The Ice Wolves pass the trade deadline as the top team in the SJHL points-wise, but things may get a little tougher down the stretch. It's been an arms race in the SJHL as contenders load up on the players they feel will bring in a Credit Union Cup.
The busiest team was Melfort. Darrell Mann is feeling the pressure mounting to succeed and put together a bunch of deals that may make the Mustangs the team to beat. They already had a great goalie and defence, and their offence got a lot better with the addition of Brayden Metz and Cody Hanson from Melville.
The Ice Wolves were pretty quiet in the hours leading up to the deadline. They added former Humboldt Bronco forward, Nick Keller from Swan Valley of the MJHL. Keller had 31 points with the Broncos and 2 in 2 games with the Stampeders. There may have been a late move, but as of now I haven't heard if anything went down. I'll obviously find out at the game if the Keller deal was the only move. I'll also update on twitter if he's playing in the game.
With the move, the Ice Wolves have too many 20's on the team so someone will be sitting out each night, barring a move that went down late.
(edit) The news took a while to get to me, but the Ice Wolves have traded defenceman Zane Morin (92) to the Kindersley Klippers for Future Considerations. Morin had a goal and two assists in 29 games with the Ice Wolves. He has great potential and I hope he fits in well with the Klippers. I will miss my intermission chats with his Grandparents who made it out to watch him play whenever possible.
Tonight the Ice Wolves welcome the North Stars to La Ronge. The Stars made a couple deals late in the evening. They picked up Lance Tabin (who is injured) from the Klippers along with WHL assignee Braedon Johnson. They also sent Dane Muench out of province as well as Travis Cech.
Read on for a preview of tonight's game.
The North Stars are winners of four straight, and have their eyes set on the third spot in the Bauer Conference. A Battlefords win plus a Humboldt loss tonight would accomplish that feat aaannnd bring the Stars up to a .500 record, which, considering they started the season on a seven game losing streak is pretty impressive.
The Ice Wolves need wins just as urgently, slightly different reasons. The Ice Wolves hold a four point lead over the now loaded up Mustangs. The Wolves sit a paltry four points ahead of Melfort for the top spot in the Bauer Conference and SJHL. The 'Stangs are idle tonight, so a win would put that gap up to six points. La Ronge is in the midst of a very rough part of the schedule. Three last weekend, tonight, then Thursday and Friday. Yes, that's six games in eight nights.
The Wolves picked up a huge win against Estevan. They were playing like the team we watched reach the top of the North before the Holiday Break. They were rewarded for that effort with a gutsy win in a playoff-like game. Hopefully for the Wolves, the win starts off a solid string of games where they can play to their potential night in and night out.
The special teams are always important, but the matchup between the La Ronge powerplay and Battlefords penalty kill will be enormous. The Ice Wolves have struggled of late on the powerplay, and could be licking their chops at facing the league's worst penalty kill.
Now that the stage is set, lets crunch some numbers.
Ice Wolves vs North Stars
(27-11-0-2 - 56 pts) Record (19-20-1-1 - 40 pts)
1st in Bauer Standing 4th in Bauer
24.7% PP% 22.2%
78.9% PK% 74.4%
Travis Eggum is on a 5 game goal scoring streak. Over that time, he has 8 goals and 8 assists. It's part of the reason he was named the SJHL Player of the Week last week. He's also maintaining a goal per game pace as he runs away with the goal scoring race. He now sits at 40 goals with 18 games to play.
With 56 points through 40 games, the Ice Wolves hold the highest points percentage in the league with .700. This makes sense, considering the Ice Wolves almost always sit 7-3-0-0 in their last ten games.
The North Stars are second in league goal scoring (176/41 gms), but they are an overall minus eleven, having given up the most goals (187/ 41 gms). They have given up 21 more goals than the second worst team (Estevan 166/40).
The North Stars are one of three teams with two players over 50 points on the season (Tatchell/ (edit) Phaneuf - 55). The others, Yorkton (Boyer/Buzzeo - 56) and of La Ronge. The Ice Wolves are the only team with any player over 70 points... and they have three of them. Eggum (72), Carre (74) and Lindensmith (74).
The aforementioned Ice Wolves have a combined 93 goals on the season... nine less than the Notre Dame Hounds. The Ice Wolves top powerplay unit (add Logan Herauf and Dayton Fossum, 12 and 3 goals respectively) features a combined 108 goals. Six more than the Hounds, and five less than the Nipawin Hawks.
The Ice Wolves have been shorthanded a league second least 171 times. That being said, they're third in the Bauer conference in penalty minutes with 861.
Adam Bartko will likely get the start for the Ice Wolves, he is third among SJHL goalies for minutes played (1748) and third in wins (18).
Taking a look at a couple rookies, the North Stars' Kyle Hall is third among first year players with 17 goals on the season. The Ice Wolves' Justin Ducharme leads rookies in points per game, with 1.12 points per game.
You can catch the game tonight on Livesports.com, I'll get things rolling a couple minutes before puck drop. Curtis won't be on the cast tonight as he's caught a bug that's going around.
If you're in La Ronge, get out to the game tonight because you're running out of chances to see one of the best lines if not the best line you will ever see in Junior-A hockey... for pretty much any level for that matter.
See you at the game tonight!