The last time I saw this kind of highway robbery in a game, it was Craig Anderson's 50+ save shutout overtime win against San Jose in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Stephen Klein was simply amazing, putting forward one of the best performances I've ever seen in net. Ice Wolves shooters spent a lot of time looking to the sky after seeing Klein snatch sure goals away.
All told, Klein made 52 saves on 54 shots for the Hawks in their 3-2 win over the Wolves. That splits the season series between these teams at two games a piece. If the Hawks get goaltending like this the rest of the season, look out, because they'll be able to make some noise in the playoffs.
The sheer number of scoring chances and shots for the Ice Wolves do look sexy, but Coach Beatty wasn't to happy with his team's efforts in the game.
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Sometimes its tough to pick up on some of those things in the heat of the game when you're focusing on how many great chances there are and how well Klein was playing. Thinking back though, the Ice Wolves did have a lot of plays that weren't too impressive. The Hawks pressured the Wolves into making a bunch of bad passes. Nipawin also came away with a lot of pucks out of battles along the boards. That helped the Hawks a lot in the third period when they basically tucked into the shell and turtled. The Hawks were only sending in one fore-checker from the drop of the puck in the third. Shots on goal in the final frame were 22-2 for the Ice Wolves.
Adam Bartko's struggles continued this game. The Hawks got two on the powerplay that I'm guessing Bartko will want back. First, Matthew Spafford caught the Ice Wolves goalie cheating towards the middle of the net and snapped a shot through the five hole from the half boards. On the next powerplay chance for the Hawks, Bartko went to cover a puck only to have it slide past his glove right to Tyler Paslawski on the doorstep. Those two goals were all the Hawks needed to win. The holiday break comes at a great time for Bartko who can just relax, get re-focused and let the last couple weeks go away.
Doug Lindensmith had his point streak snapped last night, it's the first time in 19 games that Lindensmith hasn't registered a point, that's since November 5th. Marc-Andre Carre added to his own point streak, it's up to 18 games and he's one point behind Lindensmith for the league lead in points. Travis Eggum hasn't had a goal for a couple games, but he's been playing playmaker with some assists, so he sits just four points back of Lindensmith for the the points lead with 63 points.
So where does this leave the Ice Wolves? Well, they're still six points ahead of Melfort for tops in the Bauer, but the Mustangs have a game in hand. They also missed a chance to move within 2 points of the Terriers for top spot in the entire league. So they sit within 4 points with two games in hand on Yorkton.
After the game, the players went their separate ways, mostly to head home for Christmas. Coach Beatty said he 'created some extra work for himself' and had to come back up to La Ronge. There are only a couple things that statement could mean, so we'll watch with interest for something to come down the line on the break.
The Ice Wolves' next action is on the 30th when they play an exhibition game against the Swedish U17 Team, that should be great to watch. A few of those Swedish players will be star NHL'ers in the years to come. Unfortunately I won't be taking in that game as I head out on holidays tonight. Don't worry, I'll be back in time to head out on the road with the Wolves when they travel to Flin Flon for the first game after the break.
Thanks to everyone with the MBC, the Ice Wolves and people here in La Ronge for helping me get settled in. It has been a great few months and I look forward to many more. Have a Merry Christmas, and a I'll see you in 2011!
1. Stephen Klein - 52 Saves/Obscenely good in net...
2. Matthew Spafford - 1G, 2A/In my opinion the best Hawk not in goal...
3. Marc-Andre Carre - 1G/The best Ice Wolf tonight, made some really nice plays only to have them taken away by Klein...