In their first meeting of the season, the Ice Wolves and Bombers battled in Flin Flon. Though La Ronge was ahead in the standings, I don't think anyone expected the Ice Wolves to put up ten goals on the Bombers and finish off the game 10-2. We got the game I think most would have originally expected a few nights later in La Ronge. A great hockey game that finished in the shootout with the Bombers winning, 4-3.
The Bombers then went on a seven game winning streak that ended at the showcase. Since then, Flin Flon has lost four of five and needs to get the ship righted if they want to continue to close the gap on the top teams in the Bauer Division.
Read on for the preview of the third match-up of the season series between the SJHL's northern teams.
The Ice Wolves have been pretty solid on their latest home-stand. They've won two out of three games, and three of their last four at the Mel. Their home record hasn't been stupendous this season, so a string of solid home games is good for the team's confidence on home ice. The common thought I've been following is that the smaller ice limits this skilled team in what they're able to do with the puck.
In the last meeting with Flin Flon, P.J. Musico was outstanding. 48 saves on 50 shots and a few spectacular saves in the shootout, he was the main reason the Bombers won the game. The other reason was straight up gritty effort from the Bombers, something they lacked in the 10-2 drubbing. They used their size against the Ice Wolves and held them to the boards, which is one of the few ways to slow down the Wolves attack. Flin Flon added to this effectiveness by keeping the puck along the boards in the Ice Wolves end. Best way to make sure the Eggum/Lindensmith/Carre line doesn't score on you is to keep 'em hemmed in their own zone. When I do the post game report, if the Bombers win, I'll likely be talking about this same type of effort... maybe I'll just copy and paste.
For the Ice Wolves to be successful, it's all about trying to counteract the Bombers play along the boards. The Ice Wolves, though skilled, don't shy away from a gritty game, what Bob Beatty coached team would? It's just that this team, to be successful, relies on its quickness and speed. When I spoke with Coach Beatty earlier, getting my audio for today's previews on MBC, his focus was on getting to the puck first and maintaining a good pace to the game.
Expect Adam Bartko between the pipes tonight for La Ronge. His last start, against Estevan, certainly wasn't his best of the season, and he could use a bounce back game. In two against Flin Flon this season, Bartko has a 2.17 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Not to mention dueling with Musico in the shootout in the last meeting.
Ice Wolves vs Bombers
(22-9-0-2 - 46 pts) Record (17-14-2-0 - 36 pts)
1st in Bauer Standing 4th in Bauer
26.8% PP% 15.1%
78.3% PK% 81.4%
This will be Ryan Fox's first game against the Ice Wolves. He was out of the lineup for the previous two meetings. Fox is second on the Bombers with 37 points (14 G, 23 A) in 28 games.
One of Marc-Andre Carre's hat-trick goals against Weyburn brought his powerplay goal total to 13 on the season. He leads the league in that department. Linemate Travis Eggum is tied for second in the league with 10 powerplay goals.
Tonight's game features the best and worst powerplays in the league. The Ice Wolves hold the number one ranked powerplay rolling at a 26.8% success rate, while the Bombers hold the last spot with 15.1%.
Bombers rookie, Jesse Mychan is second in the SJHL with 129 penalty minutes in 31 games... that works out to 4.17 penalty minutes per game.
Tonight's game gets going at 7:30 at the Mel.