By Jon Zacks
The Huskies are riding a high as they head into the playoffs.
The Huskies played their best game of the season, when they beat Whitecourt 4-2 in the final game of the regular season, to ruin the Wolverines’ bid for a perfect season.
After finishing second overall, Fort St. John now takes on the seventh-ranked Beaverlodge Blades. The Huskies won all five regular season matchups between the teams, though the Blades are also riding a high, after beating the third-ranked Grande Prairie Wheelers in their final regular season game.
For Fort St. John Coach Bob Kalb, the key to beating Beaverlodge is to effectively shut down the Blades’ top line.
Beaverlodge’s leading scorer, Aaron Dumas, lost the overall scoring race by just one point, to Fort St. John’s Cody Kalb, and is the Blades’ biggest offensive threat. Taylor Jones also provides excellent speed on the wing, and some finishing ability to go with it. As well, Cody Moulds remains one of the NWJHL’s top defencemen, though he will have his hands full with a deep Huskies attack.
Kalb says the Huskies will start Ty Gullickson in goal tonight, though he stresses Gullickson and Garrett Muir both remain the teams’ equal number ones. Kalb says he’ll stick with a rotation "as as they keep playing the way they are."
The bad news:
The Huskies have learned that two of their key players will be missing for at least the first few games. Captain Payden Wongstedt has been served a three-game suspension for his second match-penalty of the year. Wongstedt allegedly sprayed a Wolverine with a waterbottle in the Feb. 14th win over Whitecourt, earning the misconduct. Wongstedt plays a lot of minutes on the blue-line, and also typically matches up against the opponents’ top lines, meaning the pups will need other defencemen to step up in shutting down Aaron Dumas and co. "We use him on the powerplay situations as well" says Coach Kalb, adding "it’s just one of those things we just have to through."
Kyle Porter has been officially suspended for six months, after getting involved in a melee Feb. 7th in Slave Lake. Porter was charged with striking an official. Porter missed the subsequent weekend against Whitecourt, but the Huskies are planning an appeal of his suspension.
Round One Schedule:
Game 1 – Wednesday Feb. 17 – North Peace Arena
Game 2 – Friday Feb. 19 – Beaverlodge Arena
Game 3 – Saturday Feb. 20 – North Peace Arena