With Mother Nature sending a strong message to a lot of Saskatchewan that she is still in charge, three games went ahead on the SHA Provincial docket. The games featured first time losers, failed comebacks and last second defeats; and if it seems I am looking at things from a “glass half empty” view point, you should have seen my driveway an hour ago!
On to the action:
Gull Lake 4 at Beechy 2: The action kicked off on Friday night in Beechy, as the northern champion, Bombers, hosted the southern champion Gull Lake Greyhounds. Coming into this series the Bombers had experienced their share of adversity, so falling behind 1 – 0 in this series is not something that is insurmountable for them. In round one, Beechy survived a scare from the Allan Flames before being forced to play from behind in round two against Kelvington. In the northern finals, the Bombers needed extra time in game two to oust Dinsmore, stamping their ticket to the finals. Gull Lake, on the other hand, has looked impressive thus far, going 5 – 2 (note the error from the Tale of the Tape article). The Greyhounds started their SHA run with an improbable 10 – 1 drubbing of the always tough Kyle Elks, and since then they have dumped Craik and dethroned the defending champs from Avonlea.
In Friday’s game, the result was never really in doubt, as Gull Lake controlled the flow of the action on their way to a 4 – 2 triumph. Game two goes Sunday afternoon in Gull Lake, and if the Bombers are unable to solve the Hounds defense, one series will be in the books. Should game three be necessary it will be played back in Beechy on Thursday, March 26th.
Radville 3 at Wilkie 4: In Saturday’s lid-lifter, the Wilkie Outlaws welcomed the southern C champion Radville Nationals as these two teams squared off in game one of their series. Wilkie is looking to be the only team to repeat this spring, however the Nats, who are currently embroiled in the QVHL final with Grenfell, were looking to write their own story. During provincial play no team has been able to figure out the Outlaws, as they have been perfect, kicking Loreburn, Delisle, and Hudson Bay to the side along the way. Their 54 goals scored is far and away the most by any team left in provincials, as is their +39 goal differential. Radville has built a solid team, and playing out of the competitive QVHL gives the southern rep as much credibility as any team Wilkie has faced to date. During their run up to the finals, Radville remained perfect, dropping Ochapawace, Eatonia, and Bredenbury, which meant Saturday’s contest featured a couple of 6 – 0 teams, and something had to give. Even though Outlaws lead wire to wire, Radville kept it interesting and a third game is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. In game one, Wilkie held a 1 – 0 lead after 20 minutes, and a 2 – 1 lead after 40. In the third, the Nationals would not go away, and the teams would each find the net two times, which was all Wilkie needed for the 4 – 3 victory. Game two goes in Radville on Saturday March 28th, with the rubber match going the next night in Wilkie if needed.
Rocanville 6 at Drake 8: In Drake, the Canucks had just come off a 3 – 1 series win in the LLHL finals and were hoping to carry over the momentum into game one against the Tigers from the Triangle. Many pundits had already crowned Drake as the B champs after winning their northern final against the Rosetown Redwings. Rocanville, representing the south, had other ideas, and were ready for the fight. Leading up to the finals Drake had looked very impressive, knocking off Conquest, Outlook and the aforementioned Redwings, while Rocanville had their hands full with Langenburg before slipping by Assiniboia in the south finals. In game one, the Canucks opened the scoring as Jimmy Bubnick put the home side up before the game was three minutes old. The Tigers hung tough for the rest of the first, and early in the second, they were able to tie the game, causing the home fans to sit up and take notice. Their fears were quickly abated though, as three goals in three minutes put Drake up 4 – 1. The wild action continued as the last 10 minutes of the second featured 4 goals, and after forty minutes, Drake held a 6 – 3 lead. In the third, Trent Campbell added the Canucks 7th goal, and the home team held a comfortable 4 goal cushion. Rocanville was not going to go quietly into this stormy night, and they started their come back, scoring three times in 6 minutes, pulling to within one goal. The Canucks would find the back of the net one more time, and as the seconds finally melted off the clock, Drake held on to a wild 8 – 6 win. The Tigers will look to build on their third period momentum for game two, which is set to be played in Rocanville on Friday, March 27th. The Canucks will have to find a way to stop Buddy Smith, as the Tiger forward was able to light the lamp 4 times on the night.
Bethune 3 at Lanigan 4: In the final game of the night, the Lanigan Pirates and Bethune Bulldogs squared off to see who could draw first blood in the provincial A final. The Dogs came into the match up sporting a perfect 6 – 0 record, after dumping three formidable opponents in Bruno, Davidson, and Balgonie. The Pirates, who had just dropped the LLHL title to the Drake Canucks, had been flirting with disaster during their provincial run. In their opening series they let Tisdale jump ahead with a 7 – 4 win and then repeated the pattern in round two, losing game one to Shellbrook 2 – 1. In the north finals, Lanigan went 2 – 0 over Hague and were hoping to keep the winning ways going in the A finals.
As the game started to unfold it became apparent that Lanigan’s speed was going to be their strength, and Bethune would have to find a way to slow the game down using their size. Brent Twordick scored the only goal of the period as Lanigan took the lead on his power play marker. In the second period, the Bulldogs began to take control of the play, thanks in large part to their physical play, and they were rewarded with a shorthanded goal, courtesy of Lucas Ulmer. The second period ended with the teams tied at 1. In the third, Lanigan went on their fifth power play, and quickly took the lead as Evan Bryksa lit the lamp after some nice passing in the offensive zone. Russ Neilsen, who had a very strong game, knotted the affair at two after he converted on a pass from Derek Fuchs. The Dogs could feel the momentum shifting, and five minutes later they had their first lead of the series as Dustin McAngus put Bethune ahead 3 – 2. As time was winding down, the Pirates pressed on, and were rewarded as Twordick sniped his second of the night, ripping a one timer past Bethune net minder, Ryan Senft. With overtime looming, the Bulldogs took a costly penalty sending Lanigan to the PP with 90 seconds left. Lanigan had gone 2 for 5 with the man advantage, however it was looking like the Dogs were going to be able to hold on and send game one to an extra frame. With 2.1 seconds left in the game, Brandon Herrod found some open ice to the left of the Bulldogs’ goalie, and his shot found a way through Senft, bringing a roar from the home faithful as the Pirates scored the game one win. Game two is slated to be played in Bethune on Friday, March 27th and game three, if necessary, will be played back in Lanigan on Monday, March 30th.
All four series are off and running, and if the opening games are any indication, the series are all far from over, and that is just good news for hockey fans around the province.