The Ice Wolves were finally able to win a home game against the Bombers on Tuesday, and Flin Flon looked to do the same on Wednesday.
Tuesday's game was highly entertaining a close game with some great goaltending and both teams coming out with strong efforts. Wednesday not so much. As my colour-man, CFAR's Rob Hart, said multiple times, the Ice Wolves weren't all that great, but didn't need to be because the Bombers were worse in the 5-2 win for La Ronge.
Read on for a recap of the week's action.
Tuesday looked like a pretty standard home game against the Bombers for the Wolves. Not playing their game and finding themselves on the wrong end of the score. 2-0 by the end of the first is not what the coaching staff had in mind. They definitely weren't looking for the Wolves to fall behind 3-0 early in the second, but that third goal seemed to be the final poke to the sleeping bear with woke up just in time to maul the Bombers in the period.
The Wolves went on to score four unanswered in the frame and took a 4-3 lead into the final stanza. It wasn't over from there as the Bombers were able to regroup at the intermission and tie the game early in the third. It wouldn't be enough as the Wolves struck yet again for two unanswered and a 6-4 win.
It's not too often you look at a game that featured ten goals and consider the words "goaltender duel", but both Myles Hovdebo and P.J. Musico came up big for their teams. You can't really fault Hovdebo for most the goals that slipped by and he came up huge with the Wolves up by two in the third. Musico was solid as usual, just not as super-human as he's proven to be at the Mel this season.
There was some nastiness in the game with a heavy hit on Phil Belanger putting out the defenceman for at least a week with a concussion. As well a late slash on Marc-Andre Carre that prompted Bob Beatty to pull the big line off the ice for the remainder of the final minute.
For the three stars check out the previous post.
The President's tour and the Wolves/Bombers season series moved on to the Whitney Forum for the final match-up between the teams in Flin Flon. The Wolves were the ones that struck first on Wednesday with an early goal from Logan Herauf on the powerplay. Special teams would be a definite factor in this game. The Wolves moved up by two when the Bombers were experiencing some serious futility on the powerplay, Alex Vandenameele picked off a puck at his own blue-line and carried it into the Bombers end. He snapped a shot that looked like it was going to miss on the far side, but just caught the inside of the net to fool Randy Graham and give Vandenameele his second goal of the season, a shorthanded marker.
The Bombers would draw within one when Andrew Johnston scored on his second breakaway in as many nights bringing the score to a 2-1 stance heading into the second.
The Travis Eggum 50 in 50 watch would pick up to a fever pitch when the SJHL's leading goal scorer notched his 49th of the season just 56 seconds in. Unfortunately, after a couple good chances for number 50, Eggum took a puck in the mouth and had to leave for stitches for the final 15 minutes or so of the second period. He would return in the third, more on that in a moment.
Marc-Andre Carre would stretch the Wolves' lead to 4-1 when he pretty much just decided to score. The candidate for Most Outstanding player grabbed the puck at his own blue line, and like we've seen him do multiple times this season flashed into the offensive zone, performed a de-pantsing move and then tucked home his 35th marker of the season.
To the delight of Ice Wolves fans, Travis Eggum stepped back on the ice early on the third. He then proceeded to launch a wrister by Randy Graham, but... couldn't beat the post as 50 in 50 ricocheted up into the netting. He would come close a couple times during the frame but Randy Graham wasn't in any mood to be the goalie that 50 came against. The beleaguered Flin Flon netminder was fantastic tonight, believe me when I say this game could have been an eight goal explosion for La Ronge. He robbed the Wolves on far too many occasions, and if he'd gotten some more support from his teammates, might have been able to steal a win. He would rob Eggum one more time, but the rebound came to Carre with a wide open net, and he popped in his second of the night and 36th of the season.
Ryan Fox would bring it within three when he found a rebound in front of Adam Bartko, but that would be as close as the Bombers would come, falling 5-2 at the hands of the Wolves. Talking to Gavin Holcomb after the game, the Ice Wolves' coaching staff wasn't happy with this game.
Watching from the booth it really seemed like a high contact game of shinny in which the Ice Wolves found themselves dominated physically. The Bombers were throwing big, clean hits all over the ice and the Wolves just weren't matching that. The Bombers were all over the place and the Wolves played that game with them. Luckily for La Ronge they have the skill to play that game and win. Once again it comes down to wondering if the top teams in the league will let you get away with a game like that, and once more, I doubt it.
I was really impressed with Carre's game in Flin Flon, sure he got two goals and an assist so it's easy to look at that and say he played well, but like Tuesday, the Bombers were all over him. Carre has a reputation of not being the most physical guy on the ice, but he stood up to it tonight. That makes two games in a row Carre has stood up very well to heavy physical pressure and that bodes well for La Ronge heading into the playoffs.
With the win on Wednesday, Adam Bartko moves into sole possession of the SJHL lead for wins by a goaltender. He raised his save percentage and lowered his goals against once again. Bartko came up with a big toe save to keep a two goal lead intact for La Ronge in the third period. He wasn't overly busy, but answered the bell when called upon.
Some tough injury news, with Belanger already out, Steven Cook suffered an upper body injury that looks like it could keep him out for awhile. Possibly even season ending. Cook brought size to the Wolves blue-line that it hadn't had through most of the season and he was playing well so losing him will be a big blow. Make it three Wolves that are now sidelined. It really seems almost every team in the S-J is hurting right now, bodies are getting tired after the grind and it's only going to get worse.
Wishing Steven, Phil and Justin speedy recoveries.
Three Stars - As Selected by Rob Hart
1. Marc-Andre Carre - LR - 2 G, 1 A - See above? Carre with three points puts himself in a situation where one point a game will get him to 100 and the Ice Wolves' franchise record.
2. Travis Eggum - LR - 1 G, 1 A - Scored once, hit the crossbar twice and got robbed a few times. He deserved his 50th goal in the game, but it will be just as sweet getting it on home ice as the Wolves start a three game homestand on Saturday.
3. Randy Graham - FF - 37 Svs - He was brilliant in the second period preventing a blowout and making a case to why he deserves to be around next year as well. Even though he lost, he built confidence through the game and it was clearly evident in his body language.
As mentioned the Wolves' next game is at home against Nipawin. If Eggum gets his 50th, I'm thinking three or four fish on the ice. Will you take the over or the under on that one?
Webcast will begin shortly before 7:30 and the puck drop.
Take heart, tomorrow is Friday, and the WEEKEND!!! Why not come out to the Mel and catch some hockey?
Post Script: Poll Results
16 of you voted, which ain't bad but I'm looking for bigger numbers on the next one!
-9 thought Travis would get 50 in 50 (you were inches away from being right)
-2 were naysayers and didn't think he would pull it off (you were right by inches)
-5 took the safe bet and are also right, 50 goals in a season is an accomplishment no matter how many games you do it in. (Maybe 60 in 58, that would be fun.)
If you're wondering, yes, I do answer the poll question. I'm the kind of guy that sits on NHL.com just answering poll questions. Great time killer.