GAMES 1 & 2 FRIDAY/SATURDAY IN BATTLEFORD, GAMES 3&4 MONDAY/TUESDAY IN WEYBURN
by the Voice of the Red Wings, Steven Wilson from discoverweyburn.com
When the Weyburn Red Wings take the ice against the Battlefords North Stars Friday night, it will be the first time the two teams have met in the postseason in 17 years. The two teams have met up in the playoffs a total of five times, with Weyburn winning three of those series, and the Battlefords two.
This year, North Battleford ran away with the league. They had first overall captured well before the end of the season, and set a new league record for fewest goals allowed in a season.The dominated teams throughout the year, with the exception of a couple. One of those teams was the Weyburn Red Wings.
In the regular season, Weyburn and the Battlefords split the season series at two games apiece. The Wings took the first meeting, a 4-3 win in Weyburn, back in October. The teams then met three times in the span of a week in January, with North Battleford winning a game in Weyburn, and then the Red Wings taking a game in the Battlefords.
For a high-powered offence, the North Stars had trouble scoring against Weyburn. The teams each pick up eight goals for in the four games. Against every other team in the SJHL this year, the North Stars averaged nearly four goals per game. The defense of both teams is strong, limiting the types of shots on goal to the perimeter, and keeping quality chances to a minimum.
The Battlefords also appear to rely too much on a single line, with three players accounting for more than a third of all their scoring. On the other hand, the Red Wings had much of their scoring spread throughout the lineup, with only one player with 20 or more games played not recording a goal. An even attack makes it easier for the Wings to give some of the top line a rest at times, knowing the offense can come from different quarters.
Goaltending will be a key issue in this series, as it is in every playoff series. For the Battlefords, they will be looking to Taryn Kotchorek and Joel Grzybowski. The two net minders will be looking at their first post-season action as a junior goaltender this year. The tandem was outstanding in the regular season, but that was behind a defense that only allowed 25 shots on goal a game. When they have been tested often, the holes have been found, and goals scored. How they will handle the pressure of being in a playoff series remains to be seen.
At the other end, the Red Wings will have the tandem of Carter Phair and Jake MacLennan at their disposal. Phair, in three games so far this postseason, allowed just three goals. MacLennan allowed two in his only appearance. During the regular season, Phair handled the majority of the starts between the two, and was solid for the Wings, helping them in the last few months of the regular season to some impressive numbers.
When the puck drops Friday night, the series is expected to be a long, and tough one, for both of the teams. The North Stars have said in the media the Wings are a team to be feared in the postseason, as their style of hockey is what teams expect to encounter in the playoffs. For the Wings, though, it isn’t something adopted late in the regular season, it has been the M.O. all year long.
Game Day Preview sponsored by Tim Hortons