wolves would score seven seconds into the powerplay to stretch the lead and once more on a 4-3 that happened during the five minutes to get their ninth of the game. The crowd was chanting, "we want ten!" for about three minutes after the ninth goal and then into the final minutes when Tyler Mah took another penalty for knocking down Justin Ducharme as Ducharme was getting back to his feet after a clean Mah check.
9-3 the final, the Ice Wolves move on and the Bombers' season is finished. Definitely not the way Mike Reagan's crew wanted to go out. Finding positives for the Bombers in this game is tough. Finding positives on their future, not so tough. Look for them to be a threat next year, if they can get solid goaltending and stay out of the box.
A few players move on for Flin Flon: captain Ryan Fox, Deven Stillar, Tanner Korchinski, Corey Tyrell, P.J. Musico, Tyler Mah and Ashton Bernard. Most of these guys were huge in this series and a big reason for the Bombers making the playoffs in the first place. It has been a treat to watch Fox and Stillar in the offensive zone, and to talk to them in a couple of pre-game interviews. I wish all the best to these guys in their future endeavours whether it be continuing to play hockey or moving on to other careers. Thanks for giving your fans a lot to cheer about. Good luck guys.
As for the Ice Wolves, they continue their post season run to the Credit Union Cup. Now they will probably get a week to rest up for whoever comes out of the other semi-final. I picked Melfort in six, but the way it seems to be going... who knows. The important thing about closing the Bombers out in five, is the Wolves can rest up some of the bumps and bruises in the lineup (trust me, they exist) and get guys back in the lineup as two or three of the sidelined players are scheduled to be ready this week. Whoever the Ice Wolves face will be up against a much healthier Ice Wolves than the Bombers did.
That being said, the young guys like Jared Iron, Franklin Cook and Brett Hope filled in admirably. Not looking out of place, if still getting used to the faster pace of the higher level. All three will make great additions to the Wolves lineup in the future... well, I guess they already are.
1. Logan Herauf - LR - 3 G, 3 A - I actually missed that Herauf had potted three while talking on the broadcast. How? No idea. He was flat out dominant tonight, and while some would counter with, "He's playing with Eggum and Carre." Herauf was the driving force of the line in games 4 and 5. Nine points in two games... wow.
2. Travis Eggum - LR - 5A - While normally the guy potting the goals, Eggum was making the most of open teammates while they were making the most of some of the rebounds off his stick. Or like Herauf, just tipping it in. Eggum is picking up his pace from the early part of the series, and the Ice Wolves will need him at his best to get through the Bauer Conference Final.
3. Marc-Andre Carre - LR - 1 G, 2 A - It's tough to do anything but give the first unit a sweep in a game where they total 14 points. In particular, one of the passing plays they put together to get around most of the Bombers in the neutral and offensive zone was sublime. Carre draws so much attention on the ice and he was using that to his team's advantage. All of his points came at key times of the game to help seal the deal. It's this kind of clutch player that takes a step toward the pro ranks.
We will have to wait through the week to see who comes out of the Melfort and Humboldt series. As it's the only one still going, enjoy it before we get down to the final four. The Ice Wolves hope it goes the distance as they will take any help they can get on their quest for the cup.
I'll let you know on the site and on MBC when the dates are set for the next round. For now, enjoy the weekend!
Question: Who will be the playoff hero for the Ice Wolves?
1. One of the Big Three? 11 Votes - 44%
2. The Second Line (Ducharme, Herauf, Dieno) 11 Votes - 44%
3. The Grind Line (Souchotte, Keller, Enns) 2 Votes - 8%
4. The Billet Line (Smerek, Boyer, Hladun) 1 Vote - 4%
The other two options (Defenceman, Goalie) didn't receive any votes.
It's tough to argue against the line of thinking here, especially after the first round. With Lindensmith out, Logan Herauf jumped a line and took his game up several notches, while all of the players on those top two lines have been coming through with big points.
While not getting as much recognition, the other lines have been very strong. They don't record the same points as the top two lines, but they're not required to. They've chipped in with the occasional big goal and brought energy and momentum to the Wolves with their play.
Thanks for voting!