Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mustangs Open Series In Battlefords:

The Melfort Mustangs are set to return to the post season on Friday night at the Civic Centre in North Battleford, when they open the Best-of-5 Survivor Series.

The clubs met 6 times this season, with Melfort escaping with 2 wins, while all the games finished in regulation time. Melfort did not outshoot the Stars in any of the games, despite only being outscore 21-17.

While Melfort's 17 goals does look good, if you don't include their 5-2 and 3-1 wins, they are being outscored 18-9. Jarret Zentner and Brandon Sloan provided a good chunk of the offense, picking up 5 points each, while Logan Sceviour failed to score but still registered 7 assists in only 4 of the games.

The Stars top scorer was Kyle Hall, who scored 19 goals. Each team only had 8 players with 10 or more goals, but no other Star had over 15 on the season. If the Stars feel they are underachieving and need to intimidate Melfort, there are players on this roster that are there to do just that. Although the Mustangs will enjoy the man advantages that follow, the lack of a shut-down Carter Berg type player could affect the 'Stangs if the Stars know how to utilize their tools. Melfort's powerplay improved leaps and bounds in the regular season from start to finish, but come playoff time, chuck those numbers out the window.

Melfort's lineup saw just Brandon Formosa finish with over 80 penalty minutes, and he had 99... Wait, what? Yep, Formosa led the team in PIM's. And goals! Battlefords had 4 players with 80+ minutes in the box, including ex-KIJHL tough guy Ben Greenaway, who was 5th in SJHL rankings with 134 penalty minutes in 10 less games than that of the next fewest games played inside of the Top 9.

Patrick Johnson started 4 of the 6 games, with 20 year old Jesse Wilkins, who is expected to be starter come puck drop, appearing in 2 games. Wilkins was good, making 38 of 43 stops in his first appearance, and 37 of 41 in the final meeting between the two clubs.

Connor Creech started 3 of the games for the Stars, with current-backup Casey Parker playing in 2. Creech never had to be overly impressive, only having to make 20+ saves in a single game, when he stopped 31 of 33 shots on December 7th.

The series has the potential to go a full 5 games, if Melfort can show up. For most of the season, they have struggled to find consistency but on that note, when they do play a full 60 minutes they appear to be able to play with the top teams in the league. (in defence, see: 1, 2, 3, 4) I do encourage you to visit those 4 links, all game boxscores when Melfort stayed in close with Top 4 overall teams.

Listen to tonight's game with Branden Crowe on CK750, I will be listening from home as well as Branden will be taking over the play by play until the Mustangs and Hawks have overlapping games in Round Two.

My prediction? Well as fans have learned I have a colorful way of sharing opinions and predictions, but I think for this series it could go either way. If Melfort plays consistently, they're a solid playoff team. If Battlefords doesn't have the few scorers they have step up, they'll be in trouble because Melfort has come together and played like a truly bonded team the last few weeks and you can see it in the room, on the bus, and on the ice. Oh, and if you refer to my paragraph, my prediction is in there.

See you at the Palace on Saturday night for Game 2, 7:30 puckdrop!

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