The intensity began Saturday evening for game one, when the Huskies not only made their 2013 postseason debut, but also introduced a new face to their roster, as the team met their newest player, Tanner Fjellstrom, who was also making his NWJHL debut Saturday.
Game one began a bit slow for both sides, as each team had trouble creating much offence in the opening period, which concluded with the shot total reading 8-5 in favour of Slave Lake.
The second period was the opposite end of the spectrum, as the teams found their offensive touch, which began with the road team scoring first. At 6:41 in the second, Huskies captain Shawn Holliday stepped off the Huskies bench, received the puck, and quickly fired a shot high over the glove of Curtis Malbeuf, providing the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
The back-and-forth weekend began following Holliday’s goal, as the Wolves’ Travis Malbeuf responded on the power-play four minutes later, tying the game at 1-1.
Roughly four minutes later, Fjellstrom got the goal scoring monkey off his back, scoring his first goal as a Husky, getting great body position in front of the net, and sliding in a rebound. However, the lead didn’t last long, as the Wolves scored their second power-play marker of the period, tying the score at 2-2.
Despite the scoreboard being tied, the second period belonged to the Huskies, who totalled 20 shots in the second, compared to the nine fired by the Wolves.
It was an action packed third period, which began wonderfully for the visiting team, as the Huskies built themselves a two-goal lead courtesy of Fjellstrom’s second of the game, on the power-play, and rookie Cayle Bell scoring his first of the postseason following a great burst of speed around a defender.
Rather than feel sorry for themselves, the Wolves responded well, scoring two unanswered goals themselves, as Gordy Laderoute and James Green scored in a span of 2:30, setting up the game for a dramatic conclusion.
The game winner was scored with 2:50 remaining in regulation, as the Huskies found themselves on the power-play, cycling the puck well and getting the puck to defencemen Daylen Pearson. From the point, Pearson fired the puck quickly as to not allow the Wolves penalty killers to set up defensively, as the quick shot beat a screened Malbeuf, sending the Huskies players into a frenzy.
The team did a fantastic job at killing the final 2:50, claiming game one 5-4, while out-shooting the Wolves 39-29 in the process.
Travis McLean played great in net for the Huskies, as the team took a 1-0 series lead, making 25 saves for the win, while Tanner Fjellstrom emerged from the dressing room wearing the Huskies’ MVP hard hat, voted on by his teammates.
The next day’s game two was equally intense, and once again, the Huskies built themselves a two-goal lead, as Tanner Fjellstrom, playing on a line with Robbie Sidhu and Tyler Norris, added two more goals to his already impressive playoff total, scoring twice in the second period, compared to just one scored by the Wolves in the middle frame.
With the Huskies leading 3-1 entering the third, penalty troubles began to build up for Fort St. John, and despite doing an excellent job on the penalty kill throughout the entire game, the Wolves' lone power-play goal of the game cut the Huskies' lead in half, providing some momentum for Slave Lake. At 14:36, Taylor Riddoch fired a slap shot from the point, beating Huskies rookie goalie Daimon Derouin, making his postseason debut, tying the game at 3-3.
Following regulation, overtime was necessary to settle the score, with just one goal having a huge impact on the opening round series. On a very similar play to game one’s game-winner, Daylen Pearson got the puck at the point, fired a hard one-timer on net. Despite making the first save, Malbeuf wasn’t able to track down the rebound, as Brighton Campbell jumped on the loose puck, sliding it into the net, sending the Huskies bench into a celebration for the ages.
Derouin, playing in his first NWJHL playoff game, made 22 saves for his first postseason win, while Fjeslltrom is tied for the league lead in postseason goals with four.
With a commanding two-game lead in the best-of-five series, the Huskies now have two opportunities to close out the series on home ice, which can be achieved tonight, as the teams play their third game in as many nights.
Game three hits the ice of the North Peace Arena at 7 p.m.