1. Yorkton In A Dog Fight – I have to tip my cap to the No. 8 seeded Yorkton Terriers for walking into No. 1 Nipawin, and grabbing a split to start their series. Yorkton super-vet Cole Keenleyside, and his line with Dino Antoniadis and Quinten Hobbs, did a nice job as a checking/energy unit against Notre Dame in the Survivor Series, and the group got rewarded offensively in Game 2 against the Hawks, combining for three goals (a Keenleyside hat trick), and seven points in a 5-4 win. Nipawin gave up five goals in a game only three times in regular season, so for the Terriers to do it, especially after getting shutout 3-0 in Game 1 the night before, is pretty impressive. It’s impressive, but not surprising: the ability of the Terriers to put pucks in the net is no joke. What is even more impressive is that rookie Yorkton netminder Ryan Ouellette, who shone in the Survivor Series against Notre Dame, continued his brilliance into Game 3, leading the Terriers to a 3-2 victory on Tuesday night, and a 2-1 series lead. Game 4 back in Yorkton Wednesday night folks, should be a doozy!
2. Mustangs Running Wild – Questions about the reported health issues of Melfort’s (and probably the league’s) biggest stars Carson Albrecht (concussion), and Justin Ball (shoulder) have been answered resoundingly: they are fine. The Mustang duo has combined for seven goals and nine points, and unsurprisingly have been the catalyst in putting Kindersley on the brink; the series heads back to Melfort with the Mustangs holding a 3-1 series lead. Let’s see if Nate Keeley’s OT heroics in Game 4 sparks the Klippers, or is just a blip in the Mustang juggernaut.
3. Didn't See That Coming… - Speaking of that Melfort-Kindersley series, and while it is not over yet, I did not see the Mustangs busting out to such a quick lead (3-1) in the series, digging the Klippers a very big hole to climb out of if they can. The old adage goes that ‘you can’t win in the playoffs with only one dominant line’; that is unless the line has Justin Ball and Carson Albrecht on it, and boy are they dominant. That said, huge kudos to Noah Giesbrecht in net: a .938 save percentage will get the job done most of the time, and that’s what he’s doing. Interesting that Stangs bench boss Trevor Blevins went to Shawn Parkinson in Game 4 on Tuesday night, though not shocking, given how good Parkinson was in the regular season as well. Parkinson was very good in a losing effort in Game 4’s tight 2-1 overtime loss, but I expect to see Giesbrecht back in net in Melfort on Friday night.
4. Couple More Commits – Congrats to Notre Dame forward Marshall Wilton, who dominated in the Survivor Series to the tune of eight points in three games, and Weyburn overager Zac Gladu, for earning spots on post-secondary clubs next year. Wilton, of Emerald Park, SK, will head to Montreal to play Canadian University hockey for the University of Concordia in 2019-20; the 1998-born power forward was coveted by a whole slew of USports and NCAA programs for his skill, size, strength, and competitiveness. Gladu was brought in mid-season by the Red Wings from the Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta Junior league, where he arrived last off-season after a stint in Major Junior with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Val D’Or Foreur. An Alberta native, Gladu will play in beautiful Victoria for the UVic Vikings of the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League. Both Wilton and Gladu are big human beings, so I expect neither will be too intimidated by the strength and size of their new opponents.
5. Epic Humboldt/Wild Horses – It didn’t take a genius to expect the emotion in the barn in the Elgar Petersen Arena in Humboldt to be intense for playoff hockey, and the great Broncos fans delivered big time in the club’s two home victories this past week. A very nice 40-save performance by Humboldt goaltender Rayce Ramsay gave the Broncos offence a chance to explode with four straight goals in the second half of the contest to take Game 3 6-3 on Monday. They followed that up by blowing the visitors from Estevan away with four first-period goals in Game 4 Tuesday, led by two more assists in the frame from Brayden Camrud, who now has seven helpers in four contests. As if Camrud was not having a monster enough Tuesday night, the veteran added a hat trick, including two goals late in the third to halt what was looking like the makings of an epic Estevan rally from down 6-1. The Broncos eventually took the crazy contest 8-4, and to say the momentum in the series is firmly in the hands of Scott Barney’s Broncos would be an understatement, even if it is back to Estevan’s Affinity Place for Game 5.
7. Tough-luck Bruins – In a previous column, I talked about how all year the Bruins were unable to find consistent results, despite consistently outshooting opponents…well that trend continued as Estevan went down 3-1 in the series after losing both games in Humboldt, all the while outshooting the Broncos in all four of the series’ contests so far. I’ve said it a thousand times: ask me who will probably win the series, and I’ll say:‘tell me who has the better goalie’. Rayce Ramsay has been fantastic for most of the season, and even though he is only a 2001 birth-year, the incumbent in Kamloops in the Western Hockey League is Dylan Garand, who, while being very talented himself, is even younger than Ramsay…the Blazers net is in great shape for a long-time folks. Enjoy Ramsay while you can, Broncos fans!
8. Ever the Bridesmaid – On a bit of a lighter note, gotta feel for Notre Dame’s 20-year-old defenceman Charles Martin, who after a fantastic four-point Survivor Series is the runner up D-man of the week again, for what feels like the 4000th time. I am not second guessing anyone, either now or over the year, but it is kind of crazy. By the way, check out Charles’ insane goal at around the 2:53-mark of this highlight video from Game 3 of the ND-Yorkton series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQmkd4-2AU4&t= what a beauty!
9. There’s Always a Fernando Pisani – Who is going to be this year’s Fernando Pisani? I am, of course, referring to the magical 2005-2006 playoffs of Edmonton Oilers mucker Fernando Pisano, who had a solid career at best, but scored an incredible 14 goals in 24 games in 2006 as the Oilers made an unlikely run to the Stanley Cup final. Yorkton’s 20-year-old grinders Mason Mullaney and Cole Keenleyside are two solid candidates right now, as both have three big goals for the underdog Terriers, who are doing a great job battling the No. 1 seeded defending champs from Nipawin. It’s still too early to call anyone Pisani just yet, but I love watching for that guy who emerges seemingly out of nowhere to contribute big-time to his team offensively in the playoffs.
10. Canada Bronze at FISU (Bonus) – Have to send a shout out to Team Canada’s men’s and women’s hockey entry into the 2019 Universiade, just concluded in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. The men’s team, led by the University of Windsor’s head coach Kevin Hamlin, featured three University of Regina players in Cougars’ captain Tristan Frei, as well as defender Tyler King, and goaltender Dawson MacAuley, defeated Kazakhstan 3-0 to take the bronze medal. Meanwhile, the University of Saskatchewan’s Jessica Vance, Leah Bohlken, and Kaitlin Willoughby helped Canada take silver after falling 2-0 the host Russians. Congrats to all involved!
(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)