By Jon Zacks
The Huskies came up short against Whitecourt on Saturday night, losing by a final score of 5-3.
The Huskies played a brilliant first period, forechecking tenaciously and preventing the Wolverines from using their speed on the counter-attack. Fort St. John’s Brian Gilbert opened the scoring, when he got a stick on a Cory Langdon point shot, to give the Huskies the all-important lead.
The Wolverines got one back, when Tyler Stubbs chipped a loose puck over Ty Gullickson. But just 20 seconds later, NWJHL rookie-of-the-year Robbie Sidhu pounced on a Cody Kalb face-off win, to give Fort St. John a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes. “We got off to a quick start” said Gilbert after the game. “We were hungry.”
But, the Huskies gave the Wolverines a chance to fight back in the second, and a chance was all they would need. Layne Brown tied the game on an unassisted goal, after the Huskies turned the puck over, and Brown’s shot muscled through Gullickson’s glove and over the goal line. Late in the frame, a puck bounced off Steven Fast’s stick right to Layne Brown in the low slot. Brown quickly dished it to Wayne Quiafe, who buried the puck into an open net, giving the Wolverines their first lead. Off the ensuing face-off, Quaife sped into the pups zone and beat Gullickson to the blocker-side, for his second goal in just 11 seconds. “A couple of little mistakes cost us” said Gilbert of the second period collapse. “You can’t do that against a team like that.”
The Huskies had another solid third-period effort, pressuring the Wolverines for most of the period. 12 minutes into the final frame, and with the Huskies on a powerplay, Robbie Sidhu banged in a wraparound, to get the pups within one. But, Fort St. John couldn’t get the equalizer, and with 41 seconds left, Dion Leblue fired the puck into the empty net, to clinch a 5-3 win for the Wolverines.
“Our effort was pretty good except for in the second period, where we just quit working” said Huskies coach Bob Kalb after the game. “We just make the same mistakes that we have been doing all year, guys don’t want to do the things we have to do to get the puck out of our zone at times, and it cost us” he said, adding “until they learn how to do that, we’re not going to beat this hockey club.”
Whitecourt Coach Richard Kazda said his team had looked a little flat in the first period, but said he was pleased with their overall effort on the night. Kazda knew the battle of the top two teams meant high-stakes and high emotions – “especially tonight and tomorrow, with the momentum that will carry into playoffs.”
Of course, the Wolverines are gunning for a perfect season, now sporting a 34-0 record heading into the final game of the season on Sunday afternoon. “I think it’s going to be huge” said Kazda, “and they’re all aware they can be part of history.”
Catch the final game of the regular season, as the Huskies get one more chance to spoil Whitecourt’s party. Sunday’s game starts at 2 o’clock, at the North Peace Arena.