Fans were treated to a highly entertaining game last night when the Ice Wolves took on the Nipawin Hawks. From puck drop the pace was high and the energy on both sides was great through the game aside from a couple of inevitable dips here and there. There was a great physical edge to this game with some pretty heavy hits on the evening. The highlight in that department was Wilson Dumais putting one of the Hawks partially into the Ice Wolves' bench.
It was a fun game to be a part of, and in the first period I kind of got the sense the Hawks were ready to break out of their slump. They played a strong game, but it wasn't in the cards last night.
This game pretty much came down to the Ice Wolves getting one, maybe two more bounces than the Hawks. In the first period a strong effort at the blue line by Nathan Boyer resulted in the puck popping free to Pat Tran who gave the Wolves an early lead on the shorthanded break. The Hawks came right back the other way, but Darius Cole ripped a shot off the crossbar and the Ice Wolves didn't waste their opportunity.
Early in the second, some great work by the Tran/Dumais/Iron line added to the Wolves lead with Tran's second marker of the game. This line logged a lot of minutes for the Wolves and was really effective. They started out the contest and provided an early spark for the Wolves. The line plays with a lot of bite and great speed making it tough for the Hawks to run with them. Tran/Dumais/Iron played one game together against Flin Flon and I really liked their game then as well. So it's good to see them have another strong game. Of note is the fact this line stuck together most of the night when the Wolves were rotating through lines because of a 19-man roster.
There was a healthy contingent from Southend at the game cheering on Dumais and Franklin Cook. Dumais spoke about the support after the game:
The importance of the Ice Wolves featuring three northern products in their lineup can't be overstated. They may not be from La Ronge, but they're essentially local products. That's something the Ice Wolves have been low on for the past few seasons, so it's good to see these players making their way onto the Wolves roster. It also looks to improve in coming years with multiple northern prospects on the Ice Wolves' list.
The Wolves managed to work up a three goal lead, which must have been disheartening for the Hawks. They played a pretty solid game, and actually outshot the Wolves in the second period. Davis Jones was solid in goal, but the Hawks just couldn't beat Alex Rajotte at the other end. Finally they changed that in the third period when they grabbed two quick ones off some nice passing work down low. Two one timers, two goals. Their best passing/shooting play came down by one on a two on one shorthanded rush. Brett Hope slid to take away the pass and the Hawks forward (can't remember who, sorry) flipped a vicious saucer pass right over him. The recipient of the pass (again, just can't remember who for whatever reason) picked it out of the air with a shot on goal. Rajotte was equal to the task, though, as he slid across to make an unreal glove save.
The Ice Wolves would add another goal, Nathan Boyer's third point of the night, and wrap up the game in a pretty bow with some good work on the penalty kill. They took a few stabs at the open net from their end, but couldn't quite bury one. Boyer's goal earned him the Gordie How Hat Trick for the evening as well because of his scrap with Dan Szerlip earlier in the game.
An interesting note from the game. Boyer's goal wasn't actually the fourth puck to beat Davis Jones, it was the fifth. Marc-Andre Carre put one right through the net. It was a weird play as he fired it from the high slot and the puck just sort of disappeared for a moment before materializing on the back boards behind the goal. On the ensuing faceoff, the officials had a conference and checked the goal for a hole in the netting, but couldn't find one. So they dropped the puck and moved on. After the game, the film was checked and the puck did indeed go right through. Just one of those pucks with the perfect angle and spin on it to get past the netting. Weird play. Can't fault the refs for not calling the goal, because nobody in the building was positive what happened. It ended up not costing the Ice Wolves, just breaking Carre's point streak since returning to La Ronge.
The Hawks and Ice Wolves just seem to bring out the best in each other (first game aside). Two overtime games and two others right down to the wire. Can't wait for the next time these teams square off.
Next up for the Ice Wolves are the Melville Millionaires on Friday which should be very entertaining games as both teams battle for second in their respective conferences.
Looking forward to it.