It’s been a long time since the La Ronge Ice Wolves have been referred to as a shutdown hockey team, but after back-to-back shutouts to open a four-game road trip that is exactly what the upstart Ice Wolves have become.
La Ronge began their southern swing with a convincing 5-0 win in Wilcox on Tuesday against the Notre Dame Hounds and one night later they blanked the Red Wings 4-0 in Weyburn. In total, the Ice Wolves have not allowed a goal in their last 138 minutes of action and they will look to continue with that level of play on Friday with a stop in Estevan against the Bruins before concluding the hectic week with a game in Humboldt against the Broncos on Saturday.
Overall, the Ice Wolves have won three in a row to become not only a part of the conversation in the Sherwood Division race, but in the overall standings as well as their 5-7-0-0 record is better than six other teams including the entire Viterra Division.
The Melville Millionaires hold a one-point lead on the three other teams in the Viterra Division and they will be looking to pull away from that group with a pair of home games this weekend – Friday against their Highway 10 rivals, the Yorkton Terriers, and Saturday against Weyburn. Yorkton, which has won its last three games to tighten that division even further, is also home to the Flin Flon Bombers on Saturday.
Any one of the four Viterra Division clubs could find themselves in first place after the weekend shakes out, but all four will still be far behind the pace being set by the defending league champion Battlefords North Stars.
The Battlefords, who have just a home game against Flin Flon on Friday this weekend, are 11-1-0-0 to start the season with just a surprising loss in Yorkton being sandwiched by a pair of lengthy winning streaks.
The North Stars’ lead atop the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division is nine points over Humboldt while their advantage at the top of the overall point’s race is five over the Sherwood Division-leading Melfort Mustangs. The Broncos, who along with Flin Flon will play three games in three nights after they faced each other on Thursday to kick off the long weekend schedule, take on the Nipawin Hawks on Friday before hosting La Ronge on Saturday while the Mustangs have just a home date with the Kindersley Klippers on Friday this weekend.
Nipawin, which recorded its league-leading fourth shutout of the season on Thursday when they blanked Kindersley 2-0, have moved to within one point of the Mustangs for top spot in the Sherwood Division while also holding a game in hand on the frontrunners.
The Notre Dame Hounds, who are winless in their last four outings, are the lone team to have the Thanksgiving Weekend off. They will return to action next Thursday when they host Kindersley in Wilcox.
SJHL NOTES – Alec Malo’s two assists in Flin Flon’s 3-2 loss in Humboldt on Thursday not only pushed the 20-year-old Laval, Que., product to the top of the individual scoring race, but it extended his playmaking streak to 10 games. Malo has at least one helper in every one of the Bombers’ games this year with his 16 assists being four clear of the next best playmakers – Logan Foster from Humboldt and Melville’s Luke Spadafora…Two players are certainly carrying the load for their respective teams as La Ronge’s Daylon Mannon and Yorkton’s Chantz Petruic have figured in on more than half of their team’s offence through the early stretch of the regular season. Mannon, who had an eye-popping 150 points in 51 games with the Fresno Monsters two years ago, has points in 19 of the Ice Wolves’ 36 goals while Petruic has scored or assisted on 18 of the Terriers’ 31 goals so far…Rookie Ross Hawryluk’s second shutout of the season on Thursday improved the Nipawin netminder’s goals-against average to a league-best 1.47. His body of work is smaller than that of the other goaltenders, but his .958 save percentage is also better than the others. Keenan Rancier’s strong start to October where he has allowed just three goals against in three games has lifted the Estevan netminder to a solid 1.72 GAA and .948 save percentage on the year. Notre Dame’s Riley Kohonick continues to be the workhorse between the pipes having played every minute of every game for the Hounds. His 722 minutes of work is more than 150 more than the next busiest goalie, Shawn Parkinson of the Mustangs.
Humboldt at Nipawin
Kindersley at Melfort
Yorkton at Melville
La Ronge at Estevan
Flin Flon at Battlefords
Weyburn at Melville
Flin Flon at Yorkton
La Ronge at Humboldt