What a game to watch at the Palace on Tuesday night. It wasn't pretty for either team, but it was intense and was about as close as you can get without going to overtime. The result? Logan Herauf plays hero in the third, tying the game and potting the winner in a 4-3 Ice Wolves triumph.
Neither team played what we would call their best game, and I'm sure the coaches agree with that sentiment. However, this wasn't like Game 1 or 2 when a team just plain lacked intensity. There was plenty to go around Tuesday night and at times it got the better of the Mustangs and it was almost their undoing.
In the end, Herauf was the determining factor.
The Ice Wolves jumped out to a lead around the midway point of the opening period because of a pair of powerplay goals. Then Mustangs forward, Sterling Bear, took some liberties with Steven Cook and was headed to the box for roughing. As Cook skated by after the whistle, Bear got his stick up into Cooks face and pulled it across, basically hooking his head. Great view of it from the broadcast booth. Bear picked up a double minor, a 10 minute misconduct and a few punches from Cook for his troubles. The Ice Wolves would end up on a 2-man advantage and looked well on their way to stretching the lead.
That was when Brody Haygarth decided to come to the rescue. He picked up the puck in his own end, burned to the Ice Wolves' zone, made a nice move, got a bit of a bounce and beat Adam Bartko 5-hole to pull the 'Stangs within one. Not quite what you expect to see when a team is down two men. I fully believe if Haygarth doesn't score, La Ronge would likely have gone up 3-0 and been off to the races.
The Mustangs would add two more in the second period to take the lead heading to the third period. The second period definitely favoured the Mustangs, goals aside. The puck was bouncing everywhere, and the play really broke down into "pond hockey" as Leonard described it on the Broadcast. As the Mustangs capitalize on mistakes, when things break down, the situation favours Melfort more than La Ronge. There were quite a few mistakes within the Ice Wolves' zone and they led to goals. It was reminiscent of Game 1 with all the trouble the defence seemed to be having in their own end.
The third period looked better for both teams, especially defensively. They only allowed a combined fifteen shots on goal through the final 20 minutes. The good thing for the Ice Wolves was two of those were off the stick of Logan Herauf and he buried them. Herauf's go ahead goal with just over four minutes left drew a lot of noise from section T at the Palace, a section away from where I am right now. The reason for this, a lot of Ice Wolves fans that made trips from all over Saskatchewan to see their sons play, as well as a good sized group from La Ronge that combined to make more noise than most of the Palace. It was pretty busy here for the game with 1182 on hand to watch the game. Fantastic attendance for a weekday game. If a number close to that showed up for Game 5 at the Mel, it would be utterly deafening.
Logan Herauf - LR - 2 G, 1 A - Was there any doubt? Another strong game for Herauf as he continues to prove the Jahraus/Herauf trade was one of the most lopsided moves in recent memory. With Lindensmith out, Herauf has accomplished everything the Wolves need him to, and much more.
Brody Haygarth - MELF - 1 SHG - There isn't a Mustang playing better than Haygarth right now. His speed is freakish, not to mention deadly. He made a lot happen in Game 3 and it was by no small feat he was held to only one goal. One huge momentum goal.
Travis Eggum - LR - 3 A - As he continues to lead the SJHL playoff scoring race, Eggum was the architect of both Herauf goals in the third. His rocket pass from the half-boards gave Herauf the tip in and he kept the play alive to move the puck to Carre who set up the winner. The top line continues to impress through the playoffs, causing serious problems for the Mustangs.
Looking at tonight, I'm guessing, much like Game 2, both teams will lock down the puck considerably. A game played within the systems of each team favours the Ice Wolves in my opinion. When the Wolves are strong with the puck and passes are moving crisp, they are very tough to beat. That said, at times it's tough to get the puck moving crisp on this ice as it can really get hopping around.
The Mustangs know a win tonight needs to happen. They will be in dire straights should they head back to the Mel down 3-1. The Wolves will need to weather a storm in the opening portions of this game and look for their opportunities to counter-attack. Adam Bartko will be a busy goalie at the beginning of this game.
If given the opportunity, the Ice Wolves need to put away the Mustangs. They scored first in all three previous games, and got the first two on Tuesday. From there the Mustangs got back in the game and had as many chances to win it as the Ice Wolves did. It's a chance tonight to plant a foot firmly on the neck of the Mustangs, an opportunity the Wolves can't pass up.
I'll have the pre-game show from the Palace at 7:15 with puck drop going at 7:30 tonight. Not sure what the colour commentary situation is for tonight as, like Leonard said, he's off to Cuba and won't be able to help me out tonight. Jealous of the whole Cuba thing, but he's going to miss out on what will be a great game tonight. I'm following up a couple of leads for a wingman tonight.
Enjoy the game!
Question: What will be the outcome of the Bauer Conference Final?
Ice Wolves in 4 - 1 Vote - 3.13%
Mustangs in 4 - No Votes
Ice Wolves in 5 - 9 Votes - 28.13%
Mustangs in 5 - 0 Votes
Ice Wolves in 6 - 12 Votes - 37.5%
Mustangs in 6 - 4 Votes - 12.5%
Ice Wolves in 7 - 4 Votes - 12.5%
Mustangs in 7 - 2 Votes - 6.25%
Total Votes: 32
Well, one Ice Wolves fan was very confident, heh. Looks like most people are picking the Wolves to win tonight and back at the Mel on Friday. Even more think the series will go longer. It was expected from most coming in, myself included, this would be a six or seven game series. With how Yorkton is handling Kindersley, the team in the North could definitely do without going to seven games because it is likely the Terriers will be waiting all nice and healthy for the winner of this series. Unless the Klippers can pull off a miracle.