So, it’s an all-canine Round 1 for ND.
As of the final buzzer in Kindersley between the Hounds and the Klippers on Sat., March 2, and as a result of the simultaneous Yorkton Terriers-Melville Millionaires game, Notre Dame was assured of a No. 9 finish in the 2018-19 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League regular campaign.
What does this mean for ND in the playoffs? It means the Hounds will take on the No. 8 ranked Terriers in a best-of-three-games ‘Survivor Series’, with Yorkton holding home-ice advantage.
Head-to-head this year has shown that there is very little between the clubs, as the teams split the four-game series; though the Hounds did get one more point from the season series than the Terriers, due to the loss on Nov. 13 in Wilcox coming in a shootout.
An extra bit of spice will be added to the series due to the fact that there are three former Hounds on Yorkton, and one ex-Terrier on ND. Veteran winger Colby Brandt was dealt to Yorkton in the off-season in exchange for current Hounds defenceman Austin Wieler, while defenceman Kurri Woodford, a Notre Dame high school graduate, and goaltender Andrew Henderson both were moved to Yorkton in separate deals during the campaign.
Tactically speaking, the series should be a very interesting contrast of styles.
Notre Dame’s defence-corps, perhaps in the mould of its head coach Phil Roy, an explosive offensively productive defender in his playing days, is key to the Hounds’ offensive creativity. If you take out both team’s top defenceman producer – Charles Martin for ND, and Brendan Mark for Yorkton – the Hounds defence outscored the Terriers blue line by 94 points-to-75 points over the season.
Yorkton’s forwards, however, boast an impressive array of depth, with seven men above 40 points on the campaign, to two for Notre Dame. That also being said, the Hounds had to deal with over 130 man-games lost to injury this year - a staggering number - with many of those accounted to key Top 6 forwards.
Although the Hounds are riding a four-game losing streak heading into the post-season, the club had a brutal schedule against the three hottest teams in the league – Battlefords twice, Melfort, and Kindersley – and never stopped competing throughout. Additionally, ND is very hopeful to get one or both of the veteran forwards, currently out injured, back for the series.
The Terriers have had a far-more forgiving stretch to end the regular campaign, with seven of eight contests coming against teams in the bottom half of the SJHL standings. To the credit of head coach Matt Hehr’s men, who have been without second-leading scorer Jared Legien to injury for most of that time, they have taken advantage, winning six of those games, led by former Western Hockey Leaguer Chantz Petruic, who had a monster 24-point February.
The schedule goes as follows:
Game 1: Friday, March 8, 7:30 p.m. – Farrell Agencies Arena, Yorkton, SK
Game 2: Sunday, March 10, 7:00 p.m. – Duncan McNeill Arena, Wilcox, SK
Game 3: Tuesday, March 12, 7:30 p.m. – Farrell Agencies Arena, Yorkton, SK (if necessary)