Sorry for not having anything up on the last couple of games. I slept until some time in the afternoon yesterday after getting back to La Ronge after 6 a.m. and decided not to touch anything sports related, until that wild World Series Game 6. Absolutely nuts! Unfortunately Game 7 runs at the same time as the
Ice Wolves/Klippers game so naturally, I won't be there... I jest.
I'm going to try the PVR/bury head in sand tactic and see how speed watching the game goes. So nobody tell me the score please. I'll be shutting down my phone as well, so I'm going all out on this. Back to the hockey.
The game in the Battlefords was a bit flat on both sides. Bob Beatty described a lack of urgency which pretty much sums it up on both sides, though the defence was pretty good. It was going to beauty or garbage that would beat Rajotte or Hildebrand on Tuesday, unfortunately it was garbage.
Brilliant pass from Blake Tatchell to start it off then two fanned shots eventually resulted in the puck tottering over the goal line off the post. One of the saddest game winners I've ever seen. Especially for the Wolves that had a miraculously open net with a puck in the crease and 5 bodies crashing somehow repel the puck from the goal line. I'm still trying to work out the physics on that one. Solid puck seemingly travels through 10 solid skates and 5 solid sticks... go figure.
The star of the show on Wednesday was this rink attendant at the game. Since the Klippers don't play at home this weekend; he got into the Halloween spirit early and went all out.
Put on that make-up right over the facial hair which is always fun to get out. He even had candy to hand out to kids.
As for the actual play on the ice, Alex Rajotte was once again fantastic. Even better than he was in the Battlefords. The Ice Wolves off season acquisition has been good this season, but really seems to be hitting his stride. In his last four starts, Rajotte has only allowed five goals and holds a 0.962 save percentage. The Ice Wolves defence has really started to come together, so that should help Rajotte's numbers as well. However, he was a major reason the Wolves won on Wednesday. He had the Klippers looking at the ceiling for most of the night as he made save after save. The lone marker to beat him was an absolute rocket from the slot that may have caused bodily harm if he had stopped it.
I was impressed with the effort from the Ethier, Cormier and Iron line against the Klippers. They're definitely a group the Wolves need to get going and they were all over the place especially early in the game.
Wednesday's game showed why the Klippers are struggling for consistency this season, and it's very similar to the Ice Wolves own problems. Too many giveaways in their own end and getting up the ice is a chore. Their breakout was iffy through most of the game and it would generally be on the second or third try to get up the ice.
Looking at tonight's contest, if the Klippers run into the same problems they did at home, they could be in trouble. If they found the Ice Wolves forecheck bothersome on a regulation sheet, they'll have their hands full at the Mel.
If you take a look at the Klippers special teams, you wouldn't expect them to be a last place team. It's pretty rare you see a squad sitting first in penalty kill percentage and fourth in powerplay, but that's how they stand. Their even strength play has not been fantastic. Looking their total goals for goals against, they are an overall -1 team, however, factoring the special teams, the Klippers turn into a minus eight team. The bright side, the special teams are doing their job, the downside, five-on-five play is suffering and the Klippers need to figure that facet out.
On the home side, the Wolves are quickly turning the Mel into a very unwelcome destination in the SJHL. They currently sit 4-1 at the Mel (they are 1-1 in neutral home games) and haven't lost since their home opener (that 7-2 eyesore to Nipawin) with the Wolves quickly approaching a two month homestand, they could be set to make an assault on the standings.
Speaking of the standings, if the Wolves win and the Broncos lose tonight, La Ronge jumps into third place in the Bauer Conference. I should probably temper that by pointing out this is the Wolves' 20th game of the season. They will have played a minimum of two games more than their competition in the North. That said, they can only take care of themselves and getting into that spot means the other teams need to win to knock the the Wolves out. Obvious, but a fair point, as games in hand are only useful if you win them.
Lineup details for the Wolves could be changing for the first time in a while. While I never seem to guess the correct goalie, I would guess the Ice Wolves will go back to the hot hand in Rajotte and start Myles Hovdebo against Notre Dame on Sunday.
Up front, Nathan Boyer will likely draw out of the lineup. He sustained a 2 inch cut on his hand in Wednesday's game. He got pulled down along the boards and while on the ice, a player inadvertently stepped on his hand/wrist where the glove wasn't covering. The skate didn't get to the bone, but the cut was deep enough to cause some damage and he will probably miss some time to the tune of 1-2 weeks though that isn't confirmed yet.
With that injury, expect Scott Helmkay to draw into the lineup. The Ice Wolves defender has been out of the lineup with an upper body injury since the Wolves fourth game of the season. Don't be surprised to see him lining up at forward as he played his fair share of time up front last season in Midget. The other option for Coach Beatty is to play Franklin Cook at forward, but I don't anticipate him breaking up his defensive pairings at this point. Especially when Helmkay will still be trying to get his timing down, it's a safer way to ease him back in at forward.
Tonight's game will be a bit of a different set-up broadcast-wise with Access 7 in the Mel for SJHL Game of the Week. I'll be doing colour commentary for Mike Stackhouse on that TV broadcast, but the audio and possibly video will be fed into the webcast for your viewing pleasure. So it will be a bit different voice-wise but nothing changes for you at home.
Enjoy the game and I'll catch you on Monday!