Yes, my post from last night certainly would have been a lot more detailed had the other team won... but since they didn't, I decided sleep was more important.
The Terrier bus rolled into Yorkton at 6:00 am, and after doing a few things at the station, and saying hi to my wife and daughter who were already up, I finally crashed at about 7:45, and was gonzo till about 2:00. I'm sick as a dog again, got the same head cold I thought I'd got rid of... anyway, I was told to stay away from work until Monday. No argument here!
It ended up being 29 playoff broadcasts and 83 total on GX94 this year, which is about par for the course. But unlike most years, there was no Yorkton-Melville matchup, no Swan or Wayway against Dauphin, no Weyburn... nope, nothing close! Our Manitoba teams played Portage and Winkler, and in Saskatchewan, the opponents were Estevan, Estevan, Kindersley, La Ronge. Everything was a good hike, and I'm not gonna lie, I'm gassed. I need a break, but certainly wasn't hoping for one yet.
Game 7 in La Ronge started horrifically for the Terriers, and while they were right with La Ronge the rest of the way, they couldn't dig out of the 2-0 hole they dug themselves in the first three minutes.
You'd think winning the opening faceoff to start the game would be a good thing, but it started off a terrible string of events. Robbie Ciolfi won the opening draw clean from Marc-Andre Carre, but it got by defensemen Devon McMullen and Brant Remenda. Remenda hustled back, and Carre was bearing down on him, picking up steam. He got cranked, lost his helmet, and as he got hit, he put the puck off the glass, and it ended up going for icing. The Ice Wolves won the draw, and Logan Herauf spun and shot, and scored, just 18 seconds into Game 7. Almost right off the ensuing face-off, the Terriers took a penalty (their only one of the game), and the Ice Wolves' Dayton Fossum scored on the powerplay at 2:33.
Right after that, La Ronge goalie Adam Bartko robbed Justin Buzzeo with the glove. The Terriers kept coming, and Ciolfi scored his 14th of the playoffs with just over a minute left in the first period. They had a great start to the second period, coming close to tying it up, but the Ice Wolves restored the two goal lead. Devin Peters made his best save of the night on Carre, but the Terriers couldn't clear the puck, and Travis Eggum buried his 11th of the post season, and that would round out the scoring, just 4:30 into the second period.
In the third, the Ice Wolves blanketed the Terriers, holding them to 7 shots, and Bartko was big when he had to be, stopping 40 shots on the night, including all 21 he faced in the second period.
In what's a small neutral zone to begin with, the Ice Wolves never had less than 4 players between the blue lines when the Terriers tried to break out of their zone, and it made exiting the zone, getting to centre, dumping, chasing, and retrieving, next to impossible. Their forwards are always back defensively, and their defensemen are great at closing gaps, and getting their sticks and/or bodies into shooting lanes.
Carre, Herauf and Eggum had their best game of the series in Game 7. They were a threat every shift, and scored all three Ice Wolves' goals. I don't think La Ronge has any "superstars" outside those three (aside from an injured Doug Lindensmith), but their other lines are just so hard to play against. Their third line of Keller-Souchotte-Piller was very smothering, and guys like Aaron Enns and Skyler Hladun used their size and strength to cause the Terriers problems.
In one year, Dayton Fossum went from being the Ice Wolves' 6th or 7th defenseman / healthy scratch / 4th line right winger, to their undisputed top blueliner, and one of the best in the league. Such a good skater, runs the powerplay, and made life tough on the Terriers in the Ice Wolves' end. I don't know how many times he got his stick on a shot by a Terrier forward, and directed the puck out of play. I questioned the Ice Wolves' backend coming into the series, wondering if they could handle the Terriers' forwards, but they sure did. A handful of Terriers had outstanding series offensively, but Bartko and the D-men infront of him kept them at bay when they needed goals. As tempting as it probably was to give playoff MVP to one of the Big Three, or Bartko, I think they got it right giving it to Fossum.
The big question is, after the deadline acquisitions of Boyer, Buzzeo and Remenda, was it "championship or bust" for the Terriers? I don't think that's fair to say, but there's an argument for it. I think Yorkton would have been a favourite to win the Sherwood again next year, with their whole first line of Struble-Ciolfi-Breitkreuz all eligible to be back. It's no secret that the Terriers owe Humboldt two players for Boyer/Buzzeo, and whoever it is will create some big holes in the depth chart. If everyone's available, I don't see how they could take anyone but Breitkreuz & Ciolfi, the way they played together and tore it up on the same line in the playoffs. But there are other options for sure, depending if they want more grit/depth, or take a chance on a WHL defenseman like an Austin Bourhis or Davis Vandane. Let the speculation begin, about that deal, and about who Melville's getting from Melfort. And since I'm not the first one to blog this, I will say that Melville's getting 3 players. 2 for Metz and 1 for Hanson. Melfort did get to protect a player, but it's not a guy whose name jumps out as someone the Mils would go after. The first two names coming are pretty safe bets, provided they report, while the third name could make for a tough decision. These deals can be completed as soon as the RBC Cup is over May 8th, and I would expect they will be before June 1st, not into September like the Yorkton/Winnipeg Blues fiasco of this year. Humboldt wants to build their RBC team, and I don't see why Melville would take all summer to make their picks. But back to the original question... Boyer and Buzzeo were huge for the Terriers down the stretch in the regular season, and without them, there's a good chance they don't finish first, and lose home ice against Kindersley, and Boyer, Buzzeo and Remenda were arguably the top three Terriers in that Sherwood Final. I admire the move by Don Chesney, feeling that next year could very likely be "Humboldt's year," so "let's go for it now."
What ifs? Certainly Game 5 was the one that got away from the Terriers, up 3-1 midway through the 2nd. And, after getting the split in La Ronge in Games 1 and 2, they had a sluggish start to Game 3 on home ice, and went on to lose 4-3 in overtime. I really thought they needed to take Games 3 and 4 to win the series, because winning another game in La Ronge would be difficult. Yorkton finished the playoffs with a record of 11-4, while La Ronge was 12-5, but 3 of those losses were in overtime. The other ones were a 3-0 Terrier win in Game 2, and a 2-1 loss in Flin Flon. They refused to lose back to back games. Desperation after a loss may have been all that separated the Ice Wolves and Terriers in each contest, as neither team lost back to back games in the series. La Ronge took the opener, and the two clubs alternated wins the rest of the way.
Congrats again to Bob Beatty, the Ice Wolves' Coach/GM, and to a few local connections, former Melville Millionaire Logan Herauf, Canora's Skyler Hladun and Langenburg's Alex Vandenameele, who all have SJHL rings. Same goes to Voice of the Ice Wolves Daniel Fink, who gets to cover a championship team and an Anavet Cup (and maybe an RBC) in his first year in the business (PUNK!).
The Ice Wolves, I believe, are in Yorkton as I type this. They came back to Yorkton the day after winning the championship at home, to get within 3.5 hours of Portage, where they'll start the Anavet Cup on Friday.
I probably saw Portage 8 or so times between regular season and playoffs. They're a fast team and they work hard, and have great goaltending. I think 18-year-old Jason Kasdorf might be the best goalie in the MJHL, and he might not even be the guy the Ice Wolves see, at least to start. Kirk Croswell (former Humboldt Bronco) was in goal for all 4 Portage wins in the MJHL Final against Selkirk, so Blake Spiller may continue to ride the hot hand. The Terriers are led offensively by a 16 year old (Brendan Harms) and a 17 year old (Brent Wold), while La Ronge's top guys are mainly 19 and 20 year old vets. Harms and Wold play with 20 year old Tyler Moore, who has 3 league championships under his belt. Cody Kostecki's a very good offensive defenseman for Portage, and I really like watching rookie blueliner Yvan Pattyn, who I believe is only 17. He's physical, and adds some offense from the backend. His brother Stephane is a veteran forward, along with the likes of Shaq Merasty, Kajon McKay and Kyle Turgeon.
Game 1 Friday will be key, to see if the Ice Wolves have enough in the tank... but if La Ronge can get at least a split Portage, I like their chances, coming home for three straight next week. I'll follow with keen interest... of course I wish I was still calling the games! But, now I'll have a lot more time with my family and to watch some NHL playoffs.
Early indications were that the Terrier banquet would be Saturday. I'll let you know when I know for sure.