By Jon Zacks
The Huskies were missing players and brains on Monday night, as they dropped game one of their second-round playoff series to the Grande Prairie Wheelers.
The second-ranked Huskies were almost doubled in shots (47-25) and pressured for long stretches in their own zone, for almost the entire 60 minutes.
Missing a legion of key players, the pups played short-benched and with three Midget call-ups on defence. With Payden Wongstedt, Jesse Disher, and Kyle Porter all suspended, the Fort St. John squad was also missing Dylan Apsassin, Ryan Stickel, Cash Brinkworth, Cam MacKinnon, and Brighton Campbell, and the absence were glaring. “Huge” was how Huskies Assistant Coach Jeremy Clothier described the missing bodies. “You show up to a hockey game, and a couple of your guys aren’t here … they just don’t show up” he lamented. “It hurts the dressing room a little bit.”
The Wheelers took full advantage, sending a relentless forecheck deep into the FSJ zone, and creating endless scoring chances. By the end of the first period, Grande Prairie was up 3-0, and while the Huskies took advantage of some powerplays in the second to climb back into the game, the Wheelers soon pulled away again.
Grande Prairie got offensive contributions from almost the entire lineup, with Kyle Weegar and Cordell Shmyr both scoring a pair of goals, and Riley Halwa, Nathan Johnson and Jarvis Dawson also finding the back of the net.
“They got shots” said Clothier of Grande Prairie’s success. “They drove the net, they stayed out of the penalty box, they out forechecked us, and they outworked us.”
Kole Norris led the way offensively for Fort St. John, recording two goals and an assist, while Robbie Sidhu also had a pair of goals.
Ty Gullickson got his fourth consecutive start, and actually played remarkably well, despite conceding 8 goals. Kris Dika won his fourth game of the playoffs, after playing each game in Grande Prairie’s first-round sweep of Sexsmith.
Cody Poggenpohl was one of the three NEBC and Yukon Tracker-Flyers to dress for the Huskies on the back-end. “I’m still little out of shape” he admitted afterwards, referring to a torn ligament that has kept him off the ice, adding “I think it was a lot of fun out there.” It was Poggenpohl’s first game with the Huskies, while his Midget teammates David Green and Jordan Walters had both played in the 2009 playoffs. Poggenpohl had his own theory on what led to the Huskies demise on Monday, suggesting simply “we couldn’t get the puck out.”
The Huskies coaching staff seemed pleased with the performances of all three Midgets, giving all of them plenty of ice time in all situations. “They fit in good” said Jeremy Clothier, adding “they work hard, they’re physical, they know what they have to do out there.”
The final score was 8-4 in favour of the guests, with the series now shifting back to Grande Prairie for game two on Wednesday night.
“We’ve got to get better game-preparation” advised Cody Poggenpohl, who is expecting to dress on Wednesday. “We walked into this game and no one was really into it … so next game we’ve just got to get into it more.”