By Dave Leaderhouse
BOMBERS AND HAWKS SQUARE OFF IN KEY SHERWOOD DIVISION HOME-AND-HOME SERIES THIS WEEKEND
There is nothing more exciting than a showdown for first place, whether it is for top spot overall or for a divisional crown, and this weekend the Flin Flon Bombers and Nipawin Hawks get to do that twice as they have a key home-and-home series to highlight a busy weekend schedule.
The Bombers and Hawks have both had a claim to the top perch in the Sherwood Division this year, but a recent run of six wins in seven games by Flin Flon – they had a six-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday when they lost 2-1 in Melfort – has seen them open up a five-point advantage, although Nipawin does have three games in hand.
The Bombers were fast out of the gate collecting points in seven of their first eight games, but when they cooled off, Nipawin, which was winless in its opening four, leapfrogged into the top spot with a six-game winning streak of their own.
Flin Flon has won all three previous meetings this season although that is a bit misleading as one was in overtime, another was by a single goal and the other was a 2-0 decision. The end result could have went either way, but as it stands the margin of victories is the difference in the standings with the Bombers having collected the maximum six available while Nipawin has just the one point as a result of the overtime loss.
The Flin Flon-Nipawin game on Friday highlights a rare night when all 12 teams are in action. The league-leading Battlefords North Stars are in Humboldt to face the Broncos, Melville heads to Melfort, Kindersley continues its arduous road trip down south with a stop in Weyburn, La Ronge makes its first road trip under new head coach and general manager Evan Vossen when the Ice Wolves visit the Terriers in Yorkton and the Estevan Bruins will try and inch closer to the North Stars for first place overall when they head to Wilcox to face the Notre Dame Hounds.
The Battlefords, who had a 13-game winning streak snapped when they lost to Estevan on home ice two weeks ago, are putting together another run with victories in their last two starts. By the looks of things they are going to have to keep winning if they want to hold on to top spot as the Bruins crept to within three of the overall lead with a 4-1 decision over Kindersley on Wednesday.
Saturday’s schedule is nearly as busy with 10 teams returning to action. In addition to Flin Flon and Nipawin once again locking horns, Kindersley will play its fourth game in five nights with a return trip to Notre Dame (they lost 3-1 on Tuesday to open the heavy schedule). La Ronge moves down Highway 10 to face the Millionaires, Melfort stays at home only this time to host Humboldt and Weyburn completes a homestand with a match against Yorkton.
While Flin Flon and Nipawin have a battle going on for top spot in the Sherwood Division (Melfort is also in the race as they are now just three back of the Hawks following Wednesday’s win over the Bombers), the other races are seeing more separation. Estevan is now 12 points clear of Weyburn for first place in the Viterra Division while the North Stars have pulled away from Humboldt in the Finning Division with their margin now at 11 points.
The biggest race is at the bottom of the pack where Melfort, Melville, Yorkton and Kindersley are separated by just three points. La Ronge is nine points out of that group so if they want to get back into the hunt for a playoff spot they will need some success this weekend against the Terriers and Millionaires.
This is of course the first of the big trading deadlines so plenty of roster moves are taking place this week and that will definitely have a bearing on what shakes out going forward.
NOTES: Adam Dawe of the Hounds – six goals and 14 assists in the last 12 games – Dakota Boutin of the Mustangs – 10-11-21 in 11 games – Kristian St. Onge of the Bombers – 8-10-18 in 11 – and league scoring leader Ben Duperreault of the Hounds – 9-9-18 in 10 – will all be looking to keep lengthy consecutive-point streaks intact this weekend. Greyson Reitmeier of the Bombers is also on a nice run with eight goals and 10 assists in the last nine games…Jacob Wozney of the Red Wings has tallied at least one goal in six straight games equaling the league best in that department. Duperreault also had a six-game stretch earlier in the season…Jared Blaquiere of the Ice Wolves has been the most consistent playmaker of late having registered at least one assist in six straight games…Garrett Mason of the Broncos has been the busiest goaltender in the league having faced over 700 shots in his 24 appearances, but he is the lone Top 10 netminder to not have recorded a shutout this year.
Nipawin at Flin Flon
Battlefords at Humboldt
Melville at Melfort
Estevan at Notre Dame
Kindersley at Weyburn
La Ronge at Yorkton
Humboldt at Melfort
La Ronge at Melville
Flin Flon at Nipawin
Kindersley at Notre Dame
Yorkton at Weyburn