The Fort St. John Huskies resume their first round best-of-five series against the Slave Lake Wolves this weekend.
After losing home-ice advantage due to some scheduling problems in Fort St. John, the pups are now in the strong position of playing games 3, 4, and 5 in the friendly confines of the North Peace Arena. Home ice has been good to the Huskies this season. They dropped only three games on home ice all season long, two of them to the top-ranked Whitecourt Wolverines in the final games of the season, by scores of 5-1 and 4-3 (in OT).
The only other loss came on Sept. 27th, a 3-2 loss to Grande Prairie. But, the series is still wide open, after a gutsy double overtime win by the Wolves in game two. Fourth liner Tyler Couch scored the winner in the game, while Travis Chartier sparkled in the Slave Lake goal. The Wolves played a gritty and physical game in possibly their last home game of the season, but it’s not something the Huskies expect to see repeated.
Coach Bob Kalb says his team isn’t taking Slave Lake lightly, but is confident it can pull out the win. [asset|aid=1015|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=7337ad63a567e2215789689d24373291-bob-confident_1_Pub.mp3]
Likewise, goaltender Zack Blain knows his team is tough to play at the North Peace Arena. [asset|aid=1016|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=7337ad63a567e2215789689d24373291-zack-backhome_1_Pub.mp3]
The only chink in the armour so far, has been a lack of scoring from the top line, which has contributed only one goal in two playoff games (Dylan Apssassin). But, they’ve gotten contributions from unexpected sources, like Cam MacKinnon and Cody Hildebrand, as well as 4 of their 8 goals so far from defencemen.
As well, each player on the top line has 2 points, with Dan Pappin barred from scoring the winner in OT in game two only by a sensational glove save from Travis Chartier. A game two loss aside, the Huskies have been playing their best hockey of the season at just the right time. After a resounding 7-1 win over Peace River to clinch second place overall, the Huskies rounded out the final weekend of regular season play with a couple of close-fought games against Whitecourt.
The Huskies have also been much stronger defensively, they have found success on the powerplay, and they have finally gotten some consistent goal tending, with Zack Blain suddenly emerging as one of the top goaltenders in the league. Particularly impressive has been the play of Cody Hildebrand, who scored 2 goals in game two. Coach Kalb has been thrilled with the play of Hildebrand, who only joined the Huskies mid-season, after deciding to forgo the rest of his midget eligibility and move up to junior hockey. [asset|aid=1017|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=7337ad63a567e2215789689d24373291-bob-codyH_1_Pub.mp3]
But, with Kole Norris expected to return to the Huskies lineup after dealing with post-concussion side-effects after a hit from Gerry Young on Feb. 13th, Hildebrand will likely find himself back on the third line, along with Jason Arnouse and Luke McInerney. That will only make the Huskies stronger offensively, with 3 lines capable of putting the puck in the net, and a newly-minted energy line of Kyle Porter, Dustin Heitman, and Jordan Hartnell providing a crash-and-bang style well-suited to playoff hockey.
Don’t miss this weekend’s playoff action, with game three Friday night at 8pm, game four Saturday night at 8pm, and game five (if necessary) Sunday afternoon at 2pm.