The Nipawin Hawks dropped to 1-2 in preseason play with a 7-5 loss tonight in La Ronge against the La Ronge Ice Wolves.
Mitch Doell got the Hawks on the board just 50 seconds in to the opening period on the power play after Morgan Eaton took an interference penalty just 39 seconds in. Both teams would exchange penalties but no goals would come until Wheaton King buried a beauty from Taylor Balog and Tad Kozun as the period approached the midway mark. Brady Zerr would score another a minute later to build the Hawks lead to 3-0. Before the end of the period, Owen LaClare of Edam, SK would get La Ronge on the board to make it 3-1. Shots on goal after the first favored the Hawks 19-10. Regan Santoro played strong in the crease for Nipawin, while Kyle Hynes responded for the Ice Wolves.
The second period would prove to be a tough one for the Hawks as they could not capitalize on a early power play and later they gave up the lead thanks to Nathan Boyer, Jason Berube and Owen Solecki. The Hawks took 4 penalties in the middle frame, making it tough for Doug Johnson's’ club to get any momentum going their way. Solecki scored the goal-ahead goal for the Ice Wolves, and it was an absolute rocket from the left point that blew Travis Beekhuizens water bottle off the net. La Ronge would out shoot the Hawks 14-13 in the 2nd, and take a 4-3 lead in to the 3rd.
Jared Iron and Spencer Brennen would both get goals for the home team in the opening 3 minutes, giving La Ronge a hefty lead, 6-3. A double minor penalty led to the offensive outburst which ultimately cost the Hawks the game. They would show signs of life near the midway point though as Mitch Doell pulled them within 2, with assists going to Zerr and Jesse Roden. Less then 2 minutes later, Michael Lambert would make it a one goal game with a hard wrister that beat La Fond under the glove. With 8 minutes left, the tables looked to be turning back in the Hawks favor, but a shorthanded breakaway by Nathan Boyer would be the back breaker. Boyer was hauled down on the breakaway and was immediately awarded a penalty shot, which he made no mistake on. Streaking straight in, Boyer wired a wrist shot which appeared to hit the cross bar(I correct myself: it DID hit the crossbar) but the referee signaled that it had hit the back bar for a 7-5 lead. Doug Johnson was among many disgruntled Hawks and was given the toss by the officials. That would be all she wrote for both teams as the final 7 minutes would feature limited action, and the final buzzer would sound in a 7-5 win for the La Ronge Ice Wolves.
A few players I was impressed with for the Hawks would hands down be Tad Kozun. He was flying all over the ice and seemed to have a play set up in his mind before he crossed the blue line. Tad will play a large role for the Hawks this season after recording 27 points in 37 games last season. I was also very pleased with the play of Jesse Williamson, the 20 year old made smart plays with the puck and body, and was effective from start to finish. Wheaton King also played a strong game for the visitors as he was using his size and speed along the boards and it was what I thought Kings’ best performance of pre-season/training camp. Taylor Balog and Jeff Datoff I also thought were very noticeable tonight, although both made a couple mistakes they normally wouldn’t make. The best part about exhibition is that the players will only get better and the chemistry will only grow from here on out.
For the Ice Wolves, BC’s Owen Solecki was one of few standouts. Every time he got the puck, he put fear in to the Hawks players eyes. He is so strong down low and when he gets the puck at the point he knows exactly what moves to make. I also enjoyed watching the penalty shot ‘scorer’ Brett Boyer. He was dominant with the puck all night and with some more lower-body strength could be one of the most talented players La Ronge will ice this season. Brett Norman was also very effective, getting in to the dirty areas and making the most of his ice time. Jason Duret was the other player I really liked on La Ronge, the PA Mintos’ should be proud of alumni like this kid. Not the biggest, but was fearless and very dangerous with the puck down deep.
Overall, it was just another exhibition game where unfamiliar special teams can change the game very easily. The Ice Wolves converted for 4 powerplay goals, something that Hawks coach Tyson Hobbins says will be addressed tomorrow. Other then that, both teams played a sound hockey game, with hard fought battles along the boards from start to finish. A decent crowd of nearly ½ of the Mel Heglund Uniplex attended, and I can’t wait to hear the barn full for opening night on September 21st.
The Hawks will meet the OCN Blizzard tomorrow night at the Centennial Arena at 7:30 with the broadcast again being found on uStream beginning at 7:15. The 2 teams met Wednesday in Mantioba and the Hawks picked up their lone pre-season win, 4-1.