Finally the day is upon us. The days column in my countdown clock has hit zeroes and one by one, all of the others will join before we drop the puck on a new season of Ice Wolves hockey.
It's tough to write a preview when you don't know about how either team is really going to break down this season. If you want a preview on the Wolves, just check out the 'Pre Season' category on the side bar and you'll be good to go. Even with all of that, it's tough to say what happens when the puck drops tonight.
The Hawks feature a young lineup once again this season after making some trades that sent some of their projected veteran leaders to other locales. Make no mistake, this is a young roster with a ton of talent. Three of the new faces with the squad were top scorers in the Midget AAA league last season in Tad Kozun, Alex Laird and Dustin Skilleter. The Rookie of the Year could be a Nipawin Hawk for the second season in a row.
The Hawks defence is going to be tough for the Ice Wolves more physical players to muscle off the puck. With an average height right around six feet, Nipawin definitely added some size on the back end. I spoke with Ice Wolves Coach Bob Beatty and he mentioned the Hawks defence as one of their most improved areas over the off season.
In net, the Hawks look to be sitting pretty. They traded away Brody Hoffman to deal with a backlog in that position, and will go with Stephen Klein ('93) and David Jones ('92) between the pipes. Klein got a lot of time in net as a young goalie last season, playing in 26 games as a 17-year old and has a late birthday so was actually 16 at the beginning of last season. Klein looked fantastic at times last year and not so fantastic at times, as the growing pains continued for the Hawks. He wrapped up the season with a 4-15-0 record to go with a
4.84 GAA and 0.862 Sv%. It will be interesting to see who picks up the start for Doug Johnson's crew.
In net for the home side will be Alex Rajotte ('91) getting his first regular season action in an Ice Wolves uniform. Though many would expect Myles Hovdebo ('92) to get the start tonight, he's nursing an injury at the moment and with how well Rajotte played in the Pre-Season, Coach Beatty sees no reason to push Hovdebo when he has an experienced goaltender ready to go.
Another game story heading into this home opener for La Ronge, is of course Marc Andre-Carre. Rumour's heading into the matchup are that he'll line up alongside Nathan Boyer and Skyler Hladun, which could be a flat out deadly line. Putting together the skills of Carre and Boyer to go with Hladun's size seems like a natural fit.
One of the main reasons I'm excited to see this game, is to finally see how all the lines and defensive pairings break down for La Ronge. It's been a long (but shorter than others) off-season, but it's finally go time.
I'll be a part of CJVR's Nipawin Hawks broadcast tonight as we don't quite have the webcasting ready to go for tonight. I'm also doing the team introduction at the beginning. It's been a while since I've done stadium announcing so it should be fun. I'll have to apologize to CJVR listeners for not having a voice for the first period.
Enjoy the game!