By Jon Zacks
So much for the undefeated season.
In the final game of the 2009/2010 NWJHL regular season, the Huskies handed Whitecourt a 4-2 defeat on Sunday afternoon. It’s the first time the Huskies have beaten Whitecourt since game three of the 2007/08 NWJHL semi-finals, and means the Wolverines will finish with a 34-1 record.
In the opposite of Saturday’s game story, it was the Wolverines who applied the most pressure in the first period. Layne Brown got the ball rolling for Whitecourt, beating Garrett Muir with a slap-shot on the first shot of the game. But, while Whitecourt kept pressing in the first, Muir bounced back from the Brown goal, and held the Huskies in the game. Whitecourt made it 2-0, when a Devin Rooks point shot deflected off Cory Langdon and through Muir’s legs. With 1:21 remaining in the first period, Kole Norris scored on a Huskies 5-on-3 advantage, popping a rebound past Wolverines starter Zack Blain, to get the Huskies on the board.
After a lackluster second period on Saturday night, the Huskies bounced back with a sensational middle frame on Sunday. Cory Langdon catalyzed the attack, blasting a slapshot past Zack Blain to retie the game four minutes into the second. Then, Brighton Campbell gave the pups the lead, when he did well to convert a Luke McInerney rebound.
The test would come in the third, with Whitecourt desperately trying to get to Muir, to salvage the perfect season. Making things more difficult for Fort St. John was the ejection of Payden Wongstedt. The captain was tossed-out less than three minutes into the game, for allegedly squirting a waterbottle at an opponent. But on this day, the Huskies defence was bulletproof. Despite four Whitecourt powerplays in the third period, the Wolverines were unable to get anything past Garrett Muir. The pups did a wonderful job of blocking shots, and clearing the puck whenever possible – something their coach had chastised his team for not doing better on Saturday.
Finally, with 38 seconds left on the clock, Cody Kalb fed Dylan Apsassin, who fired the puck into an empty net, to clinch the win for the Huskies.
“Just a huge effort from our guys” said an elated Huskies Coach Bob Kalb after the game. “It was just a great effort from Garrett Muir on out, every guy on the hockey club” he said, adding “it just shows what you can do when you play a real, hard 60 minutes of hockey.”
Cody Kalb echoed Bob’s sentiments, acknowledging the team-wide effort. “Blocking shots, getting pucks out, we battled for the puck” Kalb said. “We took a couple of shifts off last night, and they came back and got us, so we just played a full 60 minutes tonight, and it worked out.”
After a six-point night from Beaverlodge’s Aaron Dumas on Saturday, Cody Kalb needed two points to tie the league MVP for the overall scoring title. He did one better, with his assist on Apsassin’s empty-netter giving him three on the night, good for 71 points on the season, and the overall NWJHL scoring crown. “It’s eluded me for the past three years” he said of the accomplishment, “and it feels good to finally get it.” Kalb also gave credit to his various linemates over the course of the season “I couldn’t have done it without Robbie [Sidhu] and Dylan [Apsassin] and Cody [Hildebrand].”
The Huskies now head into the playoffs on a high-note, with the post-season set to begin on Wednesday. Fort St. John will face Aaron Dumas and the Beaverlodge Blades in the best-of-five first round series.
Playoff schedule so far:
Game 1 – Wednesday Feb. 17 – North Peace Arena
Game 2 – Friday Feb. 19 – Beaverlodge Arena
Game 3 – Saturday Feb. 20 – North Peace Arena
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