Before pulling out of the parking lot today, the veterans on the Ice Wolves got a pleasant surprise as they were presented with their 2011 SJHL Championship Rings.
There was a lot of excitement on the bus as one by one, the few remaining returnees from that team raced from the back to the front to receive one more reward for their labour through last season. I’ll have pictures of the rings along with a quick video of the guys making the dash to the front of the bus when I get the chance to upload them.
But now to the task at hand. The Ice Wolves are on a quick two game road trip to the Battlefords tonight and Kindersley tomorrow. The North Stars and Ice Wolves have split their season series, both winning games on home ice.
After their weekend back to back with the Bruins, the Wolves are now 2-and-1 in their last three against teams owning the top spot in the conference. If you count their last win against the North Stars, I guess you could make that 3-and-1. That number really speaks to the parity in the league and how any team can beat anyone on any given night.
The Wolves seem to have broken free from their road woes with three straight victories away from La Ronge. The terminology is important there because one of their ‘road’ games was actually a home contest at the Showcase, and one of their home games was a neutral site game at the JRMCC on Saturday. So their home/away record breaks down kind of funny.
The Wolves are definitely on their way to showing the Mel Heglund Uniplex will not be an easy place for teams to get a win. While they aren’t going to go and win all their remaining home games, it is very possible they will have one of the better home records in the league. The smaller ice surface is very conducive to their dump and chase, sandpaper mentality while larger ice surfaces reduce some of that effectiveness. The trick will be to win games on the road.
The last time the Pack rolled into the Civic Centre, they were on the tail end of a dreadful 0-4 road trip in the first week of the season. They came out with their best effort of the swing and still came up short, 2-0. Graham Hildebrand was the major difference in the contest, picking up the first of his two shutouts on the year.
As always, the main offensive threat from the Stars will be their trio of Blake Tatchell, Braeden Johnson and Brett Miller. Tatchell is one of the most talented players in this league and is a lot of fun to watch when he gets the puck on a string. The Ice Wolves task will be to keep these guys off scoresheet, which is a little easier said than done as members of that line have factored in to every Stars goal against the Ice Wolves (4).
The Ice Wolves are coming off a 4-1 loss to Estevan where most of the goals came within seconds of a faceoff. The second and third goals came at the very top of powerplays while their first came 40 seconds after the Wolves opened the scoring in the second period. So the penalty kill gave up two powerplay goals, but really didn’t have a chance to do its job.
Scoring continues to be a question for the Ice Wolves though they have been getting the necessary offence to put a decent run together. Pavlo Zerebecky was running a three game goal streak for the Wolves until Saturday and seems to be finding his touch. On the opposite side of things, the line of Jordan Ethier, Johny Cormier and Jared Iron has struggled of late. Including October eleventh, the line has combined for four points in six games. There’s plenty of skill between the trio, but right now, things just don’t seem to be connecting.
I’ll have today’s game from the Civic Centre on MBC Radio. Remember you can listen along online as well at mbcradio.com. Trent Cey of the Battlefords News-Optimist will join me on colour commentary for the game.
Catch you then!