The Huskies escaped Dawson Creek with a win on Wednesday night.
The Junior Canucks opened the scoring, just after the expiration of a powerplay. With defencemen Kyle Porter and Cory Langdon trapped and tired, Dawson Creek’s top line continued to cycle the puck, until Reid Smith found John-Wayne Howes in front. Howes one-timed a shot past Ty Gullickson, putting the Huskies behind the eight-ball.
The Huskies evened the score on the powerplay, when Payden Wongstedt’s shot bounced to Cody Kalb, who beat Cody Garnett, for a 1-1 score after 20 minutes.
There was no scoring in the second, and while the Huskies at times controlled the puck and looked dangerous, the Junior Canucks had the better scoring chances, with a couple of excellent saves by Gullickson, including one on a Colter MacLean breakaway, keeping the game tied. “We were having a little trouble getting going” admitted Ty Gullickson after the game. “When we were going we were keeping it in their end and dominating, but there were stretches where they were all over us.”
Less than 30 seconds into the third period, with the teams playing 4 on 4, Payden Wongstedt scored what would hold up as the winning goal, when he took a sharp angle shot, that seemed to hit the inside of Cody Garnett’s pad, and trickle over the goal line. It was a soft goal on what had otherwise been a solid night for Garnett, but a tough break for Dawson Creek, after battling to compete with a skilled Huskies team all night.
The Jr. Canucks threw everything they had at the Huskies late in the game, but were denied by a crossbar, a gritty shot-block from Jesse Disher, and some more heroics from Gullickson.
On the final play, Colter MacLean slew-footed Ty Gullickson, souring what had been an otherwise excellent night from him, and drawing the ire of the Huskies. Cory Langdon and MacLean briefly scrummed, but the linesman quickly jumped in, and the game came to a close. MacLean was served two major penalties on the play, one for the slew-foot, and one for the fight.
It was a close game, and an entertaining one to watch, but overall, an underwhelming win for Fort St. John. “We’ve got a good record right now, but we’re not a very good hockey club – we seem to be really struggling” lamented Coach Bob Kalb after the game. Kalb did single-out a few players for solid efforts, including Gullickson, and Payden Wongstedt. Wongstedt was actually forced to leave the ice during the second period, because of illness. But, he returned to the game, and as well as scoring the game-winner, the captain was on the ice for the entire final four minutes.
“We’ve got good leadership, but we’ve got a bunch of talented guys who don’t seem to be gelling very well right now” Kalb says.
Equally, Kalb admitted Dawson Creek was much improved over the team the Huskies had dominated in the preseason. “They work real hard, you got to give that to their hockey club” said Kalb of the Jr. Canucks. “What they don’t have is the top end talent to put the puck in the net.”
In the end, it was a greasier win than the Huskies might have envisioned heading into Dawson Creek. But, they earned the road win they needed to stay ahead of third place Peace River.
The Huskies won the battle of special teams (1/5 on the PP, 4/4 on the PK), they protected their goaltender, and they blocked a lot of shots. “It really helped me out” said Ty Gullickson of his team’s shot-blocking. “I was getting tired, everyone was getting tired, but we found a way to win.”
Listen to a highlights package from Wednesday’s game
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The Huskies will hope to keep fatigue and illness at bay, when they play their second of three games this week, on Friday night against Peace River. The game starts at 8:30, after the conclusion of the Santa Clause Parade in Fort St. John. Friday is also ‘Family night’ at the Huskies game, meaning admission is just $20 for an entire family.