Emotions ran high, after the Huskies beat the Peace River Navigators in game Seven on Friday night, to win the series, and advance to the NWJHL finals.
Particularly satisfying was the way they did it, falling behind 3 games to 2, and needing a Thursday night win in Peace River to force a game seven showdown. For more on game 7, click here:
Friday’s game 7 marked the 5th game in 6 days for Fort St. John, and after a hard-fought battle against their old rivals from North Peace, the pups are looking forward to some well-earned rest.
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They aren’t going to get it.
Because of the distance between Fort St. John and Whitecourt, the Huskies need try and play their road games on the weekend, meaning games 1 & 2 will go Saturday and Sunday at the Whitecourt Twin Arenas. If the prospect of 7 playoff games in 8 days isn’t daunting enough, the Huskies are taking their tired legs and aching bodies to the home of a league powerhouse.
The Wolverines were the class of the NWJHL this regular season, posting a 32-3 record, including a perfect 18-0 on home ice. They’ve also continued that form in the playoffs, sweeping the Grande Prairie Wheelers, by an aggregate score of 37-12, after earning in bye in the first round, due to the folding of Sexsmith.
The Huskies are hoping rust could prove a factor, with the Wolverines not having played since March 8th. With the possible exception of game One against Grande Prairie, the Wolverines haven’t played a competitive game since their 4-3 overtime win over Fort St. John in the final game of the regular season (Feb. 15th). And that’s the game the Huskies will need to dwell on. While they did lead 3-1 before a late collapse, it was in that game, as well as the previous night’s 5-1 loss, that the Huskies proved that they can play with the Wolverines. After the Sunday OT loss, a disappointed Cody Kalb said the game still proved a point.
While Wolverines coach Joey Bouchard is well aware of the talent on the Huskies, Whitecourt will also be hungry, after a tough loss in the finals last year. After beating the Huskies in 5 games in the semis, Whitecourt took a 3-1 lead on Peace River, before losing the championship in 7 games. The Wolverines boast an exceptionally deep roster, top-end talent to rival any team at the Jr. B level, and a solid 1-2 punch in goal.
They are well-coached, well-disciplined, and willing to sacrifice the body whenever needed. Rod Lavoie leads the way, with 11 points in the playoffs, after a stunning 46 goal season. But, the Huskies also have high-end talent. Cody Kalb leads the NWJHL playoffs, with 13 goals and 13 assists in 11 games. The second and third lines continue to contribute, and the fourth line has shown moments of ferocity in the playoffs.
The pups have less depth on the blue line, but perhaps better top-end talent, including Captain Jonathan Spence, the smooth skating Payden Wongstedt, and midget revelation Jordan Walters. And, while a month ago the Huskies didn’t even have a consistent number 1 goaltender, Zack Blain has emerged as one of the best goaltenders in the league, with an impressive NWJHL playoff Goals Against Average of 2.92 Dylan Apsassin who scored four goals in game seven against the Navigators, thinks his team will be ready for the challenge. "It should be good if we get a good night’s rest" he says, adding "We’ll see what comes." While he knows his team is tired, coach Kalb also thinks his team is ready for the occasion. [asset|aid=1113|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=59ab2714ac9cfbfed5b1ac71d807e280-bob-wct_1_Pub.mp3]
When asked about his chances against the Wolverines, the coach said with a smile, "50/50." The stage is set for what could be a dazzling league final. The Huskies will be playing on adrenaline – a formula that has served them well, and bodes for some exciting hockey. Schedule so far:
Game 1 – Saturday Mar. 14, 7pm PST @ WCT
Game 2 – Sunday Mar. 15, 2:30 PST @ WCT (may start anywhere between 2 and 3pm, stay tuned.)
Game 3 – Wednesday Mar. 18, 8pm PST @ FSJ
Game 4 – Thursday Mar. 19, 8pm PST @ FSJ
Game 5 (if necessary) – TBA @ WCT
Game 6 (if necessary) – TBA @ FSJ
Game 7 (if necessary) – TBA @ WCT Games one and two (and tentatively five) will be broadcast live on MooseFM, and online at energeticcity-beta.mystagingwebsite.com