It had only once in the season until Tuesday night in La Ronge. What happened you ask? The Ice Wolves went into the third period tied with the North Stars... only the second time they had gone to the third period tied all season. Now, they've done it twice in two games. After 40 minutes this one was all tied up at one. Mainly because Matt Hrynkiw and Myles Hovdebo were excellent.
Like they did on Tuesday, the Ice Wolves came away victorious. A 3-1 win gave the Wolves their third straight win and an eight point lead over Melfort in the Bauer Conference.
Read on for the recap of Thursday's game.
The first period was scoreless... moving on. Nah, there were were at least a couple things to talk about. The Wolves were ok, not great, not bad. It was enough to keep them right in the game. The Broncos looked good again as they peppered Hovdebo early in the period, but they tapered off towards the end of the period.
The Ice Wolves didn't look like the team that had just taken two very tough wins away from Estevan and Battlefords. As Assistant Coach Gavin Holcomb very aptly put it, the Wolves seemed to be on cruise control.
One of the best scoring chances of the period for the Broncos came off the stick of Ice Wolves defenceman, Robert Monfore. As he attempted to backhand the puck behind his own net, he was bumped by a Broncos forechecker and the puck went straight towards the Wolves' net. Hovdebo alertly knocked the puck away with his stick.
Coach Holcomb felt that way about the second as well, in my opinion, if they were on cruise control, they at least pushed accelerate. The Ice Wolves put 20 shots on Hrynkiw and he was fabulous. The only reason this game was close. It's the third game in a row the Wolves have run into a hot goalie and prevailed. Although it is a little disturbing how this team can bring out the best in goalies. Taylor Piller picked up the first goal, tipping in a Byron Sorenson point shot. It was about the only way the Wolves were going to score on the Broncos' netminder in the period.
The Broncos answered back before the period ended, Troy Gasper grabbed a puck on the Ice Wolves goal line and launched it towards the net. The puck clipped the inside of Hovdebo's knee and bounced into the net. Hovdebo was visibly annoyed by the goal, but he settled down quick and it was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect night.
The third period is where the Ice Wolves took over. They put up another eleven shots with two of them finding the back of the net. The first was created off a nice pass off the half-boards to Nolan Souchotte from Rhyse Dieno. Souchotte used the Humboldt defender as a screen and put a wrist shot behind Hrynkiw. We didn't see a penalty until just passed the eight minute mark in the third period. The Wolves made good on the powerplay opportunity.
The play started at the La Ronge blue-line with a nice move from Logan Herauf to keep the play moving forward. He found Marc-Andre Carre at the Humboldt blue-line and Carre began drawing eyes and defenders. Carre didn't have designs on getting to the net, though. He fired a pass to Travis Eggum in the left faceoff circle and he hammered a one timer past Hrynkiw for his 41st goal of the season as his quest for 50 continues.
Hovdebo stood strong for the next ten minutes to keep the Ice Wolves comfortably on top. Both newcomers looked great for the Ice Wolves. I didn't know this until I interviewed Coach Beatty before the game, but Verret hadn't played in a game since October. If I didn't know that, I wouldn't have. Actually, when I told my colour man, Wolves forward Skyler Hladun (yes, contrary to popular and league opinion, you spell his name with an -er) he was shocked. Verret looked like he had been playing with the team all season. Nick Keller looked solid too. He picked up an assist on Piller's goal and looked right at home with Piller and Souchotte, though there are still a couple kinks to work out on the line.
Best shift of the game came from the fourth line of Dieno, Boyer and Hladun. They hopped on the ice with one minute left in the game and Hrynkiw trying to escape to the bench. They proceeded to hold the Broncos in their own end for the next 40 seconds and kill any hope of a comeback. It was a great, hard working and gritty shift from a line that had been trying to find its way through the game.
Three Stars - As Selected by Skyler Hladun
1. Matt Hrynkiw - HUM - 38 svs - This game wouldn't have been close without the heroics of Hrynkiw. If he's stepping into the starters role next season, the future looks bright for the Broncos between the pipes.
2. Nick Keller - LR - 1 A - Keller looked strong in his first game wearing an Ice Wolves uniform. He got his first point, set up a couple of chances and had a couple of his own. It looks like he will indeed be an important acquisition.
3. Taylor Piller - LR - 1 G - It seems as though Piller always brings his best games out against the Broncos. He picked up the first goal of the game and was all over the ice.
I'm going to take care of the preview for tomorrow in this post. It helps maintain my sanity and get me to bed on time. I may work in radio, but that doesn't mean I don't desperately need some beauty sleep... oh so desperately.
All but one of the games between the North Stars and Ice Wolves have been classics (I guess you could call the 8-1 LR win a classic beat down). Aside from the blow-out, all the games have been one goal wars. Tuesday was all but a playoff game and it was a doozy (is that how you spell doozy). When I asked Gavin on the broadcast tonight about playing the Stars in the playoffs, his answer led me to believe the Wolves would rather avoid the Battlefords.
They play a great physical game and have plenty of firepower. The only real complaints I have with the North Stars is their defence and their inconsistent goaltending. If Kyle Birch can play like he did on Tuesday on a regular basis, the North Stars will be a very tough team to beat in a seven game series, not to mention down the stretch.
The Ice Wolves can't go on cruise control Friday night, or they will quickly find themselves losing. If there's one thing that really impresses me about the Stars, it's just how blindingly fast they can turn a play around. Fans at the game on Tuesday got a very good example when Woody Klassen started a 3-on-1 shorthanded rush.
Look for the former North Star, Adam Bartko, to get the start for La Ronge. He has been playing very well of late and the Wolves need him to keep rolling. He was huge for La Ronge against Battlefords on Tuesday and Estevan on Sunday. Can he be the guy again?
I'll have the pre-game show from the Civic Centre in North Battleford at 7:15 with the opening faceoff at 7:30.
I'll get the post game report up Saturday morning as we hop on the bus after the game for La Ronge.
Catch you then!