The ANAVET Cup is here!
For the first time in six years the SJHL champion is not either the Yorkton Terriers (2005, 2006) or the Humboldt Broncos (2007-2009). Also there will be a new ANAVET Cup champion, which by the way was won by the Broncos in 2008 and 2009. The Kings are looking to become the first Manitoba champion since the Selkirk Steelers in 2007.
The La Ronge Ice Wolves have been a neat story to follow the entire Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League post-season. This team was seventh ranked in the league after the regular season, and many were picking the Weyburn Red Wings or the Flin Flon Bombers to win the championship. In the Bauer Conference playoffs, the Wolves swept the three time SJHL champions Broncos in the best of five survivor series which was followed by three consecutive six game victories against the Bombers, Northstars and Yorkton Terriers on route to the Credit Union Cup. In total, the Ice Wolves are 15-6 in the second season and have clinched a berth in the National Championship as the West representative.
Meanwhile what more can be said about the Dauphin Kings and their run, although their stretch has been more different than the Ice Wolves. They’ve lost just once in thirteen playoff match-ups and their last game was a huge comeback to win the Turnbull Cup. Before I discuss that, let’s recap who they had to beat to get to this point…
In the Sherwood Division playoffs the Kings swept the Neepawa Natives in the division semi-final, knocked off the Swan Valley Stampeders in the division final four games to one. That came before a four game sweep of the Winnipeg Saints in the League Final. Game Four was one I’ll never forget; the Saints took a 4-0 lead early in the second period at Credit Union Place. The Kings turned their game around and stormed back to win the game and championship 5-4.
Looking at this series, the factors are simple; who will get the better goaltending, offense from all lines and play solid defense. Joe Caligiuri has had the playoffs of his life in goal for Dauphin regardless of his numbers in game four of the league final (3 goals against on 10 shots); the Ice Wolves have a two goaltender system that they’ve been running with for the playoffs and it’s worked for them. Both Adam Bartko and Joel Danyluk have gotten this team to the RBC Cup.
One thing that the La Ronge Ice Wolves have prided themselves on is secondary scoring. Doug Lindensmith and Dustin Stevenson are one and two point scoring for the Wolves with 22 and 21 points respectively. The Wolves also have six other players with at least ten points in the playoffs (Marc Andre Carre 18, Dan Conacher and Ben Findlay 15, Liam Brennan 14, Mike Alexander 12, Travis Eggum 11). Compare those to the Kings numbers, Steven Shamanski has 22 points to lead Dauphin in points while Bryce Lamb and Zeanan Ziemer both have 18. Five other skaters have at least ten points (Shane Luke 15, Ryan Dreger 13, Devin Mitzner and Troy Hunter 11 and Mitch Czibere 10).
Good defense seems to be overshadowed these days but in order to compete with the best in the country you have to have it! The Kings are lead by Mike Boese, Joel Kot and Patrick Kozyra. Dallas Drysdale and Colin Paull have also held their own in the playoffs while rookies Mathew Backhouse and Tyler Gaudry have not looked out of place during the RBC Cup season. The Ice Wolves sport the only player who already has a NHL entry level contract for next season; Dustin Stevenson. He’ll join the Washington Capitals organization in the summer.
The Kings may have dominated their own league, but now comes the real test; will their winning ways continue against the rest of Canada? It all starts Friday. Here’s the statistical summer heading into Game One tomorrow…
Dauphin Kings 12-1 (7-0 at home, 5-1 on the road)
La Ronge Ice Wolves 15-6 (9-2 at home, 6-4 on the road)
Dauphin Kings 56 (39 even strength, 15 powerplay, 2 short-handed)
La Ronge Ice Wolves 64 (44 even strength, 19 powerplay, 1 short-handed)
Dauphin Kings 15/62 24% 2 goals against
La Ronge Ice Wolves 19/84 22.6% 2 goals against
Dauphin Kings 40 for 45 89% 3 SHG (Mitch Czibere, Bryce Lamb, Troy Hunter)
La Ronge Ice Wolves 115 for 131 87.8% 1 SHG (Liam Brennan)
PLAYOFF POINT SCORING (TOP 5)
DAUPHIN KINGS (Through 13 games)
Steven Shamanski 7G, 15A, 22PTS (PPG, 14PIM)
Bryce Lamb 9G, 9A, 18PTS (5PPG, 12 PIM)
Zeanan Ziemer 6G, 12A, 18PTS (3PPG, 12PIM)
Shane Luke 10G, 5A, 15PTS (PPG, 6PIM)
Ryan Dreger 3G, 10A, 13PTS (PPG, 20PIM
Joe Caligiuri (11-1) 23 GA 1.71 GAA .930 save percentage 2 shutouts
Brett Willows (1-0) 1 GA 3 GAA .957 save percentage
LA RONGE ICE WOLVES (through 21 games)
Doug Lindensmith 9G, 13A, 22PTS (3PPG, 34PIM)
Dustin Stevenson 10G, 11A, 21PTS (3PPG, 22PIM)
Marc Andre Carre 8G, 10A, 18PTS (2PPG, 18PIM)
Dan Conacher 7G, 8A, 15PTS (PPG, 30PIM)
Ben Findlay 7G, 8A, 15PTS (3PPG, 15PIM)
Adam Bartko (11-6) 49 GA 2.71 GAA .925 save percentage 1 shut out
Joel Danyluk (4-0) 8 GA 1.77 GAA .946 save percentage
Adam Sargent and I will have all the action in La Ronge, note the start time of the pre-game show will be 8:10pm because of the time difference in Saskatchewan. We’ll talk to Kings forward Travis Cech as well as both Head Coaches; Marlin Murray of the Kings and Bob Beatty of the Ice Wolves.
During the intermission I have a special interview with CBC’s Mark Lee, who’s providing play-by-play commentary for the San Jose Sharks/Colorado Avalanche first round series.
Enjoy the weekend!