The North Division Semi-Finals are in a deadlock as both series head into Game Three and home ice advantage changes hands.
(1) Fort McMurray Oil Barons vs. (4) Bonnyville Pontiacs
Series tied 1-1
Both teams played out the regular season series so evenly that it’s no surprise the teams split the first two contests of this series.
The Pontiacs likely accomplished part of their goal in earning a split, putting the pressure on the MOB to win at least one game in Bonnyville as the series shifts to the RJ Lalonde Arena for games Tuesday and Wednesday.
Saturday’s series opener saw the Pontiacs win a 2-1 game in double overtime on a winner by Dylan Stewart. Sunday, Brandon Ralph had a pair of goals as the MOB rebounded to take a 5-1 victory, evening up the series.
The Barons finally got to Pontiacs goaltender Sandro Silvestre in game two, tallying all five goals against him before Robert Jacobson was sent in to close out the contest, making all 12 saves against a Barons team that didn’t stop looking to score in the final half of the game. Whichever way head coach Rick Swan decides to go with his goaltending situation could alter the course of the series.
Curtis Roach had a three-point game Sunday, taking the lead for the MOB in playoff points and leading all players on both teams in the season series. Special teams utilization will be huge in games three and four. The MOB have the lone power play goal so far and
Eric Szudor has brought over his strong play from the regular season to the playoffs. Through two games, he’s stopped 78 of 81 shots. The Barons will need him to stay in that fine form if they’re to come out ahead in this series.
Games three and four of the series will take place Tuesday and Wednesday respectively at the RJ Lalonde Arena in Bonnyville.
(2) Whitecourt Wolverines vs. (3) Spruce Grove Saints
Series tied 1-1
This series followed a similar path of the other Viterra North Division semi-final with the lower-seeded Saints winning the opening game by a 3-1 score before the Wolverines fired back Saturday with a 3-2 win in double overtime.
Justin Young’s two-goal effort Saturday not only delivered the Wolverines a win, but kept the University of Alaska-Fairbanks commit in first place for playoff goals with six. His teammate Joseph Nardi factored in on all three goals to become the first player to double digit points in the post-season.
Capitalizing on their power play chances will be huge for the Wolverines, who are 0-for-7 so far in the series. The Saints have the only power play goal of the series, going two-for-10 and will hope to take advantage of their window of opportunity when the series shifts to the Grant Fuhr Arena for games Monday and Tuesday.
Home-ice advantage now favours the Saints, though the Wolverines won’t let the Saints take control of the series without a fight. Scoring depth is a strength for the Saints at the moment, with 13 different players recording at least a goal in the team’s first five playoff games. For the Wolverines, that number dips slightly to 10 different goal scorers for the team this year, but with names like Young, Motley and Nardi leading the way, they’re fine for the time being.
Pierce Diamond rebounded from his first playoff loss to make 28 saves on 30 shots in Saturday’s win. The goalie rotation for the Saints continued as Nolan Kent took the loss Saturday, a day after Brandon Wells had allowed a single goal on 28 shots in their game one victory.
Games three and four of the series go Monday and Tuesday at the Grant Fuhr Arena.
By Robert Murray @ NovaCanuck
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