Open Season on Moose Jaw

By Jeff Bromley
It was opening weekend of the WHL
Eastern Conference Quarter-final this
past weekend and the Kootenay ICE
decided to do a little moose hunting and
take a commanding 2-0 series lead over
the Moose Jaw Warriors. Overtaking
the Warriors by scores of 6-2 in game
one and 4-0 in the return bill Saturday
night in game two as the series shifted
back to the Saskatchewan city for games
three and four on Tuesday and
Wednesday nights, the two games
belonged to ICE goaltender Dan
Blackburn as solid performances on both
nights continued to stymie the Warriors
on almost every opportunity.

The Warriors, trying to employ different
tactics on successive nights in order to
find some success against the defending
WHL Champions, didn’t have much
luck. In Game One of the series the
Warriors maintained that a physical
presence against the ICE would be the
plan of attack. That theory ended up
putting the Warriors in the penalty box
most of the night and defending against
Kootenay’s number one ranked power
play in the league. When the Warriors
finally did get some momentum going,
they ran into a brick wall named Dan
Blackburn and besides the two markers
that the Warriors did get from Brian
Sutherby, it was inconsequential as the
ICE played almost flawlessly in the 6-2
win with Zdenek Blatny notching a goal
and four assists to set an ICE playoff
game record for most points in a game
and garnering first star honors.

On Saturday the Warriors entertained
the idea of getting in Dan Blackburn’s
face most of the night in hopes that the

super-sophomore goaltender would let
his concentration slip. That method of
attack failed miserably as again the
Warriors spent most of the night,
including half of the second period in the
box as the Referees Kevin Acheson and
Derek Herman called an almost
unheard-of five goaltender interference
penalties on the Moose Jaw club on the
strength of a Dan Blackburn shutout, 4-

Going into Moose Jaw in the best
possible position for the ICE, Coach
Ryan McGill isn’t going to change the
strategy that has so far been
overwhelmingly successful. “We’re not
going to change at all. We hopefully
want to go in there and keep frustrating
that team and if we can do that, that’s
going to take them away from their
game,” said McGill. Coach McGill
admits that going to Moose Jaw where
the Warriors have a league second-best
23-7-2-3 record in the ‘Crushed Can’,
the welcoming is going to be hostile.
“They’ve got some highly skilled
forwards there that put the puck in the
net. Obviously they didn’t get very many
bounces but we want to keep playing the
same way. Keep using our speed and
continue frustrating them. It’s going to
be a different atmosphere in their rink
and we’re really going to have to be a
patient hockey club.”

Moose Jaw Coach Curtis Hunt, going
through something of a playoff trial by
fire being named Coach with only three
games left in the regular season, had
some positives to take back to Moose
Jaw even though the club is down two
games in the series. “Last night (Friday)
you take away the three goals and the
nerves right away off the bat and with
everything new it’s a little bit
understanding,” said the rookie Coach.
“Tonight it’s 1-0 going into the third and
we’re right there and have a chance.
Maybe that chance was taken away from
us a little bit there but we did have a
better effort but we’ve got to find a way
to score. That’s the bottom line. You’re
not going to win many games if you
don’t score.” The frustration level on the
Moose Jaw Warriors is admittedly high
right now said Hunt, but not from where
you would expect it. “I don’t think it’s so
much with the goaltender (ICE goalie,
Dan Blackburn). I think what’s
frustrating for the team is some of the
calls. They feel that it’s not fair at this
time and maybe our bench was a little
worked up over the referees but
certainly we’ve got a lot guys that have
scored a lot of points and they start to
second-guess themselves. Looking for
the pass versus the shot but we are
playing a great goaltender and he’s
played great in both games. So we’ll go
back and talk about shooting the puck
and simplifying down low and we should
be in good shape.”

Game five, if necessary will go Friday
night at the Rec/Plex. Game time is 7:00

Quick Hits
– Warrior goalie, Tim
Barlow was arguably the best Warrior
over the weekend. With the exception of
a couple that the overage player
might’ve wanted back, Barlow’s play
kept the score from getting ugly. Take-
away Barlow’s play and the score isn’t 1-
0 for the ICE going into the third frame
of Game two, it’s higher, much
higher….. In Game two, I’d never seen
so many Goaltender interference calls in
one game (five). The first two were
aptly warranted but the next three were
a little weak. Suffice to say that the
Warriors didn’t learn from the first two
calls and Referees Acheson and Herman
weren’t letting any Warrior within ten
feet of Dan Blackburn. As for the ‘run
the goalie’ strategy, maybe the Warriors
might want to rethink that. “They’re
crashing the net pretty good, obviously
to try and get Danny off his game,” said
ICE Captain Dean Arsene. “You saw
last night (Friday’s game) when he kind
of retaliated a bit but he kept a cool
head tonight and let us take care of it.
As a defense unit we’ve got to do a little
better job of getting in front of them and
not letting them take Danny out but if
they’re going to keep doing that and
keep taking penalties, we’ll be on the
power-play all night and we’re just fine
with that.”….. Counting his last start of
the season against the Wheat Kings,
goaltender Dan Blackburn has let in just
two goals in his last three games with
two shutouts. The highly-touted
prospect is hitting his stride once again
when it counts – in the
playoffs….Somebody let the referees
now that it’s the PLAYOFFS. Fans want
to see the player’s decide the game not
the Zebras. Friday’s game had no flow
whatsoever…. Friday’s crowd, at 2968
was surprisingly the second lowest in
attendance of the season. I know that
Moose Jaw historically isn’t a big draw
but last time I checked – it is the
playoffs. Kind of disheartening after the
club fought all year long for home ice
advantage only to have a crowd some
700 below the regular season average
show up for game one of the playoffs.