Record: 11-16-4 (26 pts) 6th in Sherwood
On Pace: 22-32-8 (52 pts) .419%
The Wolverines have been consistently inconsistent in the season's first half, which leads one to believe they might tank and drop out of the race in a hurry... OR, get hot at the right time and maybe squeeze into the post-season. The Wolverines went 0-5-2 in their first 7 games, 8-3-1 in their next 12, 1-7-1 in their next 9, and since went 2-1 in their last 3 to hit the halfway point. The Wolverines made a statement that they feel they're still very much alive in the playoff race, as they were buyers at the December 1st cutdown deadline, acquiring a 20-year-old goaltender from the Maritimes, and a young forward from Melfort. Shane Goodrunning and Dave Williams have scored more goals than most likely expected out of them, while Paul Van de Velde has been catching fire, along with rookie Brett Pinkerton. After that, goals have been a little thin, and that's something that'll have to change.
What to Expect:
If I'm a betting man, unfortunately I'd be saying the Wolverines will be on the outside looking in come playoff time. They haven't had enough secondary scoring outside of the Goodrunning-Vandevelde-Pinkerton trio, and Dave Williams, who scored 7 of his 11 goals over an 8 game stretch. I REALLY hope they prove me wrong. Barry Butler works too hard to not be in the playoffs a second straight year, but they need to go over .500 the rest of the way, and will need some help from at least one Sherwood team, to try to sneak in through the crossover. And, it's not looking like that team will be Dauphin. The Wolverines were breathing down the necks of the defending champs, but the Kings are one of the leauge's hottest teams as we hit the month of December. Neepawa's cooled off, and they might be the team Wayway has to catch, although the Natives have games in hand on everyone, and they didn't win 10 in a row by a fluke. Portage isn't going anywhere. Swan's goaltending is too good for them to fall out of the mix, same with OCN. Same can also be said for Neepawa! It's a tough year to be a Sherwood Division team in the MJ, and the Wolverines' slow start that saw them fail to get a win until their 8th game might be what did them in when it's all said and done.
The X-factor in all of this though, could be Ryan Benitez. He's the 20-year-old goalie the Wolverines picked up from the Yarmouth Mariners late on Dec/1. And, according to reports I've found online, like this one, say he committed to Princeton University for 2011/12. That's an Ivy League school in the ECAC, the same conference former Wolverine Sean Collins and the Cornell Big Red plays in. Benitez obviously has the goods, and great goaltending that can steal games, can take an average team a long way. Good on Barry Butler for having the stones to pull off a trade like this, being in last place at the time. In a division that boasts the likes of Kasdorf/Croswell, Wells/Argue, Krahn, Willows and Vye... he felt the Wolverines needed an upgrade in goal to compete and have a shot at the playoffs. Looking forward to seeing Benitez, and 18F Brett Lafond, who put up 18g-26a-44p in 44 games last season with Beardy's in the Saskatchewan "AAA" Midget League. Another thing to consider is the Wolverines have played just 12 home games, compared to 17 on the road (plus 2 Showcase). So they've got a lot of games at the Recreation Complex down the stretch, which can only help their chances. I'm really hoping they become an exciting story to cover in the second half, as they try to jump up the ranks.
What They Have Left: 31 games
18 Home, 13 Away
Sherwood Division: 25 games (14 home, 11 away)
Neepawa: 6 (3H, 3A)
Dauphin: 6 (4H, 2A)
OCN: 5 (2H, 3A)
Portage: 4 (3H, 1A)
Swan: 4 (2H, 2A)
Addison Division: 6 games (4 home, 2 away)
Selkirk: 1H, 1A
Most Valuable Player
Shane Goodrunning, F
On pace for 46 goals, Goodrunning has been the picture of consistency so far this season. The Rocky Mountain House, AB product has been held pointless in only 7 of the 31 games he's played in, and has never gone more than 2 games in a row without hitting the stat sheet. Goodrunning's line, along with Vandevelde and Pinkerton need to continue to lead the way, but need more help in their final 31 games for the Wolverines to have a shot at playoff hockey.
Runners-Up: Paul Van de Velde, F; Stephane Robidoux, D
Dave Williams, F
The Okotoks, AB native has taken a much more prominent role up front for the Wolverines in his second MJHL season. He scored 5 goals last season, and more than doubled that total in half of his 20 year old campaign. Williams was a runner-up for Player of the Week once this season, going on a tear in early November.
Runners-Up: Ryan Duhaime, F; Ashley Howie, F; Bobby Janzen, D
Brett Pinkerton, F
Not much question about this one. Pinkerton was named MJHL Rookie of the Month in November, and is right at a point-per-game (9g-22a-31p in 30 games), getting first line minutes. While his 9 goals is fifth-best on the team, his 6 powerplay goals rank him first. No one else, including Goodrunning and Vandevelde, have more than 3.
Most Pleasant Surprise
Andrew Bergmann, F
Bergmann was playing Junior 'B' in Airdrie, AB, before joining the Wolverines partway through this season. He's only played 11 games, but has 9 points, and seems to be a real key addition, and mid-season find for Barry Butler's bunch. At 6'4" 210, with speed and hands, Butler did throw the name Sean Collins out there as a comparison, something he also did for Pinkerton prior to this season. Pretty good praise, considering Collins is at an Ivy League school and is a 7th round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets!
Runners-Up: Riley Feser, G; Matt Malenstyn, F
Seven games against seven divisional opponents (Neepawa, Portage, Neepawa, Portage, OCN, Dauphin, Portage) is what lies between now and the Christmas break for the Wolverines. Win 4 or 5... they're a little closer to a playoff spot with something to build on.... Lose 4 or 5 (or more)... and that hole's a pretty deep one come New Years... which begins with a double dip in OCN January 3rd and 4th.